Ilankai Tamil Sangam

24th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

A Gift to King Mahinda

by Sachi Sri Kantha, June 8, 2009

The King is in the all together - But all together the all together
He's all together as naked as the day that he was born.
And it's all together too chilly a morn!”

It seems that these days, President Mahinda Rajapakse seems to be enjoying his newly anointed role as the King of Sri Lanka. The first segment of his surname ‘Raja’ literally means a king. He and his courtiers are floating in the air. I thought that it wouldn’t be bad to present him with a gift of a story.

The story, Kejserens nye Klaeder [The Emperor’s New Clothes] is an old one, now carrying the imprimatur of Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875). But, the 1952 song version re-told in English by comedian singer-actor David Daniel Kaminsky aka Danny Kaye (1913-1987) is the one that I prefer to use for my students in teaching English. On Oct.7, 2001, immediately after the Sept.11 incidents, I recorded in my camera a small-made float of the Naked Emperor paraded in a city festival in Japan, that attracted the attention of the onlookers. I was not sure who was targeted in this float – the city’s mayor, or the nation’s then prime minister or George W. Bush. So, I choose the Danny Kaye version of the story as my gift to King Mahinda. In Danny Kaye’s voice, it’s as follows:

“This is the story of the King's new clothes:
Now there was once a king who was absolutely insane about new clothes and one day, two swindlers came to sell him what they said was a magic suit of clothes.

Now, they held up this particular garment and they said, "Your Majesty, this is a magic suit." Well, the truth of the matter is, there was no suit there at all.

But the swindlers were very smart, and they said, "Your Majesty, to a wise man this is a beautiful raiment but to a fool it is absolutely invisible."

Naturally, the King not wanting to appear a fool, said,

"Isn't it grand! Isn't it fine! Look at the cut, the style, the line!
The suit of clothes is all together - But all together it's all together
The most remarkable suit of clothes that I have ever seen.
These eyes of mine at once determined
The sleeves are velvet, the cape is ermine
The hose are blue and the doublet is a lovely shade of green.
Somebody send for the Queen."

Well they sent for the Queen and they quickly explained to her about the magic suit of clothes.And naturally, the Queen not wanting to appear a fool, said,

 

"Well, isn't it oh! Isn't it rich! Look at the charm of every stitch!
The suit of clothes is all together - But all together it's all together
The most remarkable suit of clothes that I have ever seen.
These eyes of mine at once determined
The sleeves are velvet, the cape is ermine
The hose are blue and the doublet is a lovely shade of green.
Summon the Court to convene."

Well the court convened, and you never saw in your life as many people as were at that court.

All the ambassadors, the dukes, the earls, the counts, it was just black with people, and they were all told about the magic suit of clothes. And after they were told they naturally didn't want to appear fools and they said,

"Isn't it ohhh! - Isn't it ahhh! - Isn't it absolutely wheee!
The suit of clothes is all together - But all together it's all together
The most remarkable suit of clothes a tailor ever made.
Now quickly, put it all together - With gloves of leather and hat and feather
It's all together the thing to wear in Saturday's parade.
Leading the royal brigade."

Now Saturday came and the streets were just lined with thousands, and thousands, and thousands of people, and they all were cheering as the artillery came by, the infantry marched by, the cavalry galloped by.

And everybody was cheering like mad, except one little boy. You see, he hadn't heard about the magic suit and didn't know what he was supposed to see. Well, as the King came by the little boy looked and, horrified, said,

"Look at the King!- Look at the the King! - Look at the King, the King, the King!
The King is in the all together - But all together the all together
He's all together as naked as the day that he was born.
The King is in the all together - But all together the all together
It's all together the very least the King has ever worn."

All the courts positioned to call an intermission
His majesty is wide open to ridicule and scorn

The King is in the all together - But all together the all together
He's all together as naked as the day that he was born.
And it's all together too chilly a morn!”

Coda

Who could be the two swindlers in the Sri Lankan version of the story? Could they be the two siblings of the king? – Basil and Gotabhaya?, or could they be Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (an authentic holocaust denier) and Pakistan’s ex-dictator Pervez Musharraf (a patron of Al-Queda) or could they be Karuna (a Tamil turncoat) and Devananda (a Tamil collaborator)?

I noted that this story credited to Hans Christian Andersen appears in E.F. Dodd’s collection Stories from Ceylon (Macmillan & Co, London, 1968 reprint). Dodd records that the story is drawn from an older source, Village Folk-Tales of Ceylon (1910-1914) by Henry Parker, published in London.

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