Words of Wisdom - No 4

Some thoughts about truth and the suppression of truth, from Hans Christian Andersen:
… ‘How well it fits? How beautifully it sets,’ said everyone. ‘The pattern! The colours! It is indeed a noble costume!’

‘They are waiting, outside, with the canopy which is to be borne over Your Majesty in the procession,’ said the chief master of the ceremonies. ‘Very well, I am ready,’ said the Emperor; ‘doesn’t it set well?’ Once more he turned about in front of the glass that it might seem as if he was really examining his finery. The lords in waiting, who were to carry the train, fumbled with their hands in the direction of the floor as if they were picking the train up. They walked on, holding the air—they didn’t want to let it be noticed that they could see nothing at all.

So the Emperor walked in the procession under the beautiful canopy, and everybody in the streets and at the windows said: ‘Lord! How splendid the Emperor’s new clothes are. What a lovely train he has to his coat! What a beautiful fit it is!’ Nobody wanted to be detected seeing nothing: that would mean that he was no good at his job, or that he was very stupid. None of the Emperor’s costumes had ever been such a success.

‘But he hasn’t got anything on!’ said a little child. ‘Lor! Just hark at the innocent,’ said its father. And one whispered to the other what the child had said: ‘That little child there says he hasn’t got anything on.’

‘Why, he hasn’t got anything on!’ the whole crowd was shouting at last; and the Emperor’s flesh crept, for it seemed to him they were right. ‘But all the same,’ he thought to himself, ‘I must go through with the procession.’ So he held himself more proudly than before, and the lords in waiting walked on bearing the train—the train that wasn’t there at all.
EXCERPT FROM: Hans Christian Andersen, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes,’ Hans Andersen Forty-two Stories, translated MR James (Faber and Faber Ltd, London, Great Britain, 2nd edition, 1968) (reprinted 1971), p 107.