The Emperor Has No Clothes     But Not In This Version of The Story

By Ron Huza

Once upon a time, a popular Greek storyteller named Aesop composed an enchanting fable called 'The Emperor's New Suit.' The fable added greatly to Aesop's fame. Then Aesop died.

Once upon a later time, a Danish writer named Hans Christian Andersen rewrote Aesop's story in his own words, to the delight and praise of countless readers. Then Hans Christian Andersen died.

Apparently the ancient emperor, upon whose life these stories are based, put a death curse on any author who didn't write about him in a flattering light. The present author has no intention of committing the same mistake thrice. Here follows a lively retelling of the classic 'Emperor's New Suit' tale, with a happier ending for all concerned:

Many, many years ago in what historians now call "Pre- pre-modern times," there lived an emperor who thought he owed it to his subjects to dress all times at his best. In fact so great was his love of fine clothing, he had money for little else. With no funds to support an army, he could wage no war, or even a tiny skirmish. Consequently, the smartly dressed emperor aroused in neighboring emperors neither fear, nor envy, nor meanness. Happily, his subjects did not seem to miss the good old days when an emperor was someone to die for.

With no troops to inspect, or war plans to draw, the emperor's day was filled with many hours of free time. The emperor spent these free hours in public walk-abouts, pageants, and processions to show off the gems in his imperial wardrobe. As he often liked to explain to his tailors, "An emperor must be to his subjects like their very own eye lollipop they'll be all the sweeter for it!"

One day two master weavers came to the great city where the emperor resided. They claimed to possess an ancient formula for weaving the finest cloth ever imagined. Not only were the colors and patterns beyond compare; clothes made from the material possessed the quality of making whoever wore them the subject of a wondrous new tale that would endure as long as stories are told.

"That is a cloth after my own heart," thought the emperor. "If I were to be dressed in a suit made of this cloth I should be able to be remembered in future generations, despite the indifference of historians who only record an emperor's life when he wields 'Hard' Power. The 'Soft' Power of this magical cloth will carry me into timeless legend, without requiring me to don a silly war bonnet."

The nomadic weavers were given a commission to design a special suit of clothing for the emperor. They were provided with two looms as well as all necessary provisions, and they were instructed to act with duteous haste for not only was their patron the emperor, but also a soon-to-be famous hero of legend.

While the master weavers toiled at their looms, the emperor spent many private hours gazing at his reflection in the looking glass. Now that he was about to become the main character in a timeless storybook, his mind looked at his physical figure in a brand new light. And in this brand new light, the emperor's mind seemed to see reflected in his looking glass a body that needed to lose a few pounds.

For the good of the story, the emperor told his chief physician, he wished to go on a strict diet. There was much rejoicing among the emperor's kitchen staff. All fattening foods had to be removed at once from the kitchen premises, by order of the emperor's chief physician. The emperor's diet occasioned numerous sumptuous feasts in the homes of the kitchen staff. As minor characters in a story, they did not have to worry about their physical appearance.

The emperor's diet was a resounding success. He looked totally fetching. There was no better word to describe the new, slimmed-down emperor. And that created a new buzz which circulated at lightning speed throughout the empire, making the common folk even more anxious to see their emperor in his new suit of clothes. Who wouldn't want to gaze at a totally fetching emperor dressed to the nines in an empire where nothing much happened, not even wars?

Unfortunately, the emperor's sudden diet created one troublesome unintended consequence. He developed an abnormal case of excessive intestinal gas. It was a pity, really. When the emperor entered a room, his looks took one's breath away. Then, in a completely unflattering way, so did the foul-smelling discharges from the ground zero area surrounding his sphincter muscle.

What made the problem even worse, none of the emperor's personal staff responded to these flatulence outbursts for what they were brutally and breathtakingly awful. The emperor soon concluded that he was singly afflicted with a rare physical condition that made certain malodorous smells appear stronger and more long lasting than they actually were.

Imagine that. Then again, would YOU have the courage to tell your master and emperor that lately he doesn't smell quite so emperor-ish? I don't think so.

Finally, the big day came. The emperor was presented with his new suit of clothes and he looked ravishing, simply ravishing. The emperor looked at himself in his large looking glass mirror from every angle. "It is so ME!" he blurted out at last. To show his pleasure, the emperor appointed the two artisans the title of "Imperial Court Weavers." The next day, he decreed that he would show himself to his subjects in an official, celebratory procession.

Now the emperor hadn't made a public appearance since the beginning of his imperial diet. Consequently, boisterous crowds lined the procession route, hungry for a chance to catch a glimpse of their beloved, imperial "eye lollipop." Their eyes weren't disappointed. Truly, their emperor knew how to stay composed like an alluring lollipop and let the people's eyes come to him.

