I have a question for you at the end of my story.
Once there was an emperor who ruled an empire. Except he didn’t. He spent most of his time throwing parties and surrounded himself with men and women who flattered his vanity. But he saved his greatest passion for clothes–of all shades and for all seasons. Satins, silks, brocade and every costly fabric adorned his body at all times with multiple changes daily.
One day a pair of con men arrived in the capital. They’d learned of the vain emperor and his penchant for clothes. They made it known that they were renowned tailors who only designed for the most fashionable and important. The emperor had his advisors bring the men to court and asked for samples of their work.
The men were clever. They explained to the advisors that not only was their material the finest in the world, it was also magical. They claimed that only the most worthy could see it. They showed them pictures of nothing, but the advisors feared being called unworthy and instead praised the beautiful creations (and they were accustomed to praising inaction). The men were escorted into the throne room and gave the same account of their enchanted fabric. The emperor was just as reluctant as his advisors to admit he saw nothing. He promised bags of gold and jewels for a complete wardrobe.
Weeks passed and the men appeared to work diligently, often into the night until the day of the unveiling. The emperor was overjoyed to hear they had completed the task and announced a parade to present his subjects with his new clothes. The “tailors” promised an opulent suit of clothes and the emperor dutifully oohed and aahed over clothes he couldn’t see.
The parade began and the emperor’s subjects were perplexed by the emperor’s appearance. He walked up and down streets with his head high, posing and twirling for the crowds. Finally he turned a corner and a young child seated on the shoulder’s of her father and yelled, “The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!” The crowd was silent for a moment and then erupted in laughter. The emperor realized it was true, but for his pride, continued his procession.
But the spell was broken. His advisors knew the truth and so did the people.
In all the versions I’ve seen (and there are several from various countries), no one says what happens to the emperor. I like to think he realized the error of his ways and became a more worthy ruler.
So here’s my question. Do you ever hope that we’re just two con men and a naked parade away from better leaders?