The Emperor’s New Clothes

What the Emperor’s Friends Thought of the Weaving

The rogues now began to demand more money, more silk, and more gold thread in order to proceed with the weaving. All of this, of course, went into their pockets. Not a single strand was ever put on the empty looms at which they went on working.

The Emperor soon sent another faithful friend to see how soon the new clothes would be ready. But he fared no better than the Minister. He looked and looked and looked, but still saw nothing but the empty looms.

“Isn’t that a pretty piece of stuff?” asked both rogues, showing and explaining the handsome pattern which was not there at all.

“I am not stupid!” thought the man. “It must be that I am not worthy of my good position. That is, indeed, strange. But I must not let it be known!”

So he praised the cloth he did not see, and expressed his approval of the color and the design that were not there. To the Emperor he said, “It is charming!”

Soon everybody in town was talking about the wonderful cloth that the two rogues were weaving.

What the Emperor Thought of his New Clothes

The Emperor began to think now that he himself would like to see the wonderful cloth while it was still on the looms. Accompanied by a number of his friends, among whom were the two faithful officers who had already beheld the imaginary stuff, he went to visit the two men who were weaving, might and main, without any fiber and without any thread.

“Isn’t it splendid!” cried the two states-men who had already been there, and who thought the others would see something upon the empty looms. “Look, your Majesty! What colors! And what a design!”

“What’s this?” thought the Emperor. “I see nothing at all! Am I a dunce? Am I not fit to be Emperor? That would be the worst thing that could happen to me, if it were true.”

“Oh, it is very pretty!” said the Emperor aloud. “It has my highest approval!”

He nodded his head happily, and stared at the empty looms. Never would he say that he could see nothing!

His friends, too, gazed and gazed, but saw no more than had the others. Yet they all cried out, “It is beautiful!” and advised the Emperor to wear a suit made of this cloth in a great procession that was soon to take place.

“It is magnificent, gorgeous!” was the cry that went from mouth to mouth. The Emperor gave each of the rogues a royal ribbon to wear in his buttonhole, and called them the Imperial Court Weavers.

The Emperor Puts on his New Clothes

The rogues were up the whole night before the morning of the procession. They kept more than sixteen candles burning. The people could see them hard at work, completing the new clothes of the Emperor. They took yards of stuff down from the empty looms; they made cuts in the air with big scissors; they sewed with needles without thread; and, at last, they said, “The clothes are ready!”

The Emperor himself, with his grandest courtiers, went to put on his new suit.

“See!” said the rogues, lifting their arms as if holding something. “Here are the trousers! Here is the coat! Here is the cape!” and so on. “It is as light as a spider’s web. One might think one had nothing on. But that is just the beauty of it!”

“Very nice,” said the courtiers. But they could see nothing; for there was nothing!

“Will your Imperial Majesty be graciously pleased to take off your clothes,” asked the rogues, “so that we may put on the new ones before this long mirror?”

The Emperor took off all his own clothes, and the two rogues pretended to put on each new garment as it was ready. They wrapped him about, and they tied and they buttoned. The Emperor turned round and round before the mirror.

“How well his Majesty looks in his new clothes!” said the people. “How becoming they are! What a pattern! What colors! It is a beautiful dress!”

“They are waiting outside with the canopy which is to be carried over your Majesty in the procession,” said the master of ceremonies.

“I am ready,” said the Emperor. “Don’t the clothes fit well?” he asked, giving a last glance into the mirror as though he were looking at all his new finery.

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

Classics Fairy tales


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