Chapter 18 Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 807

“What they saw in the land of El Dorado”

The innkeeper tells Cacambo that he is a happily ignorant man, but there is a wise man in the village who is the most learned and eloquent man in the kingdom. The innkeeper takes them to an old man in a...

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“What they saw in the land of El Dorado”

The innkeeper tells Cacambo that he is a happily ignorant man, but there is a wise man in the village who is the most learned and eloquent man in the kingdom. The innkeeper takes them to an old man in a sumptuous but simple room full of fine metals and jewels. The man is one hundred and seventy-two years old, and his deceased father was equerry (honored attendant) to the king.

This kingdom is the “old fatherland to the Incas” who unwisely chose to leave so they could subjugate another part of the world and were ultimately destroyed by the Spaniards. The princes and their families who remained were much wiser and decreed, with the people’s consent, that no inhabitant of the country could ever leave this kingdom. This has preserved their happiness and innocence.

The Spaniards know little about this country which they call El Dorado; because it is a country surrounded by precipitous mountains, it has remained safe from European nations who have an insatiable desire for the stones and would gladly kill everyone in the country to get them. An Englishman, Sir Walter Raleigh, almost reached it about a hundred years ago.

The men converse about many things, and Candide asks if there is a religion in this country. The old man is insulted and explains they have the same religion as the rest of the world: they worship God “from dusk to dawn.” Cacambo asks if they only serve one God; the old man derisively says they only worship one because there is only one and says people from the outside always ask the strangest questions.

Candide asks how they pray here, but the old man says they do not pray because they have nothing for which they must ask God. Since He has given them everything, they continually thank Him. They have no priests, and everyone gathers each morning to sing solemn hymns. Candide is stunned that El Dorado does not have monks who “preach, argue, govern, plot, and have people burned who do not share their opinions.” The old man says they would have to be mad to have such men.

Candide thinks that if Pangloss had seen El Dorado he would not have thought Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh’s castle was the best of all places. The old man arranges for a carriage and servants to take the travelers to the royal court. The king’s magnificent palace is made of something far finer than the sand and pebbles the other worlds call gold and gems. Two women meet them, bathe them, and dress them in fine robes before they are escorted to the king by nobles and two thousand musicians. They are received with unimaginable charm.

The travelers are taken on a tour of the magnificent city full of towering buildings, thousands of columns, fountains flowing with wonderful liquids, and streets covered with sweet-smelling gems. There are no courts or prisons, and there is an amazing palace of science filled with thousands of instruments of mathematics and physics. After touring just a thousandth of the city, they enjoy a splendid dinner with the king.

The travelers spend a month in this sanctuary. Though El Dorado is a magnificent place, Candide reminds Cacambo that Cunégonde is not here, and all they have to do is take twelve sheep laden with pebbles from here and they will be wealthier than anyone in their world. They will have no need to fear the inquisitors and he can win back Cunégonde. Cacambo agrees, for it is a good thing to travel and then be welcomed back as a hero.

They ask the king for permission to leave. He tells them they are foolish. He cannot keep them from leaving; however, the way is difficult. They cannot leave the way they came, and the mountains are ten thousand feet high. He will order his engineers to create a machine to transport them over the mountains in comfort. Cacambo’s request that they take some of gold and jewels with them is granted, though the king does not understand the rest of the world’s preoccupation with their mud and pebbles.

Three thousand engineers work for two weeks on a machine which costs twenty million pounds. They take two red sheep for riding, twenty pack sheep with provisions, thirty sheep with gifts, and fifty sheep carrying gold, gems, and diamonds. The two travelers are hugged warmly by the king, and their departure is spectacular. Once they land safely, the engineers return home and Candide yearns to present his sheep to Cunégonde and pay any price the governor of Buenos Aires has put on her. They will go to Cayenne, take a ship to Buenos Aires, and decide which kingdom they might want to buy. 

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