Chapter 2 – What Became of Candide Among the Bulgars

1 2 Candide, driven from terrestrial paradise, walked a long while without knowing where, weeping, raising his eyes to heaven, turning them often towards the most magnificent of castles which imprisoned the purest of noble young ladies. He lay down to sleep without supper, in the middle of a field between two furrows. The snow fell in large flakes. Next day Candide, all benumbed, dragged himself towards the neighbouring town which was called Waldberghofftrarbk-dikdorff, having no money, dying of hunger and fatigue, he stopped sorrowfully at the door of an inn. Two men dressed in blue observed him.
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“Comrade,” said one, “here is a well-built young fellow, and of proper height.”

They went up to Candide and very civilly invited him to dinner.

“Gentlemen,” replied Candide, with a most engaging modesty, “you do me great honour, but I have not wherewithal to pay my share.”

“Oh, sir,” said one of the blues to him, “people of your appearance and of your merit never pay anything: are you not five feet five inches high?”

“Yes, sir, that is my height,” answered he, making a low bow.

“Come, sir, seat yourself; not only will we pay your reckoning, but we will never suffer such a man as you to want money; men are only born to assist one another.”

“You are right,” said Candide; “this is what I was always taught by Mr. Pangloss, and I see plainly that all is for the best.”

They begged of him to accept a few crowns. He took them, and wished to give them his note; they refused; they seated themselves at table.


“Love you not deeply?”

“Oh yes,” answered he; “I deeply love Miss Cunegonde.”

“No,” said one of the gentlemen, “we ask you if you do not deeply love the King of the Bulgars?”

“Not at all,” said he; “for I have never seen him.”

“What! he is the best of kings, and we must drink his health.”

“Oh! very willingly, gentlemen,” and he drank.

“That is enough,” they tell him. “Now you are the help, the support, the defender, the hero of the Bulgars. Your fortune is made, and your glory is assured.”

4 1 Instantly they fettered him, and carried him away to the regiment. There he was made to wheel about to the right, and to the left, to draw his rammer, to return his rammer, to present, to fire, to march, and they gave him thirty blows with a cudgel. The next day he did his exercise a little less badly, and he received but twenty blows. The day following they gave him only ten, and he was regarded by his comrades as a prodigy.
5 1 Candide, all stupefied, could not yet very well realise how he was a hero. He resolved one fine day in spring to go for a walk, marching straight before him, believing that it was a privilege of the human as well as of the animal species to make use of their legs as they pleased. He had advanced two leagues when he was overtaken by four others, heroes of six feet, who bound him and carried him to a dungeon. He was asked which he would like the best, to be whipped six-and-thirty times through all the regiment, or to receive at once twelve balls of lead in his brain. He vainly said that human will is free, and that he chose neither the one nor the other. He was forced to make a choice; he determined, in virtue of that gift of God called liberty, to run the gauntlet six-and-thirty times. He bore this twice. The regiment was composed of two thousand men; that composed for him four thousand strokes, which laid bare all his muscles and nerves, from the nape of his neck quite down to his rump. As they were going to proceed to a third whipping, Candide, able to bear no more, begged as a favour that they would be so good as to shoot him. He obtained this favour; they bandaged his eyes, and bade him kneel down. The King of the Bulgars passed at this moment and ascertained the nature of the crime. As he had great talent, he understood from all that he learnt of Candide that he was a young metaphysician, extremely ignorant of the things of this world, and he accorded him his pardon with a clemency which will bring him praise in all the journals, and throughout all ages.
6 1 An able surgeon cured Candide in three weeks by means of emollients taught by Dioscorides. He had already a little skin, and was able to march when the King of the Bulgars gave battle to the King of the Abares.

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9 Responses to “Chapter 2 – What Became of Candide Among the Bulgars”

Voltaire punned on Bulgar and buggery–a schoolboy joke about Frederick the Great–when he named the Prussian army the Bulgars. This pun did not make it past some early translators, including the anonymous translator of this 1918 edition, who translates them as Bulgarian soldiers (Candide goes to fight the Abars, or the French army, at the end of the chapter, and that reference is noted correctly in a translator’s footnote). We have taken the editorial prerogative to replace the translator’s Bulgarians with Bulgars–a correction that seems to reflect some of the absurdity of Candide’s linguistic adaptability on his globe-trotting that will follow. The Bulgar/Bulgarian mistranslation appears in American composer George Antheil’s unfinished score for a musical version of Candide, currently on display in the Wachenheim exhibition. Antheil’s manuscript trails off before Candide can leave Bulgaria, although there is a striking martial chant about the best of all possible worlds to be sung by the soldiers, be they Prussian or Bulgarian or something else.

The anonymous translator of this 1918 edition has translated Bulgarians too literally, and incorrectly: “Bulgars” is a pun on buggery, and Voltaire refers to the blue-coated Prussian army. NYPL’s Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Costume Illustration is a digital gallery of uniforms and regimental regalia dating from the Bronze Age through the nineteenth century. It is an amazing collection to browse through, not least because it is a testament to a single collector’s interest in amassing 762 scrapbooks of plates from books and magazines, watercolor illustrations, and pencil drawings. The Prussian army is well represented, as in this hand-colored drawing of soldier and this action scene, obviously a print cut from a book, which could illustrate Candide’s regimental training.

