The Emperor's New Clothes
by Hans Christian Andersen
Many years ago there was an Emperor, who was so excessively fond of new
clothes that he spent all his money on them. He cared nothing about his
soldiers, nor for the theatre, nor for driving in the woods except for
the sake of showing off his new clothes. He had a costume for every hour
in the day, and instead of saying, as one does about any other king or
emperor, 'He is in his council chamber,' here one always said, 'The
Emperor is in his dressing-room.'
Life was very gay in the great town where he lived; hosts of strangers
came to visit it every day, and among them one day two swindlers. They
gave themselves out as weavers, and said that they knew how to weave the
most beautiful stuffs imaginable. Not only were the colours and patterns
unusually fine, but the clothes that were made of the stuffs had the
peculiar quality of becoming invisible to every person who was not fit
for the office he held, or if he was impossibly dull.
'Those must be splendid clothes,' thought the Emperor. 'By wearing them
I should be able to discover which men in my kingdom are unfitted for
their posts. I shall distinguish the wise men from the fools. Yes, I
certainly must order some of that stuff to be woven for me.'
He paid the two swindlers a lot of money in advance so that they might
begin their work at once.
They did put up two looms and pretended to weave, but they had nothing
whatever upon their shuttles. At the outset they asked for a quantity of
the finest silk and the purest gold thread, all of which they put into
their own bags, while they worked away at the empty looms far into the
'I should like to know how those weavers are getting on with the stuff,'
thought the Emperor; but he felt a little queer when he reflected that
any one who was stupid or unfit for his post would not be able to see
it. He certainly thought that he need have no fears for himself, but
still he thought he would send somebody else first to see how it was
getting on. Everybody in the town knew what wonderful power the stuff
possessed, and every one was anxious to see how stupid his neighbour
'I will send my faithful old minister to the weavers,' thought the
Emperor. 'He will be best able to see how the stuff looks, for he is a
clever man, and no one fulfils his duties better than he does!'
So the good old minister went into the room where the two swindlers sat
working at the empty loom.
'Heaven preserve us!' thought the old minister, opening his eyes very
wide. 'Why, I can't see a thing!' But he took care not to say so.
Both the swindlers begged him to be good enough to step a little nearer,
and asked if he did not think it a good pattern and beautiful colouring.
They pointed to the empty loom, and the poor old minister stared as hard
as he could, but he could not see anything, for of course there was
nothing to see.
'Good heavens!' thought he, 'is it possible that I am a fool. I have
never thought so, and nobody must know it. Am I not fit for my post? It
will never do to say that I cannot see the stuffs.'
'Well, sir, you don't say anything about the stuff,' said the one who
was pretending to weave.
'Oh, it is beautiful! quite charming!' said the old minister, looking
through his spectacles; 'this pattern and these colours! I will
certainly tell the Emperor that the stuff pleases me very much.'
'We are delighted to hear you say so,' said the swindlers, and then they
named all the colours and described the peculiar pattern. The old
minister paid great attention to what they said, so as to be able to
repeat it when he got home to the Emperor.
They pointed to the empty loom, and the poor old minister stared as
hard as he could, but he could not see anything, for of course there was
nothing to see.|
Then the swindlers went on to demand more money, more
more gold, to be able to proceed with the weaving; but they put it all
into their own pockets—not a single strand was ever put into the loom,
but they went on as before weaving at the empty loom.
The Emperor soon sent another faithful official to see how the stuff was
getting on, and if it would soon be ready. The same thing happened to
him as to the minister; he looked and looked, but as there was only the
empty loom, he could see nothing at all.
'Is not this a beautiful piece of stuff?' said both the swindlers,
showing and explaining the beautiful pattern and colours which were not
there to be seen.
'I know I am not a fool!' thought the man, 'so it must be that I am
unfit for my good post! It is very strange, though! However, one must
not let it appear!' So he praised the stuff he did not see, and assured
them of his delight in the beautiful colours and the originality of the
design. 'It is absolutely charming!' he said to the Emperor. Everybody
in the town was talking about this splendid stuff.
