By Alex and Julie
In The Alchemist, there are many important symbols woven into the text throughout the book. One of those symbols presents himself to Santiago in the Spanish town of Tarifa. His name is Melchizedek, or the King of Salem. Although he only appears in the story for a brief amount of time, he plays a very important role.
Melchizedek appears in the story when Santiago is about to start getting into the book he had just previously received. Not long after they first start talking, Melchizedek reveals that Santiago has found his personal legend, and that he was there to help him achieve it, for the price of one tenth of Santiago's sheep. The King Explains that ". . . when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe."
In the time period this book is taking place, literacy was unusual among people who weren't high members of society. We know that Santiago has studied priesthood, and that would suggest a reason for his literacy. Therefore it would imply that, since he can read and that he has read Santiago's book before, the old man is in fact an important person of high status.
This section of the book is not only central to part one, but to the book in its entirety. Melchizedek introduces the concepts of the Personal Legend, the world's greatest lie, the mysterious force, the Soul of the World, the principle of favorability (beginner's luck), and following the omens. The king is always with Santiago and will always be there when he starts to lean away from his personal legend. In the book Santiago notices that "...the old merchant's hair was very much like the hair of the old king. He remembered the smile of the candy seller...that smile had also been like the old king's smile...he said that he always appeared to help those who are trying to realize their Personal Legend."
The name Melchizedek is actually Hebrew for "righteous is my king" and comes from the Old Testament. In the Bible, a character with this name is described as the King of Salem (another name for Jerusalem). Melchizedek is a priest of God in the time of Abraham. The quote, “Melchizedek watched a small ship that was blowing its way out of the port. He would never again see the boy, just as he had never seen Abraham after having charged him his one-tenth fee. That was his work”, helps us understand the connection to the Bible more clearly. So, as you see, Melchizedek is a very important element in The Alchemist.