The Legend of El Dorado Criticism: Overviews - Essay

A. F. Bandelier (essay date 1893)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Bandelier, A. F. “Cundinamarca.” In The Gilded Man (El Dorado) and Other Pictures of the Spanish Occupancy of America, pp. 1-30. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1893.

[In the following essay, Bandalier describes how the myth of El Dorado and the lure of gold spurred Spanish exploration and conquest of the New World.]

While the early Spanish adventurers in America are justly charged with neglecting the true interests of colonization in their excessive greed for treasure, and thereby bringing harm to those parts of the Western Continent which they entered, it cannot be denied that their irrepressible seeking for the precious metals contributed directly to...

(The entire section is 8275 words.)

J. A. Zahm (essay date 1917)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Zahm, J. A. “Chief Sources of Information Respecting El Dorado” and “Expedition of Sebastian de Belalcazar: Conflicting Reports Regarding El Dorado.” In The Quest of El Dorado: The Most Romantic Episode in the History of South American Conquest, pp. 1-8; 9-36. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1917.

[In the following essay, Zahm recounts several versions of the El Dorado legend and argues that the main reason so little is known about the expeditions which searched for El Dorado is that few of the original accounts have been translated into English.]

During a year's wanderings in Andean lands and in the valleys of the Amazon and the Orinoco I was...

(The entire section is 4547 words.)

John Hemming (essay date 1978)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Hemming, John. “Chapter 6.” In The Search for El Dorado, pp. 97-109. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1978.

[In the following essay, Hemming examines the earliest Spanish references to El Dorado, concluding that the legend was unknown before 1541, although several explorers would claim earlier knowledge of the golden kingdom in their attempts to gain exclusive rights to the region where it was believed to be.]

The legend of El Dorado, the Golden Man, was born in Quito at the beginning of 1541. It was a beguiling story and it quickly caught the imagination of the conquistadores. It spread fast, gained momentum and credibility, and evolved in detail during the ensuing...

(The entire section is 7220 words.)

Robert Silverberg (essay date 1985)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Silverberg, Robert. “The Gilded Man of Cundinamarca.” In The Golden Dream: Seekers of El Dorado, pp. 3-38. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985.

[In the following essay, Silverberg establishes how Spaniards could have believed in El Dorado by describing the riches in gold accumulated by explorers like Columbus, Cortés, and Pizarro.]

The quest for El Dorado was an enterprise of fantasy that obsessed the adventurers of Europe for more than a century. Tales of a golden kingdom and of a golden king, somewhere in the unexplored wilderness of South America, spurred men on to notable achievements of endurance, chivalry, and—too often—crime. Nothing halted the...

(The entire section is 11642 words.)

Fernando Ainsa (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Ainsa, Fernando. “From the Golden Age to El Dorado: (Metamorphosis of a Myth).” Diogenes 34 (Spring 1986): 20-46.

[In the following essay, Ainsa examines the ways in which the European myth of a lost Golden Age contributed to the formation of the myth of El Dorado.]

The geographical Utopias that present a New World, from classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages to the exploration and conquest of American territories by Spain, give a two-fold vision of the myth of gold. On the one hand, the legendary lands in which were found the wealth and power generated by the coveted metal—El Dorado, El Paititi, the City of the Caesars—establish the direction of a...

(The entire section is 9438 words.)

Beatriz Pastor Bodmer (essay date 1992)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Bodmer, Beatriz Pastor. “The Models in Crisis: The Search for El Dorado.” In The Armature of Conquest: Spanish Accounts of the Discovery of America, 1492-1589, translated by Lydia Longstreth Hunt pp. 153-68. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1992.

[In the following excerpt, Bodmer argues that belief in various myths about South America—including that of El Dorado—spurred the exploration of the interior of the continent.]

On the northern continent, territorial expansion had been organized in pursuit of two central goals: the Fountain of Youth and the Seven Cities of Cibola. Every great Spanish expedition to that region had been initially...

(The entire section is 8570 words.)

Fernando Ainsa (essay date 1993)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Ainsa, Fernando. “The Myth, Marvel, and Adventure of El Dorado: Semantic Mutations of a Legend.” Diogenes 41, No. 4 (1993): 13-26.

[In the following essay, Ainsa traces the evolution of the myth of El Dorado from the story of a gilded king, to a belief in a treasure lying at the bottom of a lake, to the legend of a golden land.]

Dreams of gold have accompanied human history down through the ages. Gold is a beautiful and useful metal, easily shaped and immune to rust, and from the time of the ancient Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations, it has been regarded as a precious metal from which jewels and decorative as well as everyday objects have been fashioned....

(The entire section is 5457 words.)

Charles Nicholl (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Nicholl, Charles. “Mapping El Dorado.” In The Creature in the Map: A Journey to El Dorado, pp. 9-19. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1995.

[In the following excerpt, Nicholl considers the search for El Dorado the result of a psychological “projection” onto the unexplored territory of South America of the desire for wealth and power.]

The purpose of Ralegh's Guiana Voyage was to locate El Dorado, and so a question immediately arises: Where was El Dorado?

The first and sensible answer is, nowhere. El Dorado did not exist. There never was a “great and golden city” (as Ralegh put it) lost in the South American...

(The entire section is 2467 words.)