The Emperor’s New Clothes



I’ve been really enjoying Pete Rollins’ parables recently – if you didn’t catch his Twitter parable experiment then you should follow him and catch up, or grab a copy of The Orthodox Heretic.

In the same mode, this is a parable I’ve been working on based on the familiar story of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

There was once a powerful Emperor, who, in the old Roman way, ruled over his people like a god. The people worked hard to please him, and gave away a handsome proportion of all that they earned to furnish his palace with fine things. Those who served the Emperor also made sure that he was dressed in the most beautiful vestments, tailored from the finest thread. The people would gather each week in his palace to adore him, wearing the best that they could afford from the little money they had left after the share that went into the palace coffers.

One day, two tailors from a far-off land came to the city. They entered the palace and spoke to the Emperor’s servants, offering to make him the finest suit of clothes ever created, with cloth woven from the purest gold intertwined with the most flawless diamonds. The servants were won over, and approached the Emperor, who, believing he deserved the very finest that the world could offer him, accepted the tailors’ offer.

The two tailors were installed in a large suite of rooms at the side of the palace. Each day the Emperor would have delivered to them more and more pure gold and fine gemstones, and each day he would visit to ask if his clothes were ready. Each day the Emperor’s servants would go out to the people of the city, demanding more of what little they had, imploring them to give generously so that their Emperor could be dressed in the very best that the world could give him.

Finally, the people could give no more, and the servants anxiously asked the tailors if they had everything that they needed. ‘No,’ they said, ‘we must have more gold, more silver and more fine gems.’ When they were told that the people had given all that they could, they demanded that the palace begin to be stripped of it’s wealth so that they could finish their new clothes in the best possible way – for it wouldn’t be fit for the Emperor to be dressed in anything but the very best.

Gradually, with the Emperor’s agreement, the palace was stripped of all its finery. Consumed by the thought of the finest suit, the Emperor allowed everything else that he owned to be taken to the tailors.

Finally, they announced that the suit was ready. The Emperor came into the palace and found the two tailors standing by an empty mannequin. ‘Where is my suit?’ he demanded. The tailors showed him the empty mannequin. ‘Emperor, we know that you are a man of the very finest taste, so we have created a suit that is only visible to those who have an aesthetic eye. To those with no culture or intelligence, the suit is invisible.’ The Emperor, not wanting to appear stupid or uncultured, went along with them, and, pretending to put on the suit, was fawned over by his servants, none of whom wanted to tell the Emperor of his nakedness.

Beginning to believe their sycophancy, the Emperor paraded out of the palace and into the streets. Those they met were quickly told of the amazing properties of the suit, and were also too afraid to admit that they saw nothing, and praised the fine tailoring.

Walking elegantly and loving the praise of his subjects, the Emperor rounded the corner of the palace to see the doors of the great rooms he had given the tailors wide open. Streams of people were walking away with great armfuls of gold, their pockets stuffed with gems. Looking around aghast, his eye was caught by a small boy, pointing and whispering, ‘the Emperor is naked. I have seen everything.’

His dignity and riches gone, and realising that he now had nothing, the Emperor decided all he could do was keep walking. As he walked, he felt the lightness of his nakedness, the warmth of the sun on his skin, the joy of being relieved of all the pressures being a god to these people. And, thanking the tailors for what they had done as they left for another kingdom, he began to smile and laugh, walking free of all his wealth and status.

‘He is naked!’ the crowd began to shout, louder and louder as they grabbed armfuls of loot. ‘He has nothing!’ they bayed as they scooped up coins and goblets. ‘He is naked yet he is unashamed!’ they cried. And they picked up rocks from the side of the road, and stoned him, as the Emperor repeated their words, a smile still visible on his bloodied face: ‘I am naked. I have nothing. I am unashamed.


One response to “The Emperor’s New Clothes”

  1. That’s the point of satire – by pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, two dynamics happen -1) people attack the exposed truth because they much prefer living the illusion of pretending their emperor is dressed up in regal clothes. And 2) once the idol is stripped to the bare bones, then the glimpses of God can shine through. Most people focus on the former esp. if they are the one whose sacred emperor is being stripped butt nekkid. And in doing so, they miss the beauty that can shine through once we take off the clothes as it were.