The Monarch’s New Robes
By Jo Leath

     Once Upon a Time there was a Wise Monarch who understood the value of all things and shared this wisdom with the people of the nation.
     Everyone valued the important aspects of life, and did not preoccupy themselves with trifles.
     One day a Stranger arrived from another land. Not having had the opportunity to learn the ways of the Wise Monarch, the Stranger observed a population difficult to understand, and appearing ripe for exploitation.
     Approaching the Monarch, the Stranger offered to create an outfit of immeasurable beauty and value.
     The outfit, said the Stranger, would permit the Monarch to display discernment and wealth and importance. There came also a caveat; that whosoever could not perceive the outfit, was, in fact, unfit for a place in society.
     The Wise Monarch, knowing the ways of Strangers and trusting the population, agreed to the plan and was at once measured for the new costume.
     For days the Stranger toiled at a loom, and described in great detail the pattern and the fabric. For weeks the Stranger wielded scissors, and spoke of the textile, the style, and the cut of the suit being created. For months the Stranger hunched over a needle, and told those who brought food and service that inability to appreciate the cloth revealed reprehensible ignorance. The people nodded and smiled, and went about their business.
     Finally the Stranger claimed to have completed the outfit, just in time for the Monarch’s appearance at the Annual Festival.
     The Stranger arranged the new outfit on The Monarch’s body, fussing and flapping, and reminding whoever would listen, that failure to appreciate the fine clothing was a certain indication of ignorance and posturing.
     Then the Monarch was finally dressed, and stepped out to greet the cheering crowds, and a hush fell about the population.
     The Stranger, replete from weeks of fine dining and care-filled hospitality, a pocket filled with financial gain, listened from the doorway while preparing for escape.
     A child said “The Monarch is surely naked!” and the hush was broken with a rumbling murmur, as everyone spoke at once.
     “No!” they said, “Not naked.”
     And wisely they explained, for the children, and for the Stranger too.
     “The Monarch is clothed in the most valuable raiment: The Monarch is covered with humility and bodily equality, embroidered with the pattern that is nothing-to-hide.
     “Manifestly no better and no worse than the people of the country, the Monarch is cloaked in unwillingness to kill the ermine; a more noble garment cannot exist.
     “There is dignity, finer than any silk; and self-respect more tightly woven than satin.
     “The Monarch has distinction thicker than velvet, and is plush with self-esteem.”
     The Stranger, without another plan, walked away from the land ruled by the Wise Monarch, and never forgot the lesson that there is no glory in deception and great value in things unseen. © 2003 Jo Leath. Kingston NS