The first trailer for #Marvel's Black Panther is out — and it's phenomenal! Teasing all the action and political intrigue you could ever want, the film promises to be the most diverse superhero story to date. And yet, early on in the trailer, we have an intriguing comment; a claim that Wakanda is actually the basis for the legend of El Dorado. You may know El Dorado as the legendary City of God, but there's a lot more to the myth than that. And it may well have massive implications for how the #MCU presents the African nation of Wakanda...
The Legends Of El Dorado
To understand the legend of El Dorado, you have to head back to the Colombian people known as the Muisca. According to many Spanish tales, the ancient Muisca were a powerful, wealthy race. Their tribal leader would be anointed for his role in a fascinating ceremony; he would be stripped nude and covered in a sticky mud. They'd then coat the tribal leader in gold dust, which would stick to the mud. In some versions of the legend, the tribal leader would then bathe in the lake. After his initiation, the leader would be expected to wear the gold dust as a permanent sign of his rule.
Significantly, the trailer shows what appears to be part of T'Challa's initiation as King of Wakanda — and it involves him stepping, almost naked, into a lake. The parallel is surely deliberate, and I'll be very surprised if T'Challa isn't first coated in vibranium dust.
In Muisca mythology, gold represented the creative power of their god, Chiminigagua. They didn't coat their monarch in gold just because it was a precious metal; they did it to indicate that he was the center of their race, of their people. In exactly the same way, vibranium is at the center of Wakandan society, and is the secret of their technological advancement. Whether or not T'Challa is coated in vibranium as part of the actual ceremony doesn't matter so much, when you consider the Black Panther costume itself is made from vibranium. Just like that Muisca tribal leader of old, when T'Challa wears the costume of the Black Panther, he's clad in precious metal weave. The parallels are fascinating, and I can see why Marvel decided to stress them.
Extending The Legend To Wakanda Itself
As you can see, the trailer is giving a subtle hint to T'Challa's own role as the bearer of the secrets of vibranium, the most precious metal in the MCU (Captain America's shield is made out of a vibranium-titanium alloy). But there's another layer of meaning to this reference. You see, just as gold became the emblem of the tribal leader, so the legend grew, expanding from the man, to the city; and from the city, to the kingdom.
Marvel Comics have always presented the monarchy of Wakanda in a similar way. The Black Panther is the symbolic heart of Wakandan self-identity, and as he is blessed by the Panther God (and flourishes due to vibranium), so his city and his kingdom flourish. The pattern of the legend is, once again, paralleled perfectly.
As you can see, the reference to El Dorado wasn't just a throwaway nod — it's actually a crucial piece of dialogue, hinting at the nature of T'Challa's initiation ritual and at his role as monarch of Wakanda. I admit that it wasn't a reference I expected to see in the trailer; after all, this legend is traditionally associated with South America! Still, I'll be fascinated to see what's revealed as we build up towards the release of Black Panther!