Short Story – The Old Man in the Castle
This is an adapted version of a short story about happiness from the book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
A boy wants to find the secret happiness, so he seeks out the council of a wise old man that lives in a castle at the top of the mountain.
After an arduous journey up the mountain, the boy finally arrives to be greeted by a huge queue of people waiting to see the wise old man.
After what feels like several hours, the boy finally gets his turn to see the wise old man.
The old man asks him: “how can I be of service?”
The boy says: “I would like to know the secret of true happiness.”
The old man replies: “Well, I am a little busy at the moment. Please can you take this spoon filled with oil, and go look around the castle for a couple of hours then return? Please do be careful not to spill any oil though”
The boy wanders off with spoon in hand… focussed and intent on not spilling a single drop of oil.
After two hours, he returns to see the old man, proudly clutching the spoon filled with oil.
The wise old man says “Nice to see you are back, did you notice the fine tapestry’s hanging in the hall?”
The boys says: “No”.
The old man asks him: “Did you see any of suits of armour all pristine and gleaming, or the landscaped garden it took years to craft?”
The boy says: “No”.
The old man then says: “Well, there are some amazing things to see in the castle. Go and take a good look around, and in two hours, come back and tell me all about what you have found”.
The boy wanders off in search…
Two hours later the boy returns to see the old man. The boy cannot stop exclaiming how beautiful the tapestries are and how wonderous the suits of armour are, not to mention all the other things he was seen…
The old man then asks: “How about the oil on the spoon?”
The boy looks down… and it is all gone.
“There you have it”. Says the old man.
“The secret to true happiness is learning to enjoy the world around you, while keeping the oil on the spoon.”
This is a story that is really open to interpretation. Everyone I share it with finds a different meaning. To me, the oil represents my own vitality, mental health and physical wellbeing.
When the oil is on the spoon, you are complete and can project yourself authentically in to the world.
I like this story so much; I even have a spoon tattooed on my shoulder!
Enjoy, for now.