The Legend of El Dorado


In honor of the highlight hat of the week which is the El Dorado Leather Top Hat we will be exploring the legend of El Dorado.  It is fascinating subject and captivated many individuals. It was such a well known legend that Edgar Allan Poe wrote a poem named Eldorado.  So not only does the highlight hat of the week have a legendary name, but El Dorado also has ties to one of the founding fathers of the steampunk genre itself.  

The legend of the lost city of El Dorado has been told throughout centuries and is widely known.  In the 16th century it was believed that a city of immense riches was located in South America in the country that is now known as Columbia. Many Spaniards and Europeans searched for this city from the legend that had made its way through the lands.

Over time the Spaniards had heard of a tribe the Musica that lived in the Andes Mountains.  It was told that when a new chief was selected there was a ceremony at Lake Guatavita.  The new chief would be covered in gold dust and hence the name golden king, El Rey Dorado, or Golden Man, El Hombre Dorado, would be a part of the stories as they were passed around.  During the ceremony a raft would be rowed out to the middle of the lake with the new chief and his attendants, they would throw gold and other fine jewels into the lake to appease the underwater God.  In some accounts the new chief would bath in the lake removing the gold dust.  These stories inspired the birth of this legend. 

The legend moved over time from the golden man, to the golden city, to the golden kingdom, and finally it was a golden empire.  At the end of the 15th century the Musica were conquered by another tribe.  The Spaniards and Europeans had found so much gold in the region that they believed there had to be a place of great wealth near where the legends of the Musica tribe had taken place.

In 1545 the Spaniards did find Lake Guatavita and tried to drain the lake.  They found large amounts of gold in the portion they were able to drain, but the lake was of substantial size and they were not able to drain very far.  They could not find the treasures farther down.

 El Dorado has been a legend that has captivated many and is still known today, yet the city of El Dorado was never found.  Over time many stories have come from that time period creating the legend we have today.

 I thought I would include the poem Eldorado by Edgar Allan Poe to close. 


Gaily bedight, A gallant knight, In sunshine and in shadow, Had journeyed long, Singing a song, In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old, This knight so bold, And o'er his heart a shadow, Fell as he found, No spot of ground, That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength Failed him at length, He met a pilgrim shadow, 'Shadow,' said he, 'Where can it be This land of Eldorado?'

'Over the Mountains Of the Moon, Down the Valley of the Shadow, Ride, boldly ride,' The shade replied, 'If you seek for Eldorado!'


Poem source:  The Complete Poems and Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (1946)

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment