Chapter 18 Summary
“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...
(The entire section is 807 words.)