Wednesday, 14 March 2012


Introduction: In the 1990s my therapist bluntly informed me that I was “a teller of truths”. That sounds like a moral ideal, but (to quickly quote McCartney) “in this world in which we live in”, it represents an odious characteristic. Which is a paradox. In every situation in which there is conflict, all parties should welcome the voice of absolute, involute, truth.

However, any person faced with the query "does my butt look fat in these jeans" knows that real truth is a toxic substance whose moral value is erased by its ability to do immediate harm to real relationships. And thus, welcome to my world. I am a teller of truths that no one will ever want to hear. That has been true through my college years, my two marriages, my sundry connubations, and most recently, my beloved cousin's upcoming planned family reunion. (Fortunately, it has never infected my work environment, where I lie like a rug)

Herein I present my moral tale of a boy who cannot help but tell the truth, drawn entirely from mythology.

The Emporer's New Clothes comes to us today via Hans Christian Andersen, a man whose name translates literally as “the Christian Son of all Men.” I'll mash in the current Wiki:

“A vain Emperor who cares for nothing but his appearance and attire hires two tailors who are really swindlers that promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or "just hopelessly stupid". The Emperor cannot see the cloth himself, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing unfit for his position; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor then marches in procession before his subjects, who play along with the pretense. Suddenly, a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the assertion is true, but holds himself up proudly and continues the procession, deciding never to be so vain again and to take his position more seriously.”

Andersen in his telling twists the most important detail – in the original Persian, if you are born of your mother and father, you will see the clothes. If you are a bastard, you won't. This is an enormous political statement that most of the bourgeoisie in this state are illegitimate.

Anyhoo, staying with the theme, we have the boy saying “But he's not wearing any clothes”. And being immediately ostracized by his entire community for telling that truth. (Back to me, the truth teller)

After being outed as a truth-teller everyone in the canton (or duchy, or prefect, or whatever) wants to execute the boy. He of course hits the road. And now we have a fiefdom ruled by a naked Emperor and a boy wandering under threat of death to his next safe haven.

Lady Godiva

My mashup is a whatif? What if, after outing the naked Emperor, the boy next encounters Lady Godiva. Just try to imagine that! From the boy's perspective, he's just escaped execution for declaring the naked king was naked. Now he sees a naked queen? How f**ked up is that?

I imagine that endangered truth-telling little boy basically loses his mental capacity at that point. Sort of like a Wile E. Coyote vs Roadrunner moment. Even though he knows this royal is nekkid, he also knows that no good can come from confronting that fact. A nude titled Lady rides by on horseback, and now he knows enough to say nothing.


  1. Witty and clever, Mr. Fox. However, I am waiting for you to draw a political parallel in today's world. Who is our symbolic naked emperor and who is our naked Lady Godiva? Surely there is a parallel somewheree.

  2. Stephen: Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. Lady Godiva's modern equivalent is easy. There is a cult of Hollywood royalty who protest naked every day. It's called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with supermodels and the occasionally D list actress in the Godiva role.

    With regard to the Emperor, I'm going to be persnickety and state what to me is obvious - I don't agree that the tale is political. An Emperor is a Ruler, not a leader, and rules by divine right. That is, they rule because God says so. That is why the Pope is in a country called Vatican City walled inside lovely Rome. To protect him from the Caesars, whom also rule by divine right. Caesar doesn't want the Romans getting confused about whose divine right is more divine. Hence, all Catholics should follow Papal Bull, but all Romans should follow Caesar.

    If not a political tale, then what is it? Well, it is Andersen inventing the idea of Eurotrash nobility, for one thing. But more to the point, taking the totality of versions from the 12th century to the 19th, it is really a tale that shows that even a man who rules by the grace of God, is but a man like all of us, and no better. Stripped of his pretty vestments, that Emperor is but a man.

    Obviously that makes it exceedingly seditious. So the message of the Emperor’s new clothes is that common men should elect their leaders from their own ranks. It's an argument for democracy, cloaked in parable form.

    As far as which political figure most resembles the naked Emperor? The last time I checked, they were all wearing clothes. The closest is Vladimir Putin, often seen shirtless.