The cherished children's story "The Emperor's New Clothes" is a short tale by Hans Christian Andersen about an emperor who cares for nothing but his finery. He hires two weavers who promise to fashion him a splendid suit made from a fabric invisible to those undeserving of their positions, or who are "just hopelessly stupid."
The Emperor cannot see the cloth himself, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing incompetent; his ministers do the same. When the garment is finished, the tailors mime the actions of dressing the emperor, who then marches nude before his startled subjects. After a child cries, "But he isn't wearing anything at all," which provokes the crowd to acknowledge the monarch's nudity, wackiness and humiliation ensue. The emperor continues proudly with his procession to mask his gullibility.
Although based on a parable from the 1300s, subsequent heads of state have embraced the lessons of Andersen's fable by fucking up entire regions of the world through the disastrous follies of their own egos, while holding their heads high.
However, a new study into the historical events that inspired the tale -- commissioned and obsessively funded by former U.S. President George W. Bush -- indicates that the emperor was indeed wearing clothes. Leading textile conservators from the University of Rhode Island examined hundreds of samples around the world, culminating in the discovery of an ultra sheer fabric found in a Mayan tomb excavated from the CopÃ¡n ruins in Honduras.
"These materials were used regularly throughout the 1300s," said Marta Gervangelais, the head researcher on the project. "It's probable that Andersen's weavers had been able to craft nearly transparent raiments from this material. But anyone in the audience would've been able to see that this man was wearing something, even if it looked like a lycra body stocking."
The study also suggested that the legendary Shroud of Turin may have been made of related fabrics.
"People always claim that the face on the pall belongs to Jesus," said Gervangelais, "but it came about as the result of an experimental 'man suit' being made for Jacques de Molay. The Templar Grand Master had ordered a tattoo artist to give him a full body tattoo of himself, only taller. The so-called Shroud was the closest compromise they could come up with."
So, if the emperor really had clothes on, what's the controversy about? Linguists from the University of Copenhagen said the problem stems from a poor translation of the child's cry. Ulfhild Kjeldsen-Bjerregaard, the language expert assigned to the study, concluded that "the child's statement has always been misinterpreted. I won't bore you with semantics and etymology, but what the child really yelled out was, 'Why does the emperor have such a small prick?'"