Dear Friends,


Below you will find the last of my posts of fairy tales that reveal their provocatively deep meanings for our present days.  Whether clothed in metaphors, or whether just clothed, fairy tales reveal the naked truths of tyranny. I am now turning to two projects, a monograph of Ernst Bloch, the great philosopher of Hope, and a YA novella¸ “The Land of Lies.” One of Bloch’s last essays was “Can Hope Be Disappointed?” The answer is clear” Of course, but it can never die.”


The Reward of the Emperor without Clothes

Jack Zipes


Soon after the Emperor without clothes had realized he was nude and that a young innocent child had spoken the truth and exposed his stupidity, he ordered the boy to come to his palace. Everyone believed that the Emperor was going to reward the lad for being so honest and courageous. Instead, the plump vindictive king ordered his guards to take the boy to the royal kitchen where the cook was to butcher the famished boy and put all his bones and flesh into a gigantic pie. Once the chef had finished baking the sumptuous pie, seven enormous wrestlers, all nude, were dispatched to carry the pie to a grand table in the palace courtyard. The king, too, was completely naked and stood on a pedestal in front of all his courtiers and thousands of local residents and peasants who had been compelled to attend this grand event.

“Undress yourselves!” the Emperor’s voice boomed and bounced off the walls of the palace. “It is time to feel the truth and be truthful!”

Anxiously, everyone in the courtyard undressed, for they were surrounded by menacing soldiers, all nude, but with machine guns.

“Now you are to taste the truth,” the emperor demanded as he pointed to the pie. “I shall take the first bite, and you are all to follow me!”

One by one, hour after hour, day after day, the people took a bite of the pie.

“Not bad,” thought the people. They had all believed it would be disgusting, but in truth, they did not feel bad eating pie like this. In fact, they were accustomed to it.

“You have eaten truth,” proclaimed the Emperor, “and from now on there will be no more lies in my empire.”

Yet, just as he finished speaking, dark clouds covered the sun and heaved a sigh. It was almost impossible to see the person standing next to you. Thunder and lightning plagued this royal event. When the sun recovered, its rays revealed a quivering hyena on the pedestal, and a young strapping boy with flaming red hair.

It was difficult to see who the boy was, but he placed a collar and harness on the hyena and began leading it away toward a light in the misty green forest.

Stunned, the people began yelling, “Where are you going? Who are you?”

At first, the boy did not respond. Then all at once, he blurted, “I’m taking this hyena to face truth. I shall search for the essence of the bright light. Nobody on earth can ever escape it, no matter how powerful he is.”

Then, the boy turned, dragged the hyena, and walked toward the light.


The President and His Bodyguards

Jack Zipes

Once there was a pot-bellied president who played with battleships in his bathtub. Sometimes he played with a little spongy frog, too, but he loved the battleships most of all because they were loaded with real ammunition and he could wage war with a rear admiral’s cap on his fuzzy-haired head while one of his bodyguards scrubbed his back. The president was not allowed to take baths alone—one could never tell when some terrorist might try to assassinate him. So, two bodyguards were assigned to tend him when he bathed in his enormous marble tub that resembled a small swimming pool.

Since the president did not like to bathe alone, he insisted that the bodyguards undress and bathe with him. This task was not performed with great delight by either of them, for the president had a way of propelling the battleships toward the bodyguards and firing missiles at them as a joke. The bodyguards only had their little revolvers to protect themselves.

On average, the president lost six bodyguards a week due to his sea battles. He was always sorry about their deaths and had them buried ceremoniously, compensating their families generously. He had a silk flag draped delicately over the remains of their nude bodies as he, dressed up in a sailor’s suit, honored them with a twelve-gun salute. The president loved these ceremonies almost as much as he loved taking baths.




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