Chapter 17 Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 802

“The arrival of Candide and his valet in the land of El Dorado, and what they saw there”

As Candide and Cacambo arrive at the Orejones’ border, the valet tells his master they should return to Europe as quickly as possible. Candide says that the Bulgars and Avars are still...

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“The arrival of Candide and his valet in the land of El Dorado, and what they saw there”

As Candide and Cacambo arrive at the Orejones’ border, the valet tells his master they should return to Europe as quickly as possible. Candide says that the Bulgars and Avars are still butchering everyone in Germany; if he returns to Portugal, he will be burned at the stake; and if he stays here he is always at risk of being roasted on a spit. Moreover, he is loathe to leave the part of the world where Cunégonde is. Cacambo suggests they go to Cayenne; there they can find Frenchmen who travel the world and who would perhaps help the travelers. Perhaps God will take pity on them, as well.

Though Candide and Cacambo know the general direction in which to go, they are faced with formidable obstacles on the way to Cayenne: rivers, cliffs, mountains, thieves, and savages. Their horses die of exhaustion and their provisions run out; for a month they live on wild fruit and coconuts.

As he always gives good advice, like the old woman, Cacambo finally tells Candide they can walk no more. He sees an empty canoe and suggests they float in it downstream. A river always leads to some inhabited place, and if they do not find something good perhaps they will at least find something new. Candide agrees, and they place their lives in the hands of Providence.

The two men float for several leagues; the landscape of the banks on either side of them changes often. The river grows ever wider until it disappears beneath a terrifyingly tall mountain range. Candide and Cacambo gather their courage and let the canoe carry them into the waters beneath the mountains. The current grows terrible, and they are quickly swept away in a thunderous roar of water. After twenty-four hours, the men finally see daylight again; however, their canoe gets smashed against the rocks and they have to drag themselves across the rocks for an entire league.

At last they see a glorious land in front of them, surrounded by the impenetrable mountain range. Everything here is beautiful, and the roads are covered with splendidly shaped carriages made of something that glitters and drawn by large, red sheep that run more swiftly than the fastest horses. Inside are men and women of exceptional beauty. Candide exclaims that this is a much better land than Westphalia.

They stop at the first village they see. Some of the children, covered with gold brocade which was torn and ragged in places, are playing quoits by the gate; the disks they are throwing are varied in color and glisten in an extraordinary way. The curious travelers pick up several of the stones and discover the children are playing a game with nuggets of gold and precious stones; the smallest stones are larger than anything in the greatest ornament of the Mogul Throne. Candide and Cacambo assume these are noblemen’s children, but when the village schoolmaster calls them back to class, they carelessly throw their disks and other toys on the ground as they leave.

Candide quickly picks up the stones and humbly presents them to the schoolmaster, making him understand that the royal children had dropped their precious jewels. The teacher throws the stones away. The travelers, of course, gather up the gold, rubies, and emeralds, remarking that royal children in this country have been raised well, as they were taught to disdain such fine things.

The first house in the village looks like a European palace and a crowd is gathered at the door; even more people are inside, and they are all speaking Peruvian. This is fortunate, for Peruvian is Cacambo’s native language. The waiters and waitresses are dressed in gold and the travelers are immediately served four soups, each garnished with two parrots, a two-hundred-pound boiled condor, two delicious roasted monkeys, three hundred colibris and six hundred hummingbirds, in addition to several stews and delectable pastries. Everything is served on crystal dishes and the drinks are made of sugarcane.

Their dinner companions are primarily merchants, exceptionally polite and gracious. Cacambo tries to pay with several large gold pieces, but this only causes the innkeeper to laugh for a long time. They cannot pay for their meal with these pebbles they picked up on the road, and there is no charge for the meal since inns are paid for by the government. The innkeeper apologizes for the meager meal, as this is a poor village. Both travelers are astonished and wonder how a country could be so different from those they know. Candide believes this is the country where everything is for the best; despite Pangloss’s assertions, Candide has noticed that things often go wrong in Westphalia.

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