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City of Gold

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"It won't be much longer. El Dorado could be only a few days away. No more rust on the cannon. We shall shoot our enemies with golden bullets. And you, Okello, will serve food on golden platters."
Don Fernando de Guzmán, Aguirre, the Wrath of God

This is a place where what we consider wealth — precious metals, jewels, ivory, cappuccinos, iPods, etc. — are everywhere and in great abundance. There's likely No Poverty, the only kind of "filthy" the "beggars" will be is filthy 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. In some cases, even the inhabitants themselves are made of gold or heavily into gold Body Paint. 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 second The Tripods novel The City Of Gold And Lead.

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


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  • The Mysterious Cities of Gold. The titular city is litterally made of gold, to the point that when it is destroyed, the greedy Gomez and Gaspard start piling up golden rubble amid more rubble, which makes little sense.
  • One Piece has two.
    • Shandora, 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.
    • Gran Tesoro, an island made entirely of gold. Even the citizens are covered in a thin layer of gold so that its ruler, Gild Tesoro can use his Gol-Gol Fruit powers to enslave them.

    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 (1987)' 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.
    • "The City of Golden Roofs", a classic story by Carl Barks, features an isolated Asian kingdom so rich in gold that they use it, as the title says, to tile their roofs. What they want, especially the younger generation, is culture from the outside world, which Donald makes a fortune selling to them in the form of music players.
  • The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones: In #25, Indy helps a fellow archaeologist who thinks she has uncovered the location of El Dorado. It actually turns out to be a fake El Dorado: a trap for the Spanish conquistadors.
  • De Cape et de Crocs: Gold and jewels grow on trees on the Moon, and the Selenites mainly see them as annoying weeds, since their currency is poetry.

  • In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, the Smurfs' heavenly afterlife known as Elysium is basically a Smurf Village made entirely of gold. Empath visits it one time when he believed he was dead, only to discover it was an illusion created by Ares the war god.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Asgard is depicted as this; its capital being pretty much entirely gold encased. Thor: Ragnarok addresses this, bringing up Asgard's buried history of brutal conquest, with Hela pointing out, "Where do you think all of this gold came from?"
    • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has the Sovereign Homeworld being a futuristic golden metropolis spanning MULTIPLE planets.(Though it could just be a stylistic choice rather than it being literally made of gold).
    • In Black Panther (2018), Klaue claims that the African country of Wakanda is the source of the "El Dorado" myths (and that the ancient explorers messed up by thinking it was in South America). Rather than gold, Wakanda has an incredibly versatile metal called Vibranium which they use to create extremely advanced technology.
  • 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, its 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.)
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God is about an expedition of conquistadors attempting to find the mythical city of El Dorado. It's doubtful that the city ever existed at all, but the mad Aguirre refuses to turn back.

    Folklore and Mythology 
  • The mythical Seven Cities of Gold, sought by conquistadors. Francisco Vázquez de Coronado found two of them, Cíbola in New Mexico and Quivira in Kansas, 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.
  • In The Voyage of St. Brendan, all stones in the Land of Promise are gemstones. St. Brendan and his monks are too spiritually minded to fill their pockets until an angel appears and advises them to load their boat with the fruits and the gems of the Land of Promise, so they will have tangible proof of their story when they return.
  • The Golden City of Lanka from Hindu Mythology, once populated by decadent Demons and the capital of the infamous Demon King Ravan, until the hero Ram (one of Vishnu's Avatars) deposed him and put his righteous turncoat brother in charge. Sometimes identified with the actual island of Sri Lanka, which used to be famous for being rich in precious stones.
  • The legend of Prester John, a Oriental Christian monarch descended from one of the Biblical Magii who is said to have ruled over a hidden kingdom somewhere in Africa or Asia filled with endless riches, marvels and strange animals. His myth motivated many explorers to seek him out not only for the treasures, but also for a potential crusade.

