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City of Gold

This is a place where what we consider wealth— precious metals, jewels, ivory, cappuccinos, ipods, etc— are everywhere and in great abundance. Even the "beggars" are rich and the most ramshackle building could put a pharaoh's tomb to shame. And the kings? They'd make Croesus green with envy. Richie Rich would probably find the place ostentatious and tacky. It makes Fluffy Cloud Heaven look practically spartan in comparison. When people say it's where the roads are paved with gold, they're talking literally. Visitors like the Intrepid Merchant, Mr. Vice Guy and Guile Hero may become rich after visiting this place with little more than a pouch full of the precious gems lying on the ground, it's so rich. We could go on, but basically this is the Treasure Room as an entire city or even country.

The City Of Gold usually has one of two rather strange sets of local economics. In one, despite the wanton abundance of riches, everyone still considers gold and rubies to be valuable. This can be especially pronounced because the City Of Gold is usually a Hidden Elf Village that isn't trading with the outside world. This usually happens in works aimed at children that can't spend the time on a proper economic lecture on the effects of scarcity or excess on a local economy.

The other has the logical effect of this cornucopia of wealth, everyone in the City of Gold will consider these luxuries to be Worthless Yellow Rocks at worst and costume jewelry at best. What they'll really value are things that are useful, actually rare, or truly valuable, like pencils, art, and kindness. As you can guess, this location is some of the most fertile ground to plant An Aesop.

If the City of Gold is not a hidden elf village, they may be shrewd enough to create an artificial scarcity by only trading a little of their riches with the outside, to avoid collapsing their economies and rendering their wealth worthless to all. Or they might just let the Funny Foreigners load up a gold-plated wheelbarrow with diamonds and send them on their way.

Has nothing to do with the third The Tripods novel The City Of Gold And Lead.

Compare Advanced Ancient Acropolis, Shining City, Conspicuous Consumption, Gold Fever (which this can induce), Gold Makes Everything Shiny.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • The Mysterious Cities of Gold, of course.
  • Shandora in One Piece, as shown in the page image. The second type, in that the people who live around this city find gold completely worthless, and instead fanatically protect a Poneglyph containing information about a Weapon of Mass Destruction that is found on the premises. On the other hand, Eneru did find gold extremely useful, but only because of its properties as a really effective conductor of electricity.
    • Note that gold makes good connectors (unlike most metals, it doesn't form an oxidized surface film), but as a conductor it's only about 70% as good as copper (whereas silver is about 10% better than copper). It's just that neither copper nor silver exist in large quantity in the sky.
    • The Shandorans value the history, it being their homeland, and the soil on which the city stands, soil being extremely rare on the sky islands, and known reverently as "Varse".

    Comic Books 
  • A fairly common trope in various Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck stories. The Gilded Man is far more interested in silver than gold — while the ducks themselves are actually after a rare postage stamp. DuckTales' Valley of Golden Suns has a ridiculous amount of gold, while a DuckTales comic "The Doomed of Sarras" had an exoplanet with an entire desert of Worthless Yellow Rocks. The Uncle Scrooge story "Filthy Rich" features "beggars" in Upper Crustovia with the sign "Please give! Needy family! Down to our last billion dollars!" There have to be many more examples.

    Film 
  • Played with in An American Tail:
    There no cats in America, and the streets are paved with cheese!
  • A Bug's Life: P.T. Flea sings "the streets will be paved with golden retrievers".
  • The Road to El Dorado focuses on the mythical city of gold.
  • National Treasure: The national treasure Ben Gates discovers in the sequel is a city of solid gold.
  • In Gunga Din much of the action is propelled by a British soldier's greed for the gold topping a Hindu temple.
  • In Captain Nemo and the Underwater City the city of Templemere has almost everything made of gold because they get it from refining sea water, and a huge room is full of used gold items, which are basically junk as gold is so plentiful it's valueless.
  • El Dorado itself - called Akator, it's actual name - is featured in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but in a subversion, the place has very little actual gold, at least on the outside. (The gold the legends spoke of was actually a metaphor for the city's true wealth, knowledge, which was eventually its undoing.)

    Folk Lore 
  • The mythical Seven Cities of Gold, sought by conquistadors. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado found two of them, Cíbola and Quivira, but both were just ordinary little villages.
  • El Dorado, the Lost City of Gold, also sought by conquistadors. The legend was a corruption of an original myth where El Dorado ("The Golden One") was a tribal chief who covered himself in gold dust and jumped into a lake.
  • The City of the Caesars was a mythical South American city filled with gold, silver and diamonds.

