The Emperor’s New Clothes

By Hans Christian Andersen

Illustrated by William Penhallow Henderson

The weavers showing their work to the Emperor
The City is Visited by Two Strangers

Many years ago there lived an Emperor who thought so much of new clothes that he spent all his money on them. He did not care for his soldiers; he did not care to go to the theater. He liked to drive out in the park only that he might show off his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day. They usually say of a king, “He is in the council chamber.” But of the Emperor they said, “He is in the clothes closet!”

It was a gay city in which the Emperor lived. And many strangers came to visit it every day. Among these, one day, there came two rogues who set themselves up as weavers. They said they knew how to weave the most beautiful cloths imaginable. And not only were the colors and patterns used remarkably beautiful, but clothes made from this cloth could not be seen by any one who was unfit for the office he held or was too stupid for any use.

“Those would be fine clothes!” thought the Emperor. “If I wore those I could find out what men in my empire were not fit for the places they held. I could tell the clever men from the dunces! I must have some clothes woven for me at once!”

So he gave the two rogues a great deal of money that they might begin their work at once.

The Work of the Weavers

The rogues immediately put up two looms and pretended to be working. But there was nothing at all on their looms. They called for the finest silks and the brightest gold, but this they put into their pockets. At the empty looms they worked steadily until late into the night.

“I should like to know how the weavers are getting on with my clothes,” thought the Emperor.

But he felt a little uneasy when he thought that any one who was stupid or was not fit for his office would be unable to see the cloth. Of course he had no fears for himself; but still he thought he would send some one else first, just to see how matters stood.

“I will send my faithful old Minister to the weavers,” thought the Emperor. “He can see how the stuff looks, for he is a clever man, and no one is so careful in fulfilling duties as he is!”

So the good old Minister went into the room where the two rogues sat working at the empty looms.

“Mercy on us!” thought the old Minister, opening his eyes wide, “I can’t see a thing!” But he didn’t care to say so.

Both the rascals begged him to be good enough to step a little nearer. They pointed to the empty looms and asked him if he did not think the pattern and the coloring wonderful.

The poor old Minister stared and stared as hard as he could, but he could not see anything, for, of course, there was nothing to see!

“Mercy!” he said to himself. “Is it possible that I am a dunce? I never thought so! Certainly no one must know it. Am I unfit for office? It will never do to say that I cannot see the stuff!”

“Well, sir, why do you say nothing of it?” asked the rogue who was pretending to weave.

“Oh, it is beautiful—charming!” said the old Minister, peering through his spectacles. “What a fine pattern, and what wonderful colors! I shall tell the Emperor that I am very much pleased with it.”

“Well, we are glad to hear you say so,” answered the two swindlers.

Then they named all the colors of the invisible cloth upon the looms, and described the peculiar pattern. The old Minister listened intently, so that he could repeat all that was said of it to the Emperor.

From Andersen's Best Fairy Tales by Alice Corbin Henderson.
Chicago, New York: Rand, McNally & Company, 1911.

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