Friday, December 16, 2016

Patronio's Tale: King and Three Imposters, 13th century root of Emperor's New Clothes

Of That Which Happened to a King and Three Imposters,
[See further format of this Chapter VII, more legible]

The Invisible Cloth.
Original author, Don Juan Manuel 1282-1347 (see p. vi, Preface, above).
Here, an abbreviated retelling, with a few liberties.
A list, with itemized similar stories, see

I.  Background

The Invisible Cloth, from 13th Century Spain, lays out, as do other tales in the Emperor's New Clothes type, problems and politics as rulers try to find shortcuts to the business of a reign (who is worthy and who is not).  A root of that tale is the earlier from Count Lucanor, Fifty Stories of Patronio: Of that which happened to a King and Three Imposters, Ch.VII. Read it there in full,  summary here, instead of the usual Hans Christian Anderson Emperor's New Clothes, later, much altered for Scandinavia. The story line is relevant. All leaders have appointments to make, retinue to select. A recurrent scene in cultures around the world.

  • All this here, at this time, to mark a pending Trump milestone:  the Trump or not Electors. His problem is that of all the Emperors, Kings. Everybody knows. Everybody knows. Everybody knows. (Hush, child). It is humiliating when they realize not everyone or everything changes because words are said. How will he fare with the office's need for wise discernment. How will he deal with opinion of those who will not join a bandwagon; and will his advisors follow self-interest, as did those of the Emperors and Kings,  and report what is wanted, then duck out the door. Great story.  
Boxed in and mind bent by all the fakery around him, the Emperor tosses his senses and his royal robes to the winds, is humiliated, and instead of seeing his own error, tries to divert the people's attention by some violence, to take revenge, but the bad guys are long gone, and with the gold and silver. 

  • This story has more detail than the later Emperor's New Clothes, as in Hans Christian Anderson, so glean what you can from this one. The setting:  Count Lucanor is having trouble discerning who is legtimate in his kingdom, and who is not. He wants a shortcut to testing for that. He has a trusted friend and advisor, Patronio.  Count Lucanor asks for advice.  Patronio responds not directly, but with a story within a story, and a surprising moral at the end. 

Of all the flaws of the ruler, in relying on self-reporting of others without vetting, the moral at the end has nothing to do with that.  Instead, the moral has to do with the very beginning where there is confidentiality demanded by the weavers, absolute trust in what they are doing. Start a relationship with a demand for secrecy in vital matters that way, and the fool of a ruler will turn out badly. 

II.  The Tale, Patronio's Tale, a root of the Invisible Cloth. 
(summaries are no substitute for the original)
Count Lucanor is conversing with his advisor, Patronio, and says he was approached by a man with a fine secret to tell to Count Lucanor. That secret would profit him greatly, but no-one else must be told. The man must be trusted completely.  If word spread, Count Lucanor could lose his property and his life.

Despite the warning of confidentiality,  Count Lucanor consulted further with his adviser,  Patronio. [Ask: Was this in itself not a violation of the condition of confidentiality? Or is all a matter of interpretation, as the details of the secret apparently were not revealed.] Only you, said the King, have the skills to tell me if this stranger brings benefit or fraud. How should I act? 
Patronio replied that he could not be so direct, but he could relate the experience of another certain King when confronted with Three Imposters. These three Imposters made claims that the King, if he believed and followed them, could use to his advantage in his rule, but only if he did as he was told. Count Lucano was very interested. 
Patronio's Story
Once there were three men who came to the King and claimed to be weavers, with the ability to weave a cloth visible easily to a man who was the legitimate son of his father, a vital matter to the Moors who inherited only if they were legitimate. But the cloth would be invisible to a man who was illegitimate.  Even if such a one believed himself to be legitimate, the cloth would be invisible if he were somehow mistaken, unawares. But the King had to trust the weavers, and tell noone about the magical qualities of the cloth.
The King was pleased. He could increase his treasures with this knowledge, because in the custom of the day, only legitimate persons could hold positions of power.
But did he need it?  Perhaps. This would be simpler than the long tests I currently use, thought the King.   
So the King ordered that a palace be appropriated, and that the great cloth shall be woven and worked there. That was not a difficult decision. More difficult was trust: Should the King trust, or should he not? He was a cautious man. What if the weavers were deceiving him?
The Invisible Cloth.  The King wrestles with how to determine the legitimacy of his followers, appointees, supporters.

