What events in The Alchemist were foreshadowed, and how were they foreshadowed?

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Brazilian author Paulo Coelho’s modern fableThe Alchemist is a story about following one’s life dreams. As such, dream-traveler Santiago prepares for his journey through life by learning from the wisdom he gathers from his teachers. Much of the acquired knowledge he gains from the animal, divine, human, and...

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Brazilian author Paulo Coelho’s modern fable The Alchemist is a story about following one’s life dreams. As such, dream-traveler Santiago prepares for his journey through life by learning from the wisdom he gathers from his teachers. Much of the acquired knowledge he gains from the animal, divine, human, and natural mentors comes to him in his dreams, which foreshadow the events in the story.

At the outset of the tale, protagonist Santiago is troubled by a recurring dream, but he always awakens before the dream finishes:

I wanted to sleep a little longer, he thought. He had had the same dream that night as a week ago, and once again he had awakened before it ended.

Santiago believes “his purpose in life was to travel.” He feels there is much more to learn about life if he can gain some experiences through travel. However, his father discourages him by indicating that many people travel thinking their lives will change, but they return the same. Nevertheless, Santiago longs to seek adventure away from the shepherd’s life he lives among the sheep. He is beginning to identify with the sheep and reasons that “It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

Finally, his recurring dream foreshadows his eventual quest. Santiago seeks help in interpreting his dreams from an old woman. Suddenly, a child appears to him and advises him to journey to Africa to seek his treasure beneath the Egyptian pyramids:

The child went on playing with my sheep for quite a while, continued the boy, a bit upset. And suddenly, the child took me by both hands and transported me to the Egyptian pyramids.

He paused for a moment to see if the woman knew what the Egyptian pyramids were. But she said nothing.

Then, at the Egyptian pyramids, — he said the last three words slowly, so that the old woman would understand — "the child said to me, If you come here, you will find a hidden treasure." And, just as she was about to show me the exact location, I woke up. Both times.

Santiago’s journey is foreshadowed for the reader.

Again, Coelho foreshadows the protagonist’s adventure when the boy asks the old gypsy woman to interpret his dream. What she predicts verifies Santiago’s quest:

And this is my interpretation: you must go to the Pyramids in Egypt. I have never heard of them, but, if it was a child who showed them to you, they exist. There you will find a treasure that will make you a rich man.

Thereafter, Santiago meets an old man, Melchizedek, who claims to be the King of Salem. He possesses magical powers and, confirming the gypsy woman’s foretelling of the adventure, encourages the boy to travel to Egypt.

After deciding to embark on the journey, Santiago encounters a series of difficulties, but manages to overcome them and becomes a “rich man” as foretold.

Further evidence of foreshadowing in The Alchemist occurs when Santiago identifies several omens foretelling dangerous events. He remembers a prior lesson: “Learn to recognize omens, and follow them, the old king had said.” The protagonist acts accordingly. He encounters two hawks fighting in the desert. They symbolize the threat of an oncoming attack. Santiago heeds the portent, seeks help from the wind and other forces of nature, and safely continues on his journey.

In The Alchemist, the journey itself is foreshadowed. The incidents and encounters along the way are foretold through the protagonist’s dreams.

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The book The Alchemist is metaphysical in nature and therefore deals with a great many instances of foreshadowing throughout. Santiago has dreams and visions at the beginning, which he believes portend his eventual fate in finding great wealth, but they end up leading him on a detailed journey (he does eventually find the money, but his journey is the true fulfillment he sought).

Santiago's conversation with Melchizedek, the ancient king of Salem, is the most overarching and thematic passage in the novel and is also a deep instance of foreshadowing. Melchizedek speaks to the importance of finding one's personal legend and what wonders and powers spring from finding it. This is primarily brushed off until Santiago, having gone through a long, arduous journey and learned a great deal, realizes his potential and is able to transform himself into the wind—and eventually find the treasure he sought. This is the culmination of his personal journey, and the weight and importance placed on it by Melchizedek foreshadow its place in the story.

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There are many instances of foreshadowing in the book The Alchemist, and there are even several events of direct prophecy that predict the future. Perhaps the biggest incident of foreshadowing, however, occurs with the interaction between Santiago and King Melchizedek as they begin to discuss the idea of the personal legend. Melchizedek tells Santiago that the personal legend is the end goal towards which one must strive and that, in doing so, one will fulfill their destiny. Disregarding this advice to an extent, Santiago continues on his path.

However, later on, Santiago comes to realize that his journey has been his personal legend. When he figures this out, he finally begins to unlock his potential—transforming into the wind and eventually learning the truth of where the treasure is that he seeks. This early conversation is the big foreshadowing of his growth and eventual realization of his personal legend.

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The boy learns to read omens and signs. These signs inform both the boy and the reader of important information that will be needed in the future.

For example, the boy overhears a man complaining about being unable to find a place to get a drink after walking up the large hill. The boy uses this information to get the crystal merchant to begin selling tea. This helps foreshadow the increased sales of crystal for the merchant, because people will come in to the shop for a drink and see the beautiful products that they might have missed.

One event that was foreshadowed was the attack in the desert. The boy sees several birds, and one of the birds attacks another. He then receives a vision of men attacking the oasis and tells the chieftains so that they can prepare.

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One example of foreshadowing comes in Santiago's encounter with King Melchizedek. The king tells him of the importance of following one's Personal Legend. He also tells Santiago about what he regards as the biggest lie that people tell themselves: that their lives are completely governed by fate. This foreshadows Santiago's experience with the crystal merchant. The merchant has always dreamed of making the Hajj, the holy pilgrimage made to Mecca by Muslims. Yet, he's never done anything to make it happen. He's permanently afraid to take risks in life, afraid to follow his own Personal Legend. His dream remains just that, and all because he believes that everything that happens in life is predetermined by fate.

Another example of foreshadowing comes when Santiago dreams about the pyramids as he dozes near a sycamore tree. In the dream, he encounters a child who tells him he will find treasure if he travels to the pyramids in Egypt. Towards the end of the story, Santiago finds a treasure chest buried beneath the sycamore tree. The treasure was near home all along. But the dream still foreshadowed the enormously valuable experience that Santiago would gain from setting out on his travels.

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