Greetings! I hope you’re doing OK. Welcome back to my blog. This week I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and attempting to be a storyteller, for a change. I’m going to take a stab at putting my own spin on the old folktale by Hans Christian Anderson which many of you might remember from your childhood days.
For the audio version please follow this link. It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to a beautiful and talented violinist who composes and plays her own pieces. For the backing track on this week’s audio blog, I have chosen her piece, Banksia, which gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. Thanks to Jude Iddison for being so awesome and for letting me use Banksia for my audio blog today. Jude is accompanied by Philip Griffin on guitar. Hope you love it as much as I do. If you don’t usually listen to the audio version, I’d love if you would and even subscribe to my channel.
In a land not far from here
Once upon a time, in a land not far from here, there lived an emperor who was deeply troubled. He had everything he could possibly want, yet inside him he felt an emptiness. No jester could bring a smile to his face. Word soon got out that the emperor was unhappy. Outside of the palace, people were dying in the villages of his empire. Everywhere there was poverty and suffering. The local apothecary concocted a potion that would bring temporary relief to extreme cases of despair. It was administered with great caution as it had side effects that could be detrimental. The apothecary was confident that given its putrid taste, it would not be shared widely but consumed only by those at the end of their tether.
The apothecary was careful not to share the formula of his concoction with anyone as he knew that, in the wrong hands, it could wreak havoc. But one night while he slept, a thief crept into his shop and copied the formula that the careful apothecary kept hidden in a musty, dusty, old leather-bound book beneath his work bench.
Finding a panacea
One dull day two swindlers rocked up to the emperor’s palace posing as doctors who had heard that the emperor was suffering and came to offer medical assistance. The emperor was delighted to learn that they had with them the formula for a medicine that would take away all his troubles. The emperor installed them in the basement of the palace where they set up their distillery and got to work on producing the emperor’s new medicine. A steady succession of palace officials visited the distillery to check on the medicine’s progress and to test it out for themselves. Each official gasped at the putrid taste of the medicine and the burning sensation in their throat, but for fear of appearing foolish they held their tongues. They knew that the emperor was excited at the prospect of finding a panacea for what ailed him. The swindlers reminded the officials that the emperor would thank them with a fine promotion once the medicine’s effect was felt. But neither of the swindlers ever let a single drop of the potion pass their own lips.
When the swindlers announced that the medicine was ready, there was a hum of excitement throughout the palace which spread out into the villages. The emperor’s subjects gathered in the streets, eagerly awaiting news of the emperor’s transformation. Inside the palace, the emperor sat expectantly in his throne while the swindlers ceremoniously presented to him the goblet of amber liquid on a blue velvet tray. The emperor’s first impressions upon sniffing the contents of the goblet were not promising. The ugly twisted expression on his face expressed disgust. One of the swindlers rushed to defend the power of the liquid, ensuring him that the officials had given it the seal of approval and imploring the emperor to trust their judgements. They then encouraged the emperor to hold his nose and down the contents in one. By the time the emperor got to his feet, he was smiling and praising the swindlers for lifting him out of the doldrums. He announced that there was to be a great feast and that the villagers were to be invited.
Hungry for power
The power-hungry swindlers rubbed their hands together in glee and scurried off to talk in secret about how they might be able to maximise the sale of their magic potion and become more powerful than the emperor himself.
The day of the festivities arrived; the smell of cooked delicacies wafted out of every window of the palace while people gathered in the great hall eagerly awaiting the appearance of their esteemed ruler. The emperor was announced by his footman, and he stood in the grand entrance to the great hall, admiring his subjects and delighting in their reverence. Already well lubricated with ample doses of his medicine since the break of day, he walked with a swagger through the crowd, laughing and joking as he went by. There wasn’t a person without a look of surprise on their face at the sight of such joviality. Never had the emperor appeared so happy.
Willing to challenge the status quo
Mid-way through the festivities, the swindlers took it upon themselves to offer the emperor’s medicine to be sampled by the guests so that they could all experience the newfound joy of their ruler. As the little vials were passed around, the expressions on the faces of the emperor’s subjects changed momentarily, but quickly reverted to a smile which to the trained eye could be seen as forced. Nobody was willing to challenge the status quo and the emperor’s new medicine except for one young girl in the crowd who let out a loud cry of disgust as the amber liquid reached her throat. ‘This is disgusting’, she cried in a fit of coughing. ‘How can the emperor even like this?’
The emperor noticed the commotion that was building around the girl. He signalled to one of his officials to have her removed before taking to the floor. As people cleared a space for him, he pulled the glass bottle from his tunic and gulped it down in one. He grabbed a random villager and, walloping her plumb bottom, spun her around while ordering the musicians to play. People looked on in shock at the sight of a man they didn’t know. He was not the emperor they had grown to love and revere. But fearing his scorn, they gathered around him and joined him in his feast of delicacies washed down with the magic amber potion.
The emperor’s downfall
The next day, the villagers were woken from their slumber by the sounds of fighting. Up in the palace, the emperor was throwing chairs from the window, shouting incoherently at his officials. Down by the willow tree, the swindlers huddled together in a fit of laughter, knowing that they had finally taken the power from the emperor, and nobody was brave enough to tell him that the very thing he now relied on to make him happy was going to be the very thing that caused his greatest downfall.
Laughing all the way to the bank
The swindlers rushed to his rescue, replacing the empty bottles with new ones, and collecting the heavy bag of gold coins that was their payment for restoring peace at the palace. They laughed and skipped all the way to the bank, happily ever after.
The moral of the story is to trust your own judgement, and to know that just because everybody else is doing something doesn’t always make it right. One of the secrets to a happy life is to know your own mind, and to believe that you are worth making every effort to stand up for what you believe in. I know that this takes guts, but I can assure you that it will be oh so worth it. You are worth it. A better life awaits those who are brave.
I hope my little retelling of an old story has got you thinking. I welcome your feedback. Until next time, take care. Love, Gill x