What is the Baker's story in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho?

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The baker's story is Melchizedek's life lesson to Santiago about the fleeting nature of life and the need to "seize the day" while one still has the passion to experience fulfillment. Melchizedek warns the boy to persist and pursue his Personal Legend (his destiny, his fate, or the story his life is supposed to follow). Santiago must make decisions about his future and act in the present. The baker chooses to play life safely: he saves his money for travel and will wait until he is old, despite his strong lifelong desire to see Africa. This theme is echoed later in the story in the shape of the crystal merchant, who knows he must visit Mecca as an obligation to Islam. He hesitates to go, because once his dream of Mecca becomes real, he will have no "reason to go on living" (Coelho 55).

The boy is exposed to these stories and characters so that he will fulfill his desires and become the man he is destined to be.

Coelho, Paolo. The Alchemist. San Francisco: Harper Collins. 1993.

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The story of the Baker is told to Santiago by Melchizedek, the King of Salem. It's basically about how the Baker botched his Personal Legend by making "safe" decisions. Apparently, the Baker wanted to do a lot of traveling during his life, but figured that saving money during life and traveling at an older age would work best. He chose a life of family, children, and some prestige (more than what a shepherd would have) rather than risking time and energy on doing what he really wanted to do, which was traveling. The King of Salem profoundly explains: 

"In the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends"(23).

Melchizedek uses the Baker as an example of where safe decisions can lead. He wants the boy to realize that even though discovering our Personal Legends can be scary, in the end, we are happier people. Ultimately, a person who achieves his/her full potential in life won't look back on life with regrets.

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