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

  • 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.)note  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. Thanks to Baum's cavalier approach to continuity, the whole idea of it being a trick instead of played straight was completely abandoned by the first sequel.
  • Tom Swift found an underground city of gold in central Mexico in Tom Swift in the City of Gold. And his son, Tom Swift Jr, discovered an underwater city of gold, in Tom Swift Jr and his Diving Seacopter, that he believed to be the remains of Atlantis.
  • The Tamuli has a variant: the capital of the Tamul Empire is entirely sheathed in mother-of-pearlnote , 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 1940s 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 Vivero lied to his sons was that 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.
  • Kevin J Anderson's novelisation of Clockwork Angels (as noted below in Music) likewise features the Cities, especially Cibola. Owen finds them. They're gold-coloured.
  • The Culture of Iain M. Banks is a Post-Scarcity utopia, where even the fancier things are free for everyone, but things that people value enough to trade for them still exist, though mostly immaterial, like the right to be at a particular concert, by Banks' own favorite example.
  • In Jumanji, the eponymous board game has a city of golden buildings and towers, also called Jumanji, at the end of its path.
  • In The Lion's Cavalcade, sequel to The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast, the poem about the jaguar queen of El Dorado begins "No sun ever shone upon lost El Dorado" ... because if it did then the reflections from all the gold would be blinding.
  • The underworld in The Faerie Queene is almost entirely built of dusty gold, which Mammon mines to bribe the good men of the world to his evil ways. Unlike most examples of this trope, this isn't a beautiful sight, but a disgusting, evil place too dark for the gold to even be seen.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Doctor Who story "Revenge of the Cybermen" concerns Voga, an asteroid that's made of gold. The Cybermen want to destroy it because gold — a metal which never corrodes — can be used to plate their breathing apparatus and suffocate them.



    Tabletop Games 
  • The Ixalan arc of Magic: The Gathering was centered around a lost golden city named Orazca, with several different factions and individual all racing each other to find it first for various reasons. However, what they're really after is not the city itself, it's the Immortal Sun, an ancient magical artifact said to be housed there. Jace Beleren gets caught up in the whole mess because something is preventing any planeswalkers on Ixalan from leaving, and they all hope the Immortal Sun can somehow fix that problem, though it turns out to be the thing causing it in the first place.
  • Exalted features a few examples:
    • Yu-Shan, the City of Heaven, is a place where prayer congeals into a 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 most of the Tibetan Plateau and Indo-Gangetic Plain, and is visible from Mars.
  • Pathfinder: In the ancient city of Xin-Grafar, almost everything in the outer two districts is gold-plated, a fortune in coinage and treasure is locked up in storerooms, and canals brimming with molten gold flow through and along its walls. It's Schmuck Bait designed by The Archmage Tar-Baphon: The gold is conjured from an elemental artifact and can't be removed from the city except by Tar-Baphon himself, and the canals regularly flood the entire city with molten gold as a defense mechanism.
  • Mayfair Games' 3rd-party D&D supplement Dwarves includes a description of a city in which the street to the Temple District is paved with fine marble slabs, in which engraved holy text and symbols have been filled with gold to highlight them. Because the stones and their gold infill aren't very sturdy, carts and draft animals aren't allowed on the street, but must divert to outlying routes to avoid wearing down the valuable paving materials.

    Video Games 
  • The videogame Trope Codifier is the classic The Seven Cities Of Gold by (then) Dan Bunten, which had the players taking on the role of European explorers visiting North America for the first time, with rumors of the Cities of Gold as their motivation. They can either co-operate or subjugate the Native Americans, with the expected consequences for either choice.
  • 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. The statue is missing in the HD remake, and in its place lies the Necronomicon, which opens a secret door allowing access to the Brutal Bonus Level and True Final Boss.
  • 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.
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns: Not an actual city, but the postgame has the Golden Temple, which transports you to a Brutal Bonus Level (several in the 3DS version) made up of gold-colored architecture, floating fruits and idyllic passageways.
  • 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.
  • In Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Nathan Drake goes looking for El Dorado on an uncharted island. He finds that it is not a city, but a statue of gold (which just so happens to be cursed.)
  • 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.
  • The Lost City from Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time, which takes place in a Mayincatec city made of gold as tropical plants fend off jungle explorer zombies seeking to invade the City. It has golden tiles that produce extra sun for any plants planted on them.
  • At one point in Minecraft: Story Mode, Jesse and company come across a city high in the sky built mostly of metal - which is normally rare, and takes some effort even to get ingots; large quantities of blocks (individual blocks are formed from 9 ingots) are the basic building material in this city. Conversely, dirt and things grown from dirt are rare and precious.
  • Super Mario Party: The unlockable fourth board, Kamek's Tantalizing Tower (Tantalizing Tower Toys in Partner Party) is a palatial city literally made of gold built at the top of a skyscrapper. It is unique among the other boards for having the price of the Star change each time someone buys one: It can cost 5, 10 or 15 coins.

