The Emperor and his Magnificent Fridge Door
by Stuart Orton-Jones
Once upon a time there lived a vain Emperor whose only worry in life was the appearance of his teeth. He brushed his teeth with magic tooth whitening toothpaste almost every hour and loved to show his teeth off to his people. Word of the Emperor’s obsessive habits spread over his kingdom and beyond.
A scoundrel dentist and his scoundrel dental technician, who had heard of the Emperor’s vanity decided to take advantage of it. They introduced themselves at the gates of the palace with a dastardly scheme in mind.
The scoundrel dentist started by saying to the Emperor’s Homeland Security Guards, “I am a cosmetic dentist. As you know, cosmetic dentists are the elite amongst dentists. I do not bother with helping people with toothache and other mundane dental problems. After a three-day course I have learnt to cover teeth with the brightest whitest porcelain coverings in the whole of the land. As a matter of fact, my porcelain coverings are whiter and brighter than any other dentist’s white porcelain coverings. They are so white and bright that anyone who is sufficiently impressionable and stupid will admire them and give adoration to anyone who has them.”
The chief of the Emperor’s Homeland Security Guards heard the scoundrel’s strange story and sent for the court chamberlain. The chamberlain, knowing the Emperor’s obsession with his teeth, notified the prime minister, who ran to the Emperor and disclosed the incredible news. The Emperor’s curiosity got the better of him and he decided to see the scoundrel.
“Besides being the whitest and brightest, your Majesty, the porcelain coverings will be created especially for you.” The Emperor gave the cosmetic dentist and his cosmetic dental technician a bag of gold coins in exchange for their promise to begin working on the whitest and brightest teeth immediately.
The Emperor gave the orders: “Just tell us what you need to get started and we’ll give it to you.” The scoundrel asked for drills and impression materials and dental plaster. The scoundrel dentist and his scoundrel dental technician already had the very whitest and brightest porcelain and began working.
The Emperor thought he had spent his money quite well: in addition to getting white bright teeth, he would discover which of his subjects were ignorant and incompetent and lacking in good taste.
The farce continued as the two scoundrels had foreseen. Once they had taken the impressions, the scoundrel technician began making the models and then the porcelain coverings.
A few days later, he called the old and wise Prime Minister, who was considered by everyone as a man with exquisite taste in teeth.
“Go and see how the work is proceeding,” the Emperor told him, “and come back to let me know.”
The scoundrel dental technician welcomed the Prime Minister and said, ” Here, Excellency! I have almost finished. Admire the whiteness and brightness tooth coverings I am making.”
“They look terribly white and bright to me,” the Prime Minster thought. “If I think they are too white and bright that means I’m stupid! Or, worse, lacking in good taste!” If the Prime Minister admitted that he didn’t like the whiteness and brightness, he would be discharged from his office.
“What a marvellous set of ear to ear porcelain coverings you are making.” he said.” ”I’ll certainly tell the Emperor.”
The scoundrel dentist and technician rubbed their hands gleefully. The scoundrel technician had almost finished.
Finally, the Emperor received the announcement that the scoundrel dentist had come to fit the bright white porcelain coverings.
“Come in,” the Emperor ordered. Even as they bowed, the two scoundrels held up the models on which the porcelain coverings were attached.
“Here they are, your Majesty. These are the results of our labour,” the scoundrels said. “We have worked night and day and, at last, the most beautiful whitest and brightest porcelain coverings in the world are ready for you. Look how bright and white they are!”
Of course the Emperor thought that the porcelain coverings were far too white and bright. He panicked and felt like fainting. But luckily the throne was right behind him and he sat down. But when he realized that no one was watching, he felt better. Nobody could find out he was stupid and lacking in good taste. The Emperor didn’t know that everybody else around him would think the very same thing. At this late date he knew that it was too late to back down as his teeth had already been filed down.
“Your Majesty, we now have to fit your new wonderful white and bright teeth.” The scoundrel dentist went ahead and glued on the coverings and when he had finished held up a mirror. The Emperor was embarrassed but as none of the bystanders was watching, he felt relieved.
“Yes, these are beautiful teeth and they look very good on me,” the Emperor said trying to look comfortable. “You’ve done a fine job.”
“Your Majesty,” the Prime Minister said, “we have a request for you. The people have found out about your wonderful teeth and they are anxious to see you with your new look.”
The Emperor was doubtful about showing his bright white teeth to his people, but then he abandoned his fears. After all, no one would think they were too bright and white except the ignorant and the incompetent.
“All right,” he said. “I will grant the people this privilege.” He summoned his carriage and the ceremonial parade was formed. A group of dignitaries walked at the very front of the procession and anxiously scrutinized the faces of the people in the street. All the people had gathered in the main square, pushing and shoving to get a better look. Applause welcomed the regal procession. Everyone wanted to know how stupid or incompetent his or her neighbour was but, as the Emperor passed, a strange murmur rose from the crowd.
Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear: “Look at the Emperor’s new teeth. They’re beautiful!” “How bright and white they are!”
” I have never seen anything like it in my life!” They all tried to conceal their disappointment at not liking the new teeth, and since nobody was willing to admit his own stupidity and incompetence, they all behaved as the two scoundrels had predicted.
A child, however, who had no important job and could only see things as his eyes showed them to him, went up to the carriage.
He took one look at the Emperor and said, “The Emperor has silly looking teeth.”
“Fool!” his father reprimanded, running after him. “Don’t talk nonsense!” He grabbed his child and took him away. But the boy’s remark, which had been heard by the bystanders, was repeated over and over again until everyone cried: “The boy is right! The Emperor has silly looking teeth! It’s true!”
The Emperor realized that the people were right but could not admit to it. He thought it better to continue the procession, not wanting to lose respect.
As he stood stiffly in his carriage, a page behind him sniggered at his silly looking teeth.
On arriving back at his palace the realization came to him that his teeth had been ground down and that there was no returning to the natural looking teeth he used to be so proud of.
At that moment he woke up in a sweat. He jumped out of bed and rushed to the mirror. It had all been a dreadful dream. He still had his original natural looking teeth.The Emperor celebrated with great relief by giving his teeth the best clean he had ever given them.
Adapted by Stuart Orton-Jones from Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes”