Summary: Section 13
Santiago, the alchemist, and their escort ride until they arrive at a Coptic monastery. The alchemist tells Santiago they are three hours from the pyramids, and that he must finish the trip alone. The alchemist speaks to one of the monks in a strange language, and the monk leads him and Santiago to the kitchen and brings them a block of lead. The alchemist heats it and shaves a sliver off the Philosopher’s Stone. He adds the lead sliver to the pan, and the mixture becomes red. When it dries, it is gold. Santiago wants to try but the alchemist reminds Santiago that alchemy is not his Personal Legend. The alchemist gives gold to the monk, to Santiago, and keeps some himself. He also gives a fourth part to the monk to keep for Santiago.
Before leaving, the alchemist tells Santiago a story about Emperor Tiberius of Rome. Tiberius had one son who was a soldier and one who was a poet. An angel tells him in a dream that generations of men will know the words of one of his sons. After Tiberius dies, he meets the angel from his dream and thanks the angel for saying his son’s poetry would become immortal. The angel replies that people have forgotten his son's poem. Instead, the son who was a soldier met the Son of God while looking for a healer for his servant. The soldier said that he was not worthy, and that the Son of God needed only to speak one word and his servant would be healed. These words became immortal.
Santiago rides off alone. As a full moon rises, Santiago sees the pyramids from atop a dune. He falls to his knees and sees a scarab in the sand. He starts digging in that spot but finds nothing. Eventually, two refugees from the tribal wars approach and yank Santiago from the hole. They take his gold, and assuming Santiago digs toward more gold, force him to keep digging until morning. When Santiago finds nothing, they beat him until he nearly dies. Santiago gasps that he saw the treasure in a dream, which makes the attackers think Santiago is crazy. One tells Santiago he had a dream of a treasure buried in Spain, and describes the church and sycamore tree from Santiago’s days as a shepherd. The attacker says he isn’t stupid enough to pursue it. Santiago smiles. He knows where to find his treasure.
Santiago arrives at the church and falls asleep contemplating the strange way God has guided him to the treasure. He wakes up digging and laughing about how God left gold at the monastery through the alchemist to ease his journey back. A voice in the wind says God wanted him to see the pyramids’ beauty. Soon Santiago finds a chest of gold coins and jewels. He removes Urim and Thummim and puts them in the chest. He plans to head to Tarifa and give the gypsy one tenth of his treasure, and as the wind blows he feels Fatima’s kiss on his lips. Santiago declares that he will return to her soon.
The story that the alchemist tells Santiago about Emperor Tiberius and his sons appears to hold the lesson that, although a person may not have a destiny he expects or even desires, if that person acts in accordance with his own desires, he will serve a purpose greater than himself. In the story, which appears in the Bible in Matthew 8:5-8, a centurion demonstrates his faith in Jesus, acknowledging that if Jesus just speaks a word he can heal the centurion’s servant, who is paralyzed and suffering. The angel tells Tiberius that, although the centurion did not intend to be remembered for this speech, his words have become immortal. This story reiterates the notion that in living out his Personal Legend, Santiago served not only himself but also the Soul of the World. Also, just like the Narcissus story from the beginning of The Alchemist, this story takes a well-known narrative, this time a story from the Bible, and adds another dimension to it, giving it a new meaning in the context of the novel.
Some of the events from earlier in the book foreshadow Santiago’s final challenge at the pyramids and his ultimate return to Spain. Santiago, for instance, learns about the importance of omens involving scarabs earlier in his trip, and the scarab he sees near the pyramids shows him where to dig. Of course, Santiago doesn’t find anything where he sees the scarab, but the location happens to be in the path of the men who will assault him later and reveal to him the location of the treasure. In addition, when Santiago’s attackers scoff at him for pursuing a treasure from a dream, the episode parallels the earlier incident in which the alchemist admits to the tribesman that he was carrying the Philosopher’s Stone and Elixir of Life. Like the alchemist, Santiago expresses an earnest belief in the knowledge he carries, and that belief essentially saves him by making his attackers think he is crazy.
The final twist, that the treasure lies under the sycamore tree in Spain the whole time, brings Santiago back home, just as his father predicted when Santiago first set out on his travels as a shepherd. Most notably, however, this detail also reiterates the alchemist’s lesson about the alchemists who have lost the ability to turn lead to gold. These men, the alchemist says, wanted just the treasure from their Personal Legends without actually living out their Personal Legends. For Santiago, the value of his journey does not lie in the treasure at the end, but in the knowledge and experience he gains from the journey itself. The fact that the treasure contains actual gold and jewels seems almost incidental, though it does emphasize the point made earlier in the novel that pursuing one’s Personal Legend can also lead to material wealth.