Now the Emperor thought he would like to see it while it was still on
the loom. So, accompanied by a number of selected courtiers, among whom
were the two faithful officials who had already seen the imaginary
stuff, he went to visit the crafty impostors, who were working away as
hard as ever they could at the empty loom.
'It is magnificent!' said both the honest officials. 'Only see, your
Majesty, what a design! What colours!' And they pointed to the empty
loom, for they thought no doubt the others could see the stuff.
'What!' thought the Emperor; 'I see nothing at all! This is terrible! Am
I a fool? Am I not fit to be Emperor? Why, nothing worse could happen to
'Oh, it is beautiful!' said the Emperor. 'It has my highest approval!'
and he nodded his satisfaction as he gazed at the empty loom. Nothing
would induce him to say that he could not see anything.
The whole suite gazed and gazed, but saw nothing more than all the
others. However, they all exclaimed with his Majesty, 'It is very
beautiful!' and they advised him to wear a suit made of this wonderful
cloth on the occasion of a great procession which was just about to take
place. 'It is magnificent! gorgeous! excellent!' went from mouth to
mouth; they were all equally delighted with it. The Emperor gave each of
the rogues an order of knighthood to be worn in their buttonholes and
the title of 'Gentlemen weavers.'
Then the emperor walked along in the procession under the gorgeous
canopy, and everybody in the streets and at the windows exclaimed, 'How
beautiful the Emperor's new clothes are!'|
The swindlers sat up the whole night, before the day on which the
procession was to take place, burning sixteen candles; so that people
might see how anxious they were to get the Emperor's new clothes ready.
They pretended to take the stuff off the loom. They cut it out in the
air with a huge pair of scissors, and they
stitched away with
needles without any thread in them. At last they said: 'Now the
Emperor's new clothes are ready!'
The Emperor, with his grandest courtiers, went to them himself, and both
the swindlers raised one arm in the air, as if they were holding
something, and said: 'See, these are the trousers, this is the coat,
here is the mantle!' and so on. 'It is as light as a spider's web. One
might think one had nothing on, but that is the very beauty of it!'
'Yes!' said all the courtiers, but they could not see anything, for
there was nothing to see.
'Will your imperial majesty be graciously pleased to take off your
clothes,' said, the impostors, 'so that we may put on the new ones,
along here before the great mirror?'
The Emperor took off all his clothes, and the impostors pretended to
give him one article of dress after the other of the new ones which they
had pretended to make. They pretended to fasten something round his
waist and to tie on something; this was the train, and the Emperor
turned round and round in front of the mirror.
'How well his majesty looks in the new clothes! How becoming they are!'
cried all the people round. 'What a design, and what colours! They are
most gorgeous robes!'
'The canopy is waiting outside which is to be carried over your majesty
in the procession,' said the master of the ceremonies.
'Well, I am quite ready,' said the Emperor. 'Don't the clothes fit
well?' and then he turned round again in front of the mirror, so that he
should seem to be looking at his grand things.
The chamberlains who were to carry the train stooped and pretended to
lift it from the ground with both hands, and they walked along with
their hands in the air. They dared not let it appear that they could not
Then the Emperor walked along in the procession under the gorgeous
canopy, and everybody in the streets and at the windows exclaimed, 'How
beautiful the Emperor's new clothes are! What a splendid train! And they
fit to perfection!' Nobody would let it appear that he could see
nothing, for then he would not be fit for his post, or else he was a
None of the Emperor's clothes had been so successful before.
'But he has got nothing on,' said a little child.
'Oh, listen to the innocent,' said its father; and one person whispered
to the other what the child had said. 'He has nothing on; a child says
he has nothing on!'
'But he has nothing on!' at last cried all the people.
The Emperor writhed, for he knew it was true, but he thought 'the
procession must go on now,' so held himself stiffer than ever, and the
chamberlains held up the invisible train.