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The Emperor's New Clothes
Many years ago there was an Emperor so
exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being
well dressed. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going
to the theatre, or going for a ride in his carriage, except to show
off his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day, and
instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, "The King's
in council," here they always said. "The Emperor's in his dressing
In the great city where he lived, life was
always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them
one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were weavers,
and they said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics
imaginable. Not only were their colors and patterns uncommonly fine,
but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming
invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was
"Those would be just the clothes for me,"
thought the Emperor. "If I wore them I would be able to discover
which men in my empire are unfit for their posts. And I could tell
the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must get some of the
stuff woven for me right away." He paid the two swindlers a large
sum of money to start work at once.
They set up two looms and pretended to weave,
though there was nothing on the looms. All the finest silk and the
purest old thread which they demanded went into their traveling bags,
while they worked the empty looms far into the night.
"I'd like to know how those weavers are
getting on with the cloth," the Emperor thought, but he felt
slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit
for their position would not be able to see the fabric. It couldn't
have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he'd rather send
someone else to see how things were going. The whole town knew about
the cloth's peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how
stupid their neighbors were.
"I'll send my honest old minister to the
weavers," the Emperor decided. "He'll be the best one to tell me how
the material looks, for he's a sensible man and no one does his duty
So the honest old minister went to the room
where the two swindlers sat working away at their empty looms.
"Heaven help me," he thought as his eyes flew
wide open, "I can't see anything at all". But he did not say so.
Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as
to come near to approve the excellent pattern, the beautiful colors.
They pointed to the empty looms, and the poor old minister stared as
hard as he dared. He couldn't see anything, because there was
nothing to see. "Heaven have mercy," he thought. "Can it be that I'm
a fool? I'd have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I
unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can't
see the cloth."
"Don't hesitate to tell us what you think of
it," said one of the weavers.
"Oh, it's beautiful -it's enchanting." The old
minister peered through his spectacles. "Such a pattern, what colors!"
I'll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it."
"We're pleased to hear that," the swindlers
said. They proceeded to name all the colors and to explain the
intricate pattern. The old minister paid the closest attention, so
that he could tell it all to the Emperor. And so he did.
The swindlers at once asked for more money,
more silk and gold thread, to get on with the weaving. But it all
went into their pockets. Not a thread went into the looms, though
they worked at their weaving as hard as ever.
The Emperor presently sent another trustworthy
official to see how the work progressed and how soon it would be
ready. The same thing happened to him that had happened to the
minister. He looked and he looked, but as there was nothing to see
in the looms he couldn't see anything.
"Isn't it a beautiful piece of goods?" the
swindlers asked him, as they displayed and described their imaginary
"I know I'm not stupid," the man thought, "so
it must be that I'm unworthy of my good office. That's strange. I
mustn't let anyone find it out, though." So he praised the material
he did not see. He declared he was delighted with the beautiful
colors and the exquisite pattern. To the Emperor he said, "It held
All the town was talking of this splendid
cloth, and the Emperor wanted to see it for himself while it was
still in the looms. Attended by a band of chosen men, among whom
were his two old trusted officials-the ones who had been to the
weavers-he set out to see the two swindlers. He found them weaving
with might and main, but without a thread in their looms.
"Magnificent," said the two officials already
duped. "Just look, Your Majesty, what colors! What a design!" They
pointed to the empty looms, each supposing that the others could see
"What's this?" thought the Emperor. "I can't
see anything. This is terrible!
Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor?
What a thing to happen to me of all people! - Oh! It's very
pretty," he said. "It has my highest approval." And he nodded
approbation at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he
couldn't see anything.
His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw
no more than another, but they all joined the Emperor in exclaiming,
"Oh! It's very pretty," and they advised him to wear
clothes made of this wonderful cloth especially for the great
procession he was soon to lead. "Magnificent! Excellent!
Unsurpassed!" were bandied from mouth to mouth, and everyone did his
best to seem well pleased. The Emperor gave each of the swindlers a
cross to wear in his buttonhole, and the title of "Sir Weaver."
Before the procession the swindlers sat up all
night and burned more than six candles, to show how busy they were
finishing the Emperor's new clothes. They pretended to take the
cloth off the loom. They made cuts in the air with huge scissors.
And at last they said, "Now the Emperor's new clothes are ready for
Then the Emperor himself came with his noblest
noblemen, and the swindlers each raised an arm as if they were
holding something. They said, "These are the trousers, here's the
coat, and this is the mantle," naming each garment. "All of them are
as light as a spider web. One would almost think he had nothing on,
but that's what makes them so fine."
"Exactly," all the noblemen agreed, though
they could see nothing, for there was nothing to see.
"If Your Imperial Majesty will condescend to
take your clothes off," said the swindlers, "we will help you on
with your new ones here in front of the long mirror."
The Emperor undressed, and the swindlers
pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another.
They took him around the waist and seemed to be fastening something
- that was his train-as the Emperor turned round and round before
the looking glass.
"How well Your Majesty's new clothes look.
Aren't they becoming!" He heard on all sides, "That pattern, so
perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit."
Then the minister of public processions
announced: "Your Majesty's canopy is waiting outside."
"Well, I'm supposed to be ready," the Emperor
said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. "It is a
remarkable fit, isn't it?" He seemed to regard his costume with the
The noblemen who were to carry his train
stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his
mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. They didn't
dare admit they had nothing to hold.
So off went the Emperor in procession under
his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, "Oh,
how fine are the Emperor's new clothes! Don't they fit him to
perfection? And see his long train!" Nobody would confess that he
couldn't see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his
position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever
such a complete success.
"But he hasn't got anything on," a little
"Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?"
said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child
had said, "He hasn't anything on. A child says he hasn't anything
"But he hasn't got anything on!" the whole
town cried out at last.
The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they
were right. But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So
he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the
train that wasn't there at all.