In Coelho's The Alchemist, where does Santiago go to have his dreams interpreted?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, Santiago has a recurring dream. He travels with his sheep to a village called Tarifa, in the "region of Andalusia." While there, he plans to get a new book, a shave and haircut, and some more wine. Thinking about the town, he recalls that there is "an old woman who interpreted dreams."

He goes to see this Gypsy woman. Based on stories he has heard, he anticipates that he may not be able to trust what the woman says:

People said that Gypsies spent their lives tricking others.

Santiago has heard a great many other stories about the terrible things Gypsies are said to do: engaging in pacts with the devil, kidnapping children, etc. So Santiago is nervous, fearful and distrustful. When she takes his hands to pray (what sounds to him like a Gypsy prayer), his hands begin to shake. It is in this moment that he has second thoughts:

He thought for a moment that it would be better to pay her fee and leave without learning a thing, that he was giving too much importance to his recurrent dream.

The old woman knows why Santiago has come before he even states his purpose. She explains that "dreams are the language of God." But she also warns that she will only understand if God speaks in their language. The language of the soul only Santiago will be able to comprehend.

He still does not trust the Gypsy, but he decides to "take a chance." After all, he concedes, risks are things that make the life of a shepherd exciting. So he tells the Gypsy woman about his dream. In holding his hands and listening to his dreams, she decides she will not collect her usual fee from him.