    Web Comics 
  • Auru of Plume used to be this, with people wearing golden jewelry and clothes with golder threads, and gold decorating pretty much everything around. By the time Magnus Gray and his party reach it, though, it's just mud-covered ruins.
  • In Homestuck, Prospit is not only a literal yellow dream moon, but the citizens are also kinder than the ones on Derse and even the prisons are implied to be 'a joke'. One of its OSTs is even called 'The Golden Towers'.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: Legend says that the streets of Throne, the city at the center of all universes, are paved with gold. Apparently they were, but as Throne is no longer the perfect heaven it once was, the gold has long since been scraped away. A few bricks show up every once in awhile as collector's items.

    Web Original 
  • Orion's Arm has a City of Gold (with that exact name) on the heavy metal-rich planet of Mayhew. Interestingly, it's inhabited by the poorest people on the planet. This is because it was built due to the intersection of two different philosophies: the Cult of Gold, which promotes ostentatious decoration and architecture, and Agapism, which promotes giving away wealth. And "poorest" is a relative term, since they're in a Post-Scarcity Economy.

    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 is corrupted by a spellbook that allows her to transform anything into a form she considers ideal, and starts turning Ponyville into this, turning all the streets in town into gold, which ends up blinding a lot of ponies due to the sun's reflection.
  • Springload, one of the Decepticons in Transformers: Robots in Disguise, is obsessed with finding Doradus, a mythical city which supposedly contains the Fountain of Energon. His first appearance has him trying to find out how to get there from the carvings in a Mayincatec temple.
  • In the Inspector Gadget episode "All That Glitters," Dr. Claw wanted to steal the gold from El Dorado and replace the golden bricks with bricks of gold-plated sugar. As it turned out, the joke was on him: The gold bricks he was about to steal were actually made of fool's gold! Penny set off a mechanism which destroyed this fake city and revealed the true City of Gold underneath it!
  • Tigtone: The Screaming City is mostly made of gold and jewels, and everyone in it is ridiculously wealthy. However they must scream constantly or they will disintegrate.

    Real Life 
  • The Trope Codifier was the mythical El Dorado. Conquistadors assumed there must be a mythical city of gold because the locals of Lake of Guatavita supposedly had so much gold, they tossed it in the lake casually as if it were worthless. What they didn't understand was that the locals' wealth came from salt, a highly desired product they sold for gold — which they threw in the lake as a sacrifice to their god. They didn't devalue gold — just the opposite. The natives started playing on the greed of the Conquistadors, and told them false rumors just to get them to leave their area.
  • North American explorers believed twice in a city of gold : First was the "Kingdom of Saguenay", a mystical native-american El Dorado (the legend gave name to the river in Québec) and "Norumbega", supposedly located where modern Maine stands.
  • In a downplayed example there were a number of countries that were considered this by the countries around. Medieval China, especially Chang'an (now known as Xi'an) during the Tang Dynasty 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. Interestingly, Aztec artisans were seen as above the middle class, the Aztecs were very proud of their piercings and accesories, they meant social status and a sign of their influence and physical characteristics, in other words, they were proud of their posessions.
  • The Mali Empire in West Africa was an excellent example around the 14th century. It's estimated that half of the gold in circulation in the old world at the time came from Mali. When the emperor Mansa Musa made a pilgrimage to Mecca in the mid-14th century he brought along so much gold — and spent and donated so lavishly — that he actually devastated the Mediterranean economy for a decade due to runaway inflation. (To his credit he recognized the problem and bought up as much gold as possible in Cairo to try and reduce the supply.)

Alternative Title(s): Paved With Gold