The Emperor is naked or isn’t he?

 ‘The Emperor is naked!’ A little boy’s voice pierced the hushed, (now in retrospect) horrific silence that marked the Emperor’s procession down the main boulevard of the city wearing his “new robe” that only the “intelligent and competent” could see… so why and how was it that only this little boy could see and boldly say that the Emperor was not wearing any clothes… Was he not “intelligent and competent” albeit that he was a little boy.

Please read as the story unfolds…

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Once upon a time there lived a vain Emperor whose only worry in life was to dress in elegant clothes. He changed clothes almost every hour and loved to show them off to his people.

Word of the Emperor’s refined habits spread over his kingdom and beyond. Two scoundrels who had heard of the Emperor’s vanity decided to take advantage of it. They introduced themselves at the gates of the palace with a scheme in mind.

“We are two very good tailors and after many years of research we have invented an extraordinary method to weave a cloth so light and fine that it looks invisible. As a matter of fact it is invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality.”

The chief of the guards heard the scoundrel’s strange story and sent for the court chamberlain. The chamberlain notified the prime minister, who ran to the Emperor and disclosed the incredible news. The Emperor’s curiosity got the better of him, and he decided to see the two scoundrels.

“Besides being invisible, your Highness, this cloth will be woven in colors and patterns created especially for you.” The emperor gave the two men a bag of gold coins in exchange for their promise to begin working on the fabric immediately.

“Just tell us what you need to get started and we’ll give it to you.” The two scoundrels asked for a loom, silk, gold thread and then pretended to begin working. The Emperor thought he had spent his money quite well: in addition to getting a new extraordinary suit, he would discover which of his subjects were ignorant and incompetent. A few days later, he called the old and wise prime minister, who was considered by everyone as a man with common sense.

“Go and see how the work is proceeding,” the Emperor told him, “and come back to let me know.”

The prime minister was welcomed by the two scoundrels.

“We’re almost finished, but we need a lot more gold thread. Here, Excellency! Admire the colors, feel the softness!” The old man bent over the loom and tried to see the fabric that was not there. He felt cold sweat on his forehead.

“I can’t see anything,” he thought. “If I see nothing, that means I’m stupid! Or, worse, incompetent!” If the prime minister admitted that he didn’t see anything, he would be discharged from his office.

“What a marvelous fabric, he said then. “I’ll certainly tell the Emperor.” The two scoundrels rubbed their hands gleefully. They had almost made it. More thread was requested to finish the work.

Finally, the Emperor received the announcement that the two tailors had come to take all the measurements needed to sew his new suit.

“Come in,” the Emperor ordered. Even as, they bowed, the two scoundrels pretended to be holding large roll of fabric.

“Here it is your Highness, the result of our labor,” the scoundrels said. “We have worked night and day but, at last, the most beautiful fabric in the world is ready for you. Look at the colors and feel how fine it is.” Of course the Emperor did not see any colors and could not feel any cloth between his fingers. He panicked and felt like fainting. But luckily the throne was right behind him, and he sat down. But when he realized that no one could know that he did not see the fabric, he felt better. Nobody could find out he was stupid and incompetent. And the Emperor didn’t know that everybody else around him thought and did the very same thing.

The farce continued as the two scoundrels had foreseen it. Once they had taken the measurements, the two began cutting the air with scissors while sewing with their needles an invisible cloth.

“Your Highness, you’ll have to take off your clothes to try on your new ones.” The two scoundrels draped the new clothes on him and then held up a mirror. The Emperor was embarrassed, but since none of his bystanders were, he felt relieved.

“Yes, this is a beautiful suit and it looks very good on me,” the Emperor said trying to look comfortable. “You’ve done a fine job.”

“Your Majesty,” the prime minister said, “we have a request for you. The people have found out about this extraordinary fabric, and they are anxious to see you in your new suit.” The Emperor was doubtful showing himself naked to the people, but then he abandoned his fears. After all, no one would know about it except the ignorant and the incompetent.

