The Alchemist follows the journey of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago. Santiago, believing a recurring dream to be prophetic, decides to travel to a Romani in a nearby town to discover its meaning. The gypsy tells him that there is a treasure in the Pyramids in Egypt.
Early into his journey, he meets an old king, Melchizedek, who tells him to sell his sheep to travel to Egypt and introduces the idea of a Personal Legend (which is always capitalized in the book). Your Personal Legend "is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is". He adds that "when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it". This is the core theme of the book.
The Pyramids of Giza
Along the way, he encounters love, danger, opportunity, disaster and learns a lot about himself and the ways of the world. During his travels, he meets a beautiful Arabian woman named Fatima, who explains to him that if he follows his heart, he shall find what it is he seeks.
Santiago then encounters a lone alchemist who also teaches him about personal legends. He says that people want to find only the treasure of their personal legends but not the personal legend itself. Santiago feels unsure about himself as he listens to the alchemist's teachings. The alchemist states: "Those who don't understand their personal legends will fail to comprehend its teachings". It also states that treasure is more worthy than gold.