Take a visual journey through Voltaire's Candide



Chapter XII:
The Adventures of the Old Woman Continued

Illustration by Rockwell Kent from: Voltaire. Candide. New York: Random House, 1928. NYPL, Rare Book Division. By Permission of the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, The Rockwell Kent Gallery & Collection.

Seraglio: the wives and concubines of one man in a Muslim household; also, a sultan's palace.

Palus Méotides: The Sea of Azov, an arm of the Black Sea.

Imam: A Muslim spiritual and temporal leader; a Muslim scholar.

Said the Old Woman, "The Aga, who was a very gallant man, took his whole Seraglio with him, and lodged us in a small fort on the Palus Méotides, guarded by two black eunuchs and twenty soldiers.... The twenty Janissaries had sworn they would never surrender. The extremities of famine to which they were reduced, obliged them to eat our two eunuchs, for fear of violating their oath. And at the end of a few days they resolved also to devour the women.

"We had a very pious and humane Imam, who preached an excellent sermon, exhorting them not to kill us all at once.

"'Only cut off a buttock of each of those ladies,' said he, 'and you'll fare extremely well; if you must go to it again, there will be the same entertainment a few days hence; heaven will accept of so charitable an action, and send you relief.'

"He had great eloquence; he persuaded them; we underwent this terrible operation. The Imam applied the same balsam to us, as he does to children after circumcision; and we all nearly died."