The Alchemist: The Crystal Merchant

*Friend, Teacher, Student*


“...if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.”

“I’m afraid that it would be all a disappointment, so I prefer just to dream about it.”

--The Crystal Merchant, page 55


There are many symbols in the international best-selling, awe-inspiring novel, The Alchemist. One such symbol is the Crystal Merchant or common worker persona, as it represents many abstract concepts.

"A mistake that is not meant to be repeated..."

The crystal merchant represents history; a mistake that is not meant to be repeated. He has shared with Santiago the regrets one has when their destiny is not fulfilled. His dream was to go to Mecca, yet he chose to retain his fruitless job. The merchant’s disposition changed as Santiago came and boosted his sales. He thought that if he achieved his dream, afterwards there would be nothing left for him to do. The merchant was not open to change and never found the courage to take risks.

“I’m afraid that it would be all a disappointment, so I prefer just to dream about it.”-55

Through Santiago, the merchant further understands his own potential to achieve greater things. His realization that every blessing ignored turns into a curse, taught Santiago that he must intently recognize his own blessings in order to fully understand his own capabilities in achieving his dreams.

"A Call Refused..."

The Crystal Merchant also could be symbolized as a Call Refused, if his life is compared to the Hero’s Journey. His Call was the opportunity to embark on a pilgrimage to Mecca after he acquired enough money to make the journey possible. However he refused the Call by staying in the setting he felt most comfortable in. His fear of completing the Hero’s Journey kept him from accepting the Call. This can be seen when the Crystal Merchant is talking to Santiago about dreams:

“...if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.” (48)

As a result of refusing the Call, the Crystal Merchant is forced to live with the regret and sadness of not pursuing his dream as opposed to the potential disappointment of his own life after going to Mecca. Reading about a failed Hero’s Journey like the Crystal Merchant can help us understand and realize Calls to Adventure in our own lives.

"A relationship between a hero and a foil..."

The Alchemist is enhanced by the presence of the Crystal Merchant symbol in many ways. In the literal form, the Crystal Merchant provided a home and a job for Santiago as he hit a low point on his pursuit of his dream. If the Crystal Merchant wasn’t present in the story, Santiago would have no money, no home, and would be forced to turn back to Spain. Figuratively, the book exemplified a relationship between a hero and a foil, Santiago and the Crystal Merchant. Through the Crystal Merchant, Santiago was able to observe the consequences of a Call Refused. In a way, watching the Crystal Merchant not pursue his Personal Legend led to Santiago’s increased persistence to complete his Personal Legend.

"In order for good things to occur, we must let the bad happen as well."

Everyone finds themselves relating with the crystal merchant in some way. While some don't, many share the fear of failure when pursuing a dream just like the merchant. They tend to avoid risky decisions and choose the more simplistic one since it does not hurt. But, we must understand that in order for good things to occur, we must let the bad happen as well. Take for example, someone who aspires to be a professional singer abandons that dream because of the slim chances of being successful, and of course, being financially stable as an adult. There are also those who do not have enough faith and confidence within themselves that cause them to relinquish their desire to be who they want to be and to do what they want to do. They think about what happens once they fail, but they do not emphasize enough what will and may happen once they actually succeed.

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