Santiago is furious. How can the alchemist have set him up to do something of which he is incapable? The alchemist calmly explains that “If a person is living out his Personal Legend, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” On the day before he is expected to turn himself into the wind, Santiago climbs to the top of a cliff. He looks out at the desert and senses that it can feel his fear.
On the third day, Santiago brings the tribal chief and his officers to the cliff. Again he looks across the desert, and this time Santiago asks for the desert’s help in becoming the wind. The desert replies that it can provide its sand to help the wind blow, but no more; the desert needs assistance from the wind itself. Soon, a breeze tickles Santiago’s face. The wind knows what the boy needs but regretfully tells him, “We’re two very different things.”
Santiago has learned much from the alchemist, however. He protests that he and the wind aren’t very different at all. For one thing, they share the same soul. Intrigued, the wind nevertheless insists that people can’t turn themselves into the wind.
Sensing that the wind might ultimately relent and grant his wish, Santiago tells it, “When you are loved, you can do anything in creation. When you are loved, there’s no need at all to understand what’s happening because everything happens within you, and even men can turn themselves into the wind. As long as the wind helps, of course.” Suggesting that Santiago ask heaven for help, the wind then creates an enormous sand storm called a simum.
Now Santiago beseeches the sun to help him turn into the wind — for the sake of love, he says. The sun acknowledges that it knows about love. Then the sun complains that people always want more, implying that this is a bad thing. Santiago disagrees, saying that “each thing has to transform itself into something better, and to acquire a new Personal Legend, until, someday, the Soul of the World becomes one thing only.”
The sun decides to transform itself into something better: a brighter sun. The eavesdropping wind then decides to blow harder. Still the sun can’t turn Santiago himself into the wind. “Speak to the hand that wrote all,” the sun finally suggests. Santiago begins to pray, and in praying he understands that he isn’t alone in not comprehending the universe completely. The sun and the wind and the desert also don’t entirely know their reason for being. Finally, Santiago “reached through to the Soul of the World, and saw that it was a part of the Soul of God. And he saw that the Soul of God was his own soul. And that he, a boy, could perform miracles.”
Once he has connected to the Soul of God, Santiago is indeed able to transform himself into the wind, becoming the mightiest windstorm in anyone’s memory. The alchemist is pleased, the tribal commander is impressed, and Santiago is relieved; his life is spared and he can continue to pursue his Personal Legend and find the hidden treasure.
The general provides the alchemist and Santiago with a guide to escort them out of the encampment. The three men travel for an entire day. At the end of the day, they come upon a Coptic Christian monastery. The alchemist uses the monastery’s kitchen to perform the art of alchemy. After he has successfully turned lead into gold, the alchemist splits the gold into four sections. He keeps one piece and gives one to the monastery in thanks for its hospitality, and one to Santiago to make up for what he handed over to the tribal commander. The alchemist gives the last piece of gold to the monk to hold onto, in case Santiago should need it in the future.
The alchemist leaves Santiago in the desert, telling him “No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”
The three-day time period that Santiago is allowed for his transformation into the wind resonates in multiple ways. Generally speaking, many cultures consider three to be a magical number. Specifically, Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection take place over three days; Jesus is crucified on a Friday, and he rises from the dead on Sunday. In a sense, Santiago’s life as an ordinary human ends during the period when he’s held captive by the blue-veiled warriors, and he is resurrected as an alchemist in deed if not in name.
Up until this point in The Alchemist, the novel has had various mystical elements, but it hewed for the most part to the realistic. Almost every event described could, in theory, be explained rationally. Now, however, the story becomes undeniably fable-like, even mythic. It enters the realm of the truly fantastical.
The human characters have spoken of all things having souls; here the desert, the wind, and the sun can converse with a human (Santiago) in language that the human can understand. Another way of describing this phenomenon is to say that desert, wind and sun have been personified.
Consistent with the tonal transformation from the mostly realistic to the mythic is Santiago’s contact with the Soul of God and of course his transformation into the wind. No wonder the tribal chief is impressed! Also, it’s no surprise that the alchemist allows Santiago to make the rest of his journey to the pyramids alone. Certainly he has demonstrated that he can fend for himself.