Why did Santiago have to go through the danger of tribal wars on the outskirts of the oasis in order to reach the pyramids in The Alchemist?
Santiago needs to face many trials as he undergoes the hero’s journey to find his Personal Legend.
Santiago’s quest is a version of what we call the hero’s journey, a mission that an ordinary person finds himself on when he least expects it. The hero’s journey is an archetypal quest that is a megamyth or monomyth, a myth found across many different cultures throughout time. Santiago’s quest to find his Personal Legend and the treasure is very similar.
In the hero’s journey, the person is often looking for treasure. The hero, usually a young boy, often is very ordinary at the outset. In this case, Santiago was a shepherd. The hero then gets some kind of call to adventure, in the case a dream, that causes the hero to go on the journey. Along the way, the hero will meet some predictable stages that are part of the journey. One of those stages is to meet an oracle. In Santiago’s case, that oracle is the alchemist. Also typical to the journey is the trials the hero must undergo before he can find his treasure or, as he is really doing, accomplish his task and become a hero.
The description of the tribal wars, as Santiago thinks about them, make it clear he is aware that they are just some of the trials he needs to overcome in order to find the person he loves, discover his Personal Legend, and get his treasure.
There was the desert that he had wandered for so many months; despite all that time, he knew only a small part of it. Within that small part, he had found an Englishman, caravans, tribal wars, and an oasis with fifty thousand palm trees and three hundred wells. (Part II)
So you can see, trials are just part of life. They are part of the hero’s journey. They are the barriers that a hero must overcome in order to gather the material and immaterial things that he needs to reach his goals. A hero needs wisdom and bravery. If he never faced any barriers, how would he ever get them? Things can’t be easy. There have to be challenges, because we have to know that we are worthy, and we have to face the little challenges and defeat them before we can face the big ones, so that we know we have it in us to face those big ones.