Unfortunately, the emperor could not quiet his own exulting emotions. This caused him to let fly with even more flatulence outbursts than usual.

When the emperor gazed down at his subjects, he saw an endless sea of wet faces, showing fantastically contorted grimaces. "Tears of joy!" the emperor thought to himself. The grimaces themselves were to be expected. The emperor knew that no face looks its best when shedding tears.

"Look, mommy!" came a voice at last to challenge the emperor's triumphant mood. "The emperor has no clothes!"

The little boy's words were quickly whispered up and down the procession route and received by everyone with a knowing nod. That made a powerful impression on the emperor, for it seemed to him that these words might weigh heavily on how his story would be passed on through the ages. He quickly called off the imperial procession and instructed the master of ceremonies to announce that urgent business forced him to conclude the procession on the following day.

When the emperor returned to his palace, he called his two Imperial Court weavers for a private audience in his royal chambers. He was not in a good mood.

"Did you receive many grandiloquent acclaims from the masses, Your Highness?" inquired the older Imperial Court weaver.

"As a matter of fact," said the emperor, "a young lad spoke for the masses. He said, AND I QUOTE, 'The emperor has no clothes.'"

"No clothes, your Highness?" said the younger Imperial Court weaver. "But that's preposterous! You've never dressed or looked more resplendent, my Lord. Whatever could the boy have meant?"

"You have one night to figure it out," answered the emperor. "The imperial procession shall be repeated tomorrow. If the boy has cause to utter again his comment, then at sunset I shall have both of you buried alive, together with your looms, outside the city gates."

The Imperial Court weavers did not have a moment to lose. They bowed quickly to the emperor and hurried back to their work chambers.

"Now what?" said the younger weaver, looking scared.

"If we can't solve the riddle of the young boy's words, two things will happen,' said the older weaver. "Tomorrow at sunset, we'll be buried alive. And later, the emperor will get falsely immortalized in a story depicting him as a pompous nutcase who strutted along in a regal procession dressed only in his birthday suit."

"Why did the boy say the emperor had no clothes?" said the younger weaver. "That's a flat out lie!"

"It's not a lie if, like the emperor said, everyone who heard it nodded in agreement," said the older weaver. Then quickly he added, "Anyway, the boy was clearly speaking in metaphors."

"Metaphors? What do you mean?" said the younger weaver.

"Haven't you noticed that the emperor has a certain distinctive air about him?" said the older weaver. "Why, his thick frequent mists create so dense and foul a stink, even one's tears struggle to flee one's face.What the boy was saying is that our hand-made imperial costume failed to trap his majesty's intolerable winds inside its many layers of closely woven cloth. It was AS IF."

".THE EMPEROR HAD NO CLOTHES!" exclaimed the younger weaver, finishing the older weaver's thought. "Let's get to work. We need to outfit the emperor with an emperor-grade undersuit, or else tomorrow is our last."

The weavers worked all night as if their lives depended on it, which of course they did. After they had woven enough material to create a standard undergarment, they then created extremely thin filter panels woven of a special charcoal-based material, known for its excellent odor-removing properties. The odor shields were sewn inside the front and back areas of the undergarment, with the item's waistband and leg openings elasticized to prevent air leakage. That was it: The Imperial Court weavers would live or die by their handiwork.

"What are these?" asked the emperor, when presented with the unique undergarment.

"If it pleases your Majesty," said the older weaver; "It is a special new undersuit to be discretely worn underneath your majestic new suit."

"It is inspired by a design favored by the illustrious Medici family," added the younger weaver. "The Medici called them 'GasMedic briefs.'"

"You don't say!" exclaimed the emperor. "I've actually seen portraits of the Medici family. They all have a terrific fashion sense!"

The emperor donned his GasMedic briefs, and then his dresser layered on top of it his majestic new suit of the day before. Then, with his royal retinue, he set off on his imperial procession as if for the first time.

Everything good that had happened on the previous day happened exactly as before. But everything bad that had happened failed to repeat itself, for the badness had issued from the emperor's own person, in a badlands region of the body now securely sealed by the airtight GasMedic briefs. When the emperor's procession reached the spot where the young boy had uttered his famous comment the day before, the emperor strained his ear to listen.

"Look, mommy!" exclaimed the boy. "The emperor is wearing a magnificent suit of clothes! How handsome they look! How handsome they fit! What a fetching pattern! What fetching colors!"

The emperor smiled with relief. He now could bear up to the end, knowing he looked good from every side.

Other accounts of this story do not leave the emperor feeling such noble bliss. But they were written by dead men who lived in bygone ages. You should remember that back then, the idea of GasMedic flatulence-control underwear was too impossible to imagine, let alone weave into the fabric of a timeless fable.

The End

© 2005