    Jokes 
  • A miser dies and brings his most treasured posession to heaven: a massive brick of solid gold. At the gates, St. Peter says, "What? You brought pavement?"

    Literature 
  • The Agatean Empire from Discworld has vast quantities of available gold that they use to decorate roofs, and lead is extremely valuable.
  • In The Hobbit, the Lonely Mountain and its great dwarf city of Erebor is stated to have progressively become this, to the point of attracting the dragon Smaug.
  • One of the voyages of Sinbad the Sailor was to a country practically brimming with precious gems. The king there sent him back to Bagdad with massive presents for the caliph.
  • Dick Whittington travels to London because the streets are supposed to be paved with gold, but in that story it turns out to be a figure of speech.
  • In some interpretations of The Bible, Heaven is supposed to be like this. E.g., "the Pearly Gates'' - according to one hypothesis, actually lined with mother of pearl
    • More specifically: This is the city of New Jerusalem. As described in the Revelation, the streets are gold - pure gold, like glass. (Translucent gold?) The foundations of the city are described as twelve precious and semi-precious gemstones. (Interestingly, sapphire is mentioned but ruby is not.) The city gates are pearl - and since at least one translation describes the twelve gates as being carved from a single pearl (each, presumably), it's probably the real deal. Also, the place is described as huge - over 2,532,139,147 cubic miles of space, much of which will presumably be gold (the streets, the buildings, etc.) Now that's a golden city!
      • "Like glass" most likely refers to shine rather than transparency. Gold at the period the passage was written wasn't always very pure, and could be rather dull, while clear glass was a rarity, but was kept in good shine, since it was an important status symbol.
  • Candide has Eldorado, where Worthless Yellow Rocks are abundant.
  • In the Dreamlands sequence from A Night In The Lonesome October, Snuff and Greymalk explore a Lovecraft-inspired dream city in which rare and exotic construction materials are commonplace. Entering an alley, they walk past an ornately-gilded trash can made of semiprecious stone and finest ceramic.
  • The Twenty-One Balloons focuses on a hidden society built around a gigantic diamond mine. They bankroll their utopian society by selling diamonds to the outside world, and are smart enough to hide the extent and source of their wealth, selling only small amounts on a given expedition and switching ports routinely.
  • Subverted in L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The Great Oz makes everyone believe that the Emerald City is made of emeralds, by making visitors wear green glasses while they are in the city.
  • Tom Swift found an underground city of gold in central Mexico in Tom Swift in the City of Gold.
  • In a variant, the capital of the Tamul Empire is entirely sheathed in mother-of-pearl, in a case of decorative exuberance gone way out of hand. Everyone has to wear special slippers, and the emperor points out that it's hideously expensive to maintain, as it has to be almost completely redone every time there's a storm.
  • In Spellsinger, Jon-Tom and Mudge stumble into an underground community of moles and gophers, who build their tunnels' floors and other civic accoutrements out of gold and gemstones. Jon-Tom promises that they'll leave empty-handed and keep quiet about it, provided they let the otter go and don't execute him for stealing paving-stones.
  • A 1940's sci-fi pulp short story Men of Honor by Will Garth has space explorers coming across a city of gold and stealing as much as they can carry off with them. On returning to their rocketship they find that the aliens, puzzled as to why they'd want a worthless metal, have removed the equivalent weight in valuable steel from the hull of the Earthmen's rocketship. After all fair exchange, etc...
  • Desmond Bagley's novel The Vivero Letter involves a lost Mayan city called Uaxuanoc, which the protagonist and his companions are searching for, following a letter written by a Spanish conquistador named de Vivero to his sons describing a city with buildings literally covered in gold, urging them to gather an expedition and find it. The letter came accompanied by two gold seemingly innocuous trays that turn out to be two halves of a Treasure Map leading to the city. Later on, though, when the protagonist asks his archaeologist companions about the gold, he gets laughed at. The archaeologists never bought the gold part for a second, knowing that the Yucatan Peninsula doesn't have any gold deposits thanks to its geological structure. All gold the Mayans had was accumulated through trade and conquest for many centuries. However, The Mafia following them might not know that. Subverted in that the guy in charge of The Mafia expedition understands this but also knows the archaeological value of artifacts found at the site, especially on the black market. The real reason de Viveo lied to his sons was because he fully understood that only the glint of gold could get them to undertake such a journey halfway across the world. In fact, what he wanted them to see was the image of Jesus seemingly etched on the side of a mountain, which is nothing more than a strange coincidence.
  • E.E. Smith's Lensman novel Second Stage Lensmen has a partial example. Illona the Lonabarian dancer comes from a Crapsack World run by a ruthless dictator. When the Patrol gets a hold of her, she's wearing innumerable gems each worth a fortune on any planet of Galactic Civilisation. On Lonabar they're all but worthless.

