The Purpose of Fairy Tales

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a favorite of mine. Written by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, it demonstrates what fiction should do: teach a truth about the human condition.

Fiction (good fiction!) usually penetrates the conscience better than direct truth. It’s one reason, I believe, children should still have fairy tales read to them.

Of H.C. Andersen’s tale, one critic wrote:

“Perhaps the truth of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ is not that the child’s truth is mercifully free of adult corruption, but that it recognizes the terrifying possibility that whatever words we may use to clothe our fears, the fabric cannot protect us from them.”

Down those same lines…

A few days ago, I had the fleeting thought to write a fairy tale about a millionaire who married or fell under the spell of a convincing personal shopper. Personal shoppers are superb talkers, skilled at motivating people with lots of money to buy (and wear) whatever they deem fashionable or attractive.

With the all similarities between personal shoppers and the tailors, I thought the story a good idea for a modern rendition of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” But the more I thought about the reality of it all, it just made me sad. I’ve seen similar situations played out too many times in the lives of friends.

And well, who could do better than Hans Christian Andersen at telling this story at this point?

To read the English translation: “The Emperor’s New Clothes”