The Naked King

The Naked King*

Would I do it all over again? I would like to say yes, of course! But when I think of the price I paid, that my family paid, I have to say, I do not know. If I knew then what the future held for my family, and me, perhaps I would have kept silent like everybody else did.

Those were my five minutes of claim to fame. And why? For screaming at the top of my lungs that which no one else dared to say, because they were afraid everyone will think they were stupid. Yoy will not believe what fear does to people. I remember it like it was yesterday; I was sitting on my father’s shoulders to see our king showing off his new clothes. Surrounded by horses and trumpets, he walked, his head upright, and waved majestically at the crowd, with only his throne on his head, and his underwear. I remember my father’s shoulders shivering under my weight. Now I know that he was swallowing his laughter; trying hard not to giggle. And everyone kept waving their flags and calling “Hail King!” as if nothing unusual or out of the ordinary was going on; as if our king, a chubby little man, was NOT walking the main street in his underwear.

So I sat there, on my father’s shivering shoulders, and I just could not understand why none of the grownups around us – including my own father – said nothing; is it possible that they did not see what I saw? Finally, I could not hold it in anymore and I yelled, “The king is naked! And suddenly there was a terrible silence, and the band stopped playing, and everyone looked at me with tremendous relief and great horror; relief, because they realized they were not stupid for not seeing the king’s new clothes; and horror, because they knew what will ensue.

I was only five years old at the time, so they could not really do anything to me, but the Crown charged my father with for high treason, libel and defamation. This broke him completely; it broke all of us. He spent a fortune on legal defense fees, and eventually they settled out of court. My father pleaded guilty for failing to educate me and instill the fear of King in me. This whole story destroyed our family. My father went bankrupt, and he and my mother fought ceaselessly; he blamed her for spoiling ne rotten, and she claimed that I inherited all my bad habits from him, including his big mouth. Truth is, they both blamed me; for seeing and speaking truth to power.

So all I had left were my five minutes of fame for that brief moment when I released everyone from the big lie and for the terrible fear of being stupid. However, when they saw when happened to my father, they went being to being mute and afraid. Truth is, I do not blame them.

They did blame me, though, because everything went from bad to worse afterwards. The story tells us that the king was thrown from the throne, and that the lying, thieving tailors fled the city. But it wasn’t like that. The king fired a minister or two and waged war on the neighboring city, and everyone forgot all about him being naked, because he was really good at waging wars. And at times of war everyone keep silent, because wars are really scary.

So you are asking me if I would have done it again. Well, I guess I did inherit my father’s big mouth, but yes, I would have yelled that the king is naked; but I would make sure that I was not alone. I would have made everyone yell at the top of their lungs together; because a king can terrorize one kid and his family, but not a whole city.

*Dedicated with love to the boy who yelled, “The King is Naked”!

המלך עירום

Illustration by: Daniel Gouri De Lima

Growing up, I was like that boy in Hans Christian Andersen’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. I was honest, straightforward, and said things as they were, through the eyes of a child. Over the years, I learned that sometimes there is a price to be paid for being honest. Thing is, I am bad liar. I think I became an artist of words and stories so that I could speak my mind in a way that would make people listen. Because the art of storytelling is about making people listen, and share, and think and feel, and shake the dust off the shelves of their hearts.