The Weavers' concession.  The weavers understood his dilemma, and even though the King was obligated to trust absolutely and tell no-one of the properties of the loyalty cloth, they offered a concession. The weavers agreed that the King could close them in the special palace, without possible escape, until the cloth-work was complete.  The King was satisfied. 
The King provided quantities of gold, silver, silk and other items that the weavers needed.  The weavers came into the special palace to begin. They were assured of their comforts while they were there. Doors locked behind them. 
Condition of confidentiality repeated.  Days passed. Then, one of the weavers approached the King when the work had indeed commenced, and reported that the cloth surely was most curious, and would the King want to inspect its design and construction. The King was to come alone.  
The King was delighted, but was still uneasy, and wanted another opinion on the matter' How to proceed to follow up his doubts despite his obligation to trust absolutely? Nonetheless, he sent a series of Checkers to check on the progress of the work 
1.  The Checkers.  First, the Lord Chamberlain, then a member of his retinue.  They all looked and looked, and each saw no cloth. None could admit to seeing no cloth, however, because by that time they knew that would mean they were illegitimate. So each returned to the King and said he had seen the cloth, indeed.  The King himself went, and struggled to see, but saw nothing.  All is fine! he said, and sent another emissary, of unspecified title, but from among the King's usual  supporters.  This one also went and viewed, and returned, and with the same report: Yes, I have seen it.
Finally, the King went himself. The King entered the palace and saw the three weavers at work who described the texture of the cloth, the origin of the loom, its design and colors.  All the while, they moved their hands and heads and bodies as though they were working busily.  In reality, however, they were doing nothing.  Hearing the weavers' words so minutely describing the character of the cloth, and seeing the great waving of arms and hands of the three men working about the looms, the King in his own mind was distressed that he himself saw nothing.  He believed to his dismay that those others he sent, had seen it all, and not him!  Was he himself illegitimate? Would he lose his kingdom?  With this in mind, the King began his own praise of the fabric, describing its uniqueness even in the words of the weavers.
And he sent more Checkers, The Justice Minister and the Councilor, who in turn saw nothing, but praised the fabric as though they could.
The dilemma of the King.  The King became even more unsettled, more dismayed at the reports of his Checkers. He knew not what to do with his own worrying mind and the fact that he himself could see none of any cloth. 

The feast Time passed and the time for a fine feast arrived.  The King's subjects clamored for him to wear some of this fine cloth, as they also had heard of its secret.  The weavers displayed the cloth to the King and he ordered the lengths he needed and specified the preparation.
Now the garments were finally made and the feast day came and the weavers brought to the King's chambers a final package. 
The Event.  The King went through the motions of being dressed in the new garment, then mounted his fine horse and rode proudly into the city. As the tale tells, he was lucky that it was summer, but still the people were much surprised at his appearance up and down, fore and aft.  The people by then knew, however, as the King or others had somehow let out, that those who could not see the fine cloth would be considered illegitimate. So they kept their astonishment to themselves in order to preserve their honor. 
The Man.  Not so, however, with a a man of modest means who happened to see the King thus appearing.  He, having nothing to lose, approached the King and said that it mattered not to him whether he is to be seen as legitimate or illegitimate, because he held hold no position of account. So I tell you that you are riding with no clothes.  Upon hearing this, the King began to beat the man who spoke plainly, accusing him, saying he was a bastard, lacking in righteousness, and it was for that reason -- that the man himself fell short --  that the man could not see the cloth.
In no time at all, however, after the poor man had so spoken, others began to rethink:  Is it true, that the King is indeed wearing no clothes? Dare we speak our minds?
The people began to look again, and then say the same as had the humble man; until, finally, even the King himself, and his company with him, also lost their fear of speaking the truth.  All saw through the trick that the weavers, the Imposters, had played upon all of them, rendering them all victims of fraud.
"Find them!" ordered the King to the people and his retinue. "Find the imposter weavers!"
But the weavers had fled by that time, and could not be found, and they cleverly had taken with them the silver, and the gold, and the riches to make the cloth, that they had received from the King to further their imposition. 
The King sought a shortcut to discernment in his reign. Who was legitimate, who was not? Who was trustworthy to help him out?
Back to the Count:

Now you, Count Lucanor, continued Patronius, at the conclusion of the story. As to that man who has presented himself to you and demanded full confidence, take care. You may be deceived, for he has more reason to work for his own advantage than to yours.  And he has no more reason to serve you than those already indebted to you and already in your service.
"Who counsels thee to secrecy with friends
Seeks to entrap thee for his own base ends."
 Patronio's Tale.  The fraudulent weavers put the gold and silver for making the magic cloth into their own pockets, and ran. 

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