“All right,” he said. “I will grant the people this privilege.” He summoned his carriage and the ceremonial parade was formed. A group of dignitaries walked at the very front of the procession and anxiously scrutinized the faces of the people in the street. All the people had gathered in the main square, pushing and shoving to get a better look.  Applause welcomed the regal procession. Everyone wanted to know how stupid or incompetent his or her neighbor was but, as the Emperor passed, a strange murmur rose from the crowd.

Everyone said, loud enough for others to hear: “Look at the Emperor’s new clothes. They’re beautiful!”

“What a marvelous train!”

“And the colors! The colors of that beautiful fabric! I have never seen anything like it in my life!” They all tried to conceal their disappointment at not being able to see the clothes, and since nobody was willing to admit his own stupidity and incompetence, they all behaved as the two scoundrels had predicted.

A child, however, who had no important job and could only see things as his eyes showed them to him, went up to the carriage.

“The Emperor is naked,” he said.

“Fool!” his father reprimanded, running after him. “Don’t talk nonsense!” He grabbed his child and took him away. But the boy’s remark, which had been heard by the bystanders, was repeated over and over again until everyone cried:

“The boy is right! The Emperor is naked! It’s true!”

The Emperor realized that the people were right but could not admit to that. He though it better to continue the procession under the illusion that anyone who couldn’t see his clothes was either stupid or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on his carriage while behind him, a page held his imaginary mantle.

I was all set to write my own ode to this fairytale and give my own opinion, which I sometimes too decidedly give :-), when the brilliance of my own thoughts astounded me with the idea of just going through the story and pointing out the obvious and maybe not so obvious (please note the lack of decidedness) wisdom points in the story…

1. Though it is better to be known by a good name than a bad one, the fame of that name will still precede its owner.

2. People will take advantage of another’s fame and fortune good or bad and use it for their own betterment, for good or evil.

3. People who think too highly of themselves are like children in the fun room … the images they see of themselves are so grossly twisted and far removed from the truth that it is sometimes too painful to watch them strut their stuff, admiring the distorted self images.

4. Both good and bad news travel fast. If something seems too good, or too incredible to be true, it probably isn’t.

5. If one behaves foolishly, there will never be a Dearth of bodies who will help him be still more foolish.

6. Beware of those who over effusively gush over you and look for more and more ways for you to display your “talents” …. As a wise man once said: ‘Those who blow you up, will blow you up!’

7. Absolute social exclusivity is a club to which only the exclusively social absolutes belong, their qualification for membership being that they are no debtors at all to depth.

8. He who allows the incompetent to help him discover the presence of incompetence will find that he qualifies himself as being competently inept.

9. If you don’t see it, don’t say that you do … It better to truthfully admit to a lack of knowledge, than to knowledgeably display a lack of truth, the former gives room to add knowledge and the latter crowds out credibility and integrity, lending itself to shame.

10. People with common sense are insensibly uncommon.

11. Pulling at a loose thread is the quickest way to unravel a garment of deceit, but simply tying it off and tucking it out of sight preserves its shameful cover.

12.  If you think “nobody” has seen you, you are probably right, “somebody” is probably the one who has seen you.

13.  Assuming a position sight unseen and thought untried, is like taking a bath in public, it exposes one to the possibility of public derision and shame.

14.  If trying to find a position of comfort is proving to be too much of a challenge, maybe you need to find another seat.

15.  Ineptitude is the father of false praise, the possession of aptitude births the product of affirmation.

16.  He who is chief in the midst of fools is he who considers himself to be the greatest of them all… and that, he most determinedly is!

17.  There wants not an ounce of absurdity, in a measure of absolute conformity.

18.  Even the voice of he who is considered foolish cannot be denied, when it resonantly rings with truth that refuses to be silenced.

19.  Dare to stand for truth, even if it results in falling prey to ridicule.

20.  There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed and there nothing exposed that cannot be concealed.

… And if you, by any means suppose that these lessons apply only to the stupid and incompetent, pray tell me, what is the color of your robe? Not that these apply to any of us lol….

From my heart to yours with much love,
“Me”

**The Emperor’s New Clothes, by Hans Christian Anderson

© AdePero Mettabel, January 3, 2013

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