In his 1998 translation of Candide for the Bedford Series for History and Culture, Daniel Gordon corrects a frequent translation error in giving Candide’s height: the pied du roi in the Ancien Regime was .324 meters, and thus Candide is actually between 5’10” and 5’11”. Gordon notes that René Pomeau had corrected this error in his critical edition from 1959, but the error is still transmitted in many contemporary translations.

The error is especially ironic given Voltaire’s satire on methods of measurement in his conte philosophique Micromegas (1752): “Certain algebraists, persons ever useful to the public, will at once reach for their pen and find that since Mr Micromegas, inhabitant of the land of Sirius, measure twenty-four thousand paces from head to toe, which is the equivalent of one hundred and twenty thousand French feet, and since we, the citizens of the earth, measure barely five, and since our globe has a circumference of nine thousand leagues, will find, I say, that it necessarily follows that the globe which produced him must be exactly twenty-one million, six hundred thousand times greater in circumference than our little Earth. In nature nothing could be simpler or more commonplace.” (I am using Roger Pearson’s translation of Micromegas by Oxford University Press, 1990, 2006)

The Abares are a Scythian tribe meant to stand in for the French, as the Bulgars stand in for the Prussians in this setting in the Seven Years War.

French cartoonist Georges Wolinski interprets this war scene as encompassing several centuries of violence: Mickey Mouse lies on top of a pile of bodies. It may be useful to compare Wolinski’s career as a satirist to Voltaire’s: since the 1960s, Wolinski has contributed work to Hara-Kiri, Charlie Hebdo, L’Enragé, Libération, Paris-Match, and other publications. Hara-Kiri’s sexually explicit and gross-out covers, not to mention its satirical attacks on the government, church, and other institutions, made it the target of French government censors in the 1960s. The satire magazine Charlie Hebdo’s title comes from Charles de Gaulle–and Charlie Brown, reflecting its breadth of cultural references from which to draw its critiques. (That magazine reappeared as source of boundary-pushing social commentary in 2006 when its publisher Philippe Val reprinted the Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad, along with its own cartoons in response to the controversy.)

Candide, flâneur: Terry Southern used Candide as the loose structure/inspiration for his 1958 sex farce sendup, Candy, co-authored with Mason Hoffenberg. In his book about the Candy controversy, The Candy Men, Southern’s son Nile describes the tenuous connection to Voltaire’s story. For the first edition, Southern chose an epigram that combined the first sentence of this chapter with the first sentence of this paragraph, turning Candide into a wandering hero of his times: “Candide, chassé du paradis terrestre, marcha longtemps sans savoir où. Candide, tout stupéfait, ne démêlait pas encore trop bien comment il était un héros.”

Southern’s publisher, Maurice Girodias, got around British censors — who had banned the book for obscenity — by changing the title to Lollipop and tweaking a few details. Details small and large had been changed; there was a pseudonymous author (Maxwell Kenton) and the dedication had been misspelled slightly. The Voltaire quotation was misattributed to Rimbaud, as though the flâneur’s soul had transmigrated to its most famous practitioner. Later editions had an epigram from Voltaire’s L’Ingenu: “Elle ne savait pas combien elle était verteuse dans le crime qu’elle se reprochait.” Candy is certainly an ingénue. Southern’s papers are located in the Berg Collection of English and American Literature at NYPL.

lah says:

I was not aware of Voltaire’s satire of the metric system. Measurement systems are an often overlooked aspect of cultural architecture.

When I read Boris Akunin’s excellent Russian historical novels, it’s not the social customs or geography that gives me pause as I read. It’s the Russian measurement systems. I’m reading along just fine and then I come to some measure of distance or volume that I don’t know, and the confusion unsettles me.

Note that the old Russian measurement system has two different kinds of “bottle” sizes for volume–vodka and wine. See Wikipedia for obsolete Russian measurements.

Tom Gilbert says:

This is a very interesting point Alice, I had not considered the introduction of the [i]Ancien Regime[/i] metric system when I first read this and believed the joke to be that Candide was almost exactly the average height for men joining the army in his part of Europe. ( This would increase the sense that the ‘knowing’ soldiers were taking advantage of the naieve Candide. Of course assigning to Candide a height far above that of the norm makes him a far more interesting character in many situations. Far from an “everyman hero” and reflection of the average man; he is instead a physically gifted character and thus his continued survival cannot be ascribed to the good of the world and is instead due to the brutal truth of physical superiority over the weak.

- Tom Gilbert (

Voltaire’s reference to terrestrial paradise can be considered a link back to the Garden of Eden. Like Adam and Eve, Candide was enjoying the pleasures of paradise on earth in the castle with Cunegonde until he overstepped his boundaries and was cast out. He suffers emotional, as well as physical pain as a result of his banishment. With these circumstances, Voltaire illustates that not following rules or exercising control provide only temporary pleasure and satisfaction, but ultimately come with a high price to be paid.