     Music 
  • On the Rush album Clockwork Angels, one of the tracks is called "Seven Cities of Gold", about the dreams of the album's protagonist as he's Walking the Earth.
  • The beast from the Genesis song "A Trick Of The Tail" claims to have come from a city of gold.

    Pinball 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted features a few examples:
    • Yu-Shan, the City of Heaven, is a place where prayer congeals into substance that can be easily shaped into virtually every substance imaginable. Quintessence forms from general prayers to no specific deity, and is almost freely available as a form of welfare state (although the materials made from it are temporary). Ambrosia forms from prayers to particular gods (and is also tithed to the King of Heaven to serve as payment in the Celestial Bureaucracy), and not only makes permanent substances, but also magical ones. Despite this, Heaven still experiences degrees of poverty for gods who were rendered unemployed in the recent world-dissolving disasters, and barely get by on the paltry feasts that their allotment of quintessence allows.
    • Anybody who can get a decent funeral can live like a king in the Underworld, since items buried or burned as part of the rites appears in the Underworld as magical or lavish food and items, loyal and hardworking soldiers or animals, or personal slaves (if human sacrifice is performed). An enterprising Solar ghost once realised that luxury was the norm down there, and that his mercantile interests would instead need to trade in prayers and sacrifice (things that have invigorating and narcotic effects on ghosts).
    • The Fair Folk are capable of conjuring items of virtually any value into from their Glamour, and consequently value jewels and gold far less than dreams and souls. Despite this, the Guild rarely trades in mortal wealth with the Guild; they don't want to upset market values (and are savvy enough to know that they might be paid in illusory wealth). They instead typically opt to receive the magical items of the raksha, who are themselves paid in mortals to dream-eat (who are then typically sold back to the Guild as highly pliant slaves).
  • The Imperial Palace from Warhammer 40,000. Like most important things in The Imperium, it's decked out in gold, covers more than half of Europe, and is visible from Mars.

    Video Games 
  • One of the secrets in Spelunky is a series of trades that can lead a careful explorer to the City of Gold. In this legendary version of level 15, each tile can be bombed for gold, and there is a gigantic statue that can be bombed for gold and jewels.
  • Secret of Mana has the Gold City, too bad it's an island, and it seems to be sinking slowly. One of the main reasons everything in the city is golden is because its king was exploiting the powers of Lumina, Spirit of Light to do so.
  • Not an actual city, but Donkey Kong Country Returns has the Golden Temple, which transports you to the Bonus Level Of Fluffy Cloud Hell.
  • World 5-S5 (El Dorado) of Super Mario Fusion Revival, which is named after the lost city itself. A Ghost NPC warns the player about being too greedy at one point.
  • Averted in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, where Gorko believes that the buildings in Skyloft are made of gold. He's wrong, but the rest of his description on the city is accurate.

    Western Animation 
  • ThunderCats (2011) has Artful Dodger Brother-Sister Team Wilykat and Kit on the hunt for the fabled treasure city of El Dara. Wilykat owns a Treasure Map that supposedly leads there, and has promised his sister Kit that they'll find it together, and never be poor again. This quest is what leads them to tag along with the titular Thundercats when they all depart their Doomed Hometown of Thundera.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons: a flashback shows a young Abe Simpson and Jasper during Springfield's economic boom:
    Abe: Hah! The way people act around here, you'd think the streets were paved with gold.
    Jasper: They are.
    [A car tries to brake in the slippery gold street and crashes]
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Inspiration Manifestation, Rarity paves all the streets in town with gold, which ends up blinding a lot of ponies due to the suns reflection.

     Real Life 
  • In a downplayed example there were a number of countries that were considered this by the countries around. Medieval China and Constantinople are just two examples. This was partly due to travelers tales and partly because there was a relative difference in wealth.
  • The Aztec city of Tenochtitlan is the Trope Maker. While the city was not made of gold, its largest pyramids were actually plated with gold. The Aztecs also liked to use gold for artistic purposes, as it is obviously very flashy and immensely easy to work with.

Cheap Gold CoinsTreasure TropesDragon Hoard
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alternative title(s): Paved With Gold
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