Emperor West was a vain man. He was always shopping and buying new clothes. As soon as he’d get back to his palace he would race into his dressing-chamber and take selfies of himself in his new outfits. In fact, he’d spend so much time congratulating himself on how many likes he got on Facebook that the actual running of the kingdom was neglected! For instance, the army was usually in disarray and the kingdom was constantly at threat by their enemies.
One day when the Emperor was just about to upload a particularly flattering video to his Instagram story, two con-men came up to the palace. They’d heard that the Emperor was vain and spoilt and thought they could probably swindle this guy prettily easily.
And they were right. All they had to do was exploit the Emperor’s pride in order to deceive him into believing that they could make him look even more gorgeous, and thus more admired, in their magic outfit that they would tailor for him. There was one amazing thing about these clothes: they had a magic thread that was invisible to the stupid or to those unfit for office.
Emperor West was captivated. With these clothes he would be able to deduce who of his courtiers, officers and ministers around him were foolish or unfit for their job. That would save him from having to use his brain with the added bonus of giving him more time to check-out those new filters on Instagram he’d just discovered.
As the con-men began to “work” on the Emperor’s New Clothes the Emperor would send his ministers in one by one to check on their progress. And one by one the ministers were faced with the same conundrum: none of them could actually see the clothes or the threads. In fact to them it looked as if the “tailors” were actually making a big, fat lie!
But the Emperor was waiting for their report. What were they to do? Do they report what they actually saw and face being denounced as “stupid” and potentially lose their job? Or do they go along with it? I mean, maybe they were stupid and everyone else could actually see the threads! Was it just them? Because Minister Man-Pleaser had reported yesterday that the outfit was beautiful. Perhaps if they had done that doctorate at university like he had they too would be able to see them…
The pressure was huge. To say what the Emperor expected them to say… To say what everyone else had said… to not be thought of as less intelligent than the other Ministers…. To not be called names, or lose their reputation, their standing, their position… to go along with the New Clothes.
And so that’s what they did, one by one. Each reported back to the Emperor that the outfit was taking shape nicely, the threads were exquisite, the design more beautiful than anything they’d seen. And with each new report, the pressure mounted for each successive minister sent in to inspect the clothes.
Meanwhile the news of the Emperor’s New Clothes was fast spreading around the Kingdom. This was encouraged by the Emperor himself who wanted to garner as much admiration for himself as possible from his loyal subjects. After all the latest poll was due any day now and, since he had eradicated the need for government policies to be based on any objective morality long ago, the polls had become the ultimate point-of-reference for his government. So important were these New Clothes that when he finally put them on for the first time not even a live feed would suffice – no, for this there would be a PARADE.
And so with the ministers boasting to their families and friends about how they had seen the Emperor’s New Clothes taking shape themselves, the media promoting them and celebrities tweeting and even writing songs about the New Clothes, a veritable frenzy ensued and the people were primed and ready to receive the Emperor with his New Clothes.
(It must be added that there was the constant sub-current reminder to the kingdom’s subjects that ONLY the intelligent and competent were able to see the Emperor’s New Clothes. Occasionally a nay-sayer would pipe up with a disparate opinion but that one was suitably shouted down by the crowd, and even a few celebrities, using a few choice words such as “ignorant” and “bigot”, much to the Emperor’s satisfaction.)
In fact the Emperor was sometimes a little taken aback himself by the strength of force levelled at those few dissenters, but it suited his purpose well enough and so he told himself that if at times it seemed a little malicious, the end justifies the means.
Finally the day of the parade dawned and the Emperor woke up bright and early. As his courtiers ushered in the con-men tailors the king was shocked. He could not see any New Clothes at all in the arms of the tailors. But as they “dressed” him in the light, silken cloth and flattered his ego the Emperor West decided it was too late to turn back now. Even though he couldn’t see the clothes himself he was darned if he was going to disappoint the crowds of loyal subjects lining the streets to see him.
Proud as peacock the Emperor began his parade. The crowds most satisfyingly ooohed and aaahed at his splendid New Clothes. They commented to their neighbours on the fabric, the design and the colours, each one outdoing the rest in their admiration of the New Clothes.
Suddenly a 9 year old boy giggled. And snorted. And then pointed at the passing Emperor.
“He’s not wearing any clothes!” He called out laughing. His sister also started to laugh.
There was silence.
That wasn’t meant to be said.
But it was too late to un-say it.
From the back of the crowd two men in suits and sunglasses emerged and made their way to the 9 year old boy and his family. There was some talking in low voices between the men and the boy’s parents. While the crowd looked on the parents at first seemed to resist but then the family of four went with the men. After a few moments the crowd filled in the hole where the family had been and the Emperor continued his parade. The cheers began again and the crowd congratulated themselves in the knowledge that they were progressive.
The next week a new decree was issued from Emperor West’s palace that far and wide the kingdom’s schools would be introducing new methods of education for the kingdom’s children. Everyone agreed that the new books being written, new songs to teach the children and even new teachers were a good idea and ultimately in the kingdom’s best interest.
Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”
By Belinda Thorne