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The King's Fifth is a 1966 American, young adult, historical fiction novel by Scott O'Dell. Jean Chalopin used the story as both source material and inspiration for The Mysterious Cities of Gold. The name comes from a policy of tribute for exploration and subsequent riches: one would pay his king 20% (one "fifth") of his findings.

This story's Estéban blatantly refuses to give King Charles V his tax of one-fifth of his discovered gold and is imprisoned from age 14 to age 17. The story tells of his imprisonment/trial and his recounting his adventures in finding his wealth.

The King's Fifth shares many similarities with O'Dell's later Seven Serpents trilogy, including the young protagonist, Julian Escobar—a variation on Estéban de Sandoval.

Publishing History Edit

The hardback was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1966. Dell Yearling published the paperback.

Awards Edit

• 1967, Newbery Honor Book

• 1970, Federal Republic of Germany's Jugendbuchpreis

Similarities with The Mysterious Cities of Gold Edit

Historicity Edit

Both stories show their characters running into historical figures and traveling through real lands known for their connection and importance in the Spanish conquest of the New World. Season 1, Episode 25's "The Lake of Gold" contains the gold-dust-covered, bathing/purification ritual (as well as in an early post-show, live-action educational promo) also found in the book.

Storytelling Edit

Page 34 of The King's Fifth refers to the water they travel on as a "burnished shield"—possibly inspiration for the Olmec's mountain base, "The Burning Shield."

Characters Edit

Likewise, there are a number of shared characters between the two titles. In every case, though, the names are never quite identical.

MCoG Name King's Fifth Name The King's Fifth Description
Esteban Estéban de Sandoval A teenage cartographer turned conquistador.
Zia Zia Troyano A teenage First Nation guide
Mendoza Blas de Mendoza A captain hungry for gold
Pedro Roa A crony for Captain Mendoza
Sancho Zuñiga A crony for Captain Mendoza
Father Rodriguez Father Francisco A missionary priest

Differences with The Mysterious Cities of Gold Edit

Thematic and Storytelling Differences Edit

Chalopin's tale diverges from The King's Fifth by adding lots of fantasy (i.e. Esteban unwittingly controlling the sun) and science fiction (Tao's people's, the Hiva/Mu, technology; fantastic traveling machines, comparable to modern transportation).

The King's Fifth tone is much darker: no one blatantly dies in The Mysterious Cities of Gold (at most, accidental or collateral), but characters in The King's Fifth will not hesitate to kill indigenous peoples when it comes between them and their gold (contrast this with The Mysterious Cities of Gold's Pizarro who only imprisoned Incas and used them as slave labor).

Almost half the story takes place as a courtroom drama.

Contextual Differences Edit

Estéban crosses paths with Francisco Coronado (conquistador of Mexico) instead of Francisco Pizarro (conquistador of the Incans). Julian Escobar (Estéban's equivalent) does cross paths with Pizarro in Seven Serpents.

The King's Fifth takes place approximately a decade later than The Mysterious Cities of Gold.

The Esperanza, MCoG's main sailing vessel, is the San Pedro in The King's Fifth.

The King's Fifth's major setting is in New Spain (present-day Southwestern-Central Unites States/Mexico/some Central America), primarily in what is modern-day California, Arizona and New Mexico (including the Grand Canyon).

In The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Mendoza, Sancho and Pedro destroy a dam in efforts to flood a village in order to save the children. In The King's Fifth, Mendoza, Roa, and Estéban also destroy a dam, but only in efforts to steal the gold at the bottom of the lake.

Character Differences Edit

Character King's Fifth Difference Synopsis
Esteban and Estéban • Estéban has a last name• Estéban is a mapmaker

• Estéban develops a lust for gold

Estéban chooses to join Medoza's expedition

Estéban is complicit in an offensive mutiny with Mendoza against the admiral (it could be argued that MCoG contains a defensive mutiny against Captain Perez and Commander Gomez)

• While their ages are not blatantly stated, Estéban seems older (anywhere from 3-8 years) in The King's Fifth

Estéban is the storyteller/narrator, writing about his adventures while imprisoned

• Estéban is accused of murdering Mendoza in court

• The lightly hinted romance of Esteban and Zia in MCoG is slightly more prevalent in The King's Fifth

Estéban becomes the leader of everyone after Mendoza dies

Zia and Zia • Zia has a last name

• Zia is Native American instead of Incan

• No Zia backstory in regards to her father

• While their ages are not blatantly stated, Zia seems older (anywhere from 3-6 years) in The King's Fifth

• Zia is mostly relegated to a supporting (instead of main) character

• Zia leaves because she doesn't like who Esteban has become

• As there is no Tao, thus no Kokapetl, Zia has a pet iguana named Montezuma

Tao • Doesn't exist
Mendoza and Captain Mendoza • Not a navigator/no connection to Magellan

• Has no protective quality in regards to Estéban/Zia

• Where as his MCoG counterpart goes out of his way to prevent the killing of his enemies, Captain Mendoza quickly kills to get what he wants

• Dies by his dog's doing (whom he trained to be vicious)

• Captain Mendoza is loosely based on the historical Don Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco, viceroy of New Spain (later Peru)

Pedro/Sancho and Roa/Zuñiga • Instead of simply loyal to and follow Mendoza, actually work to do his bidding

• Roa and Zuñiga are musicians/bards

• They have a 3rd counterpart, Lunes, who dies before reaching the New World

• Roa dies outside of the story's narrative

Zuniga is burns alive after Mendoza destroy's Natives' crops with fire

Fathers Rodriguez and Francisco • Father Francisco travels to the New World

• Father Francisco is present for more than just the initial send off and is a more significant character

• Father Francisco attempts to save and convert the natives

• Father Francisco, being more present, serves as the group's moral compass

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