Learning from “The Alchemist”by Paulo Coelho


Today we studied “The Alchemist” in the Year 11 ESL class and shared Morrocan Mint Tea, Chai Lattes, Almonds & Dates, in a haze of sandalwood incense and shaded by lush palm trees in the courtyard outside our window. What a beautiful experience! The students loved it and really felt the magic of the fable as I read to them and gesticulated dramatically.

Lessons we learnt today:

  1. Follow your personal legend until you achieve it or you will never find peace or happiness.
  2. When you strive for your personal legend the whole universe conspires to help you achieve your dreams.
  3. Look for the omens (signs) that you are on the right track. This is the language of the soul of the world.
  4. Don’t give up despite obstacles and difficulties.
  5. Listen to to your heart and follow your dreams and you will find your treasure.

These were some of the main teachings of the book which was a worldwide phenomenon, well before ‘The Secret’ and such. The story embraces all faiths and all cultures to deliver a message that’s ultimately empowering and all encompassing in a charming, deceptively simple fable format that has you thinking profound thoughts about life and philosophising long after you’ve turned that last page, wanting more.

I got my students to complete a creative response first which was to write the next chapter and continue the story with surprising results. They struggled with the simple style at first, but once they found the Shepard Santiago’s voice they enjoyed the task. I decided to have a go at emulating the style and relished the opportunity to write in this, my beloved style.

Here’s my start anyway at fan fiction:


The boy’ heart began to beat faster in rhythm with his horse’s hoofbeats as if they were one. A broad smile spread across his face and his eyes sparkled like one who has found his personal legend. Soon he would be reunited with Fatima and his life would be complete. The hawks above soared and swooped in a loveheart formation as they lead him home to Al-Fayoum. He laughed as he recognised the omens that lead him to his destiny.

As he rode into the oasis and headed towards the well the children of the oasis ran after his horse cheering wildly. The women of the oasis smiled with their eyes and gently lowered their heads.

When he reached the well he jumped off his horse and rolled to a stop at Fatima’s feet. She dropped her jug and looked down, holding out both hands. He took her hands and kneeled on one knee.

“I’m back for you Fatima. Do you still want me? He whispered.

“Of course I do,” she said as she unfastened her scarf and smiled widely, a tear of joy rolling down her cheek. “I knew you would come back. Maktub. It was written. You are a man of the desert now. I am your woman and this is your home now.

Melpomene Selemidis

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About Melpomuse

Reader, Writer, Poet, Teacher
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2 Responses to Learning from “The Alchemist”by Paulo Coelho

  1. John D says:

    Hi Mel, really loved this post, it has me totally inspired on numerous levels. The Alchemist is one of my favourite books and I’ve lost count of copies I’ve bought for friends – adult and young – who have found themselves at the crossroads. Just sent another copy off to a young Aboriginal boy in Far North Queensland who I met during a writters residency a couple of months ago. I am soon to fly to either Birdsville or Dajarra in far Western Queensland to run writing workshops in a couple of tiny schools. You sensory ideas – the tea, the incense, the dates – have opened up all sorts of possibilities for me. Hope you don’t mind sharing your techniques with another story-warrior! Yours in ink and the good fight! John D.

  2. Melpomene says:

    Hi John
    So happy to have inspired you. As a Muse that’s my job. ;-) You’re welcome to use anything you wish. The kids love being immersed in the exotic world of the book and I love to make it a sensory experience with all the smells and tastes. I’ve been teaching ‘The Alchemist’ to students here in Melbourne since 1993 and have also given it as a gift many times. It’s a truly beautiful inspirational book. Thanks for connecting with me and showing me signs I’m on the right path to achieving my personal legend. All the best for your journey up North. Can’t wait to hear all about it.

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