The Emperors New Clothes

by Hans Christian Andersen

The story The Emperors New Clothes was quite funny in my opinion, when I was a child. I never thought grown up people could be so silly as to believe in something that was not there...

Many years ago, there was an Emperor, who was so excessively fond of new clothes, that he spent all his money in dress. He did not trouble himself in the least about his soldiers; nor did he care to go either to the theatre or the chase, except for the opportunities then afforded him for displaying his new clothes. He had a different suit for each hour of the day; and as of any other king or emperor, one is accustomed to say, "he is sitting in council," it was always said of him, "The Emperor is sitting in his wardrobe."

emperors new clothes - crown

Time passed merrily in the large town which was his capital; strangers arrived every day at the court. One day, two rogues, calling themselves weavers, made their appearance. They gave out that they knew how to weave stuffs of the most beautiful colors and elaborate patterns, the clothes manufactured from which should have the wonderful property of remaining invisible to everyone who was unfit for the office he held, or who was extraordinarily simple in character.

"These must, indeed, be splendid clothes!" thought the Emperor. "Had I such a suit, I might at once find out what men in my realms are unfit for their office, and also be able to distinguish the wise from the foolish! This stuff must be woven for me immediately." And he caused large sums of money to be given to both the weavers in order that they might begin their work directly.

So the two pretended weavers set up two looms, and affected to work very busily, though in reality they did nothing at all. They asked for the most delicate silk and the purest gold thread; put both into their own knapsacks; and then continued their pretended work at the empty looms until late at night.

"I should like to know how the weavers are getting on with my cloth," said the Emperor to himself, after some little time had elapsed; he was, however, rather embarrassed, when he remembered that a simpleton, or one unfit for his office, would be unable to see the manufacture. To be sure, he thought he had nothing to risk in his own person; but yet, he would prefer sending somebody else, to bring him intelligence about the weavers, and their work, before he troubled himself in the affair. All the people throughout the city had heard of the wonderful property the cloth was to possess; and all were anxious to learn how wise, or how ignorant, their neighbors might prove to be.

"I will send my faithful old minister to the weavers," said the Emperor at last, after some deliberation, "he will be best able to see how the cloth looks; for he is a man of sense, and no one can be more suitable for his office than he is."

So the faithful old minister went into the hall, where the knaves were working with all their might, at their empty looms. "What can be the meaning of this?" thought the old man, opening his eyes very wide. "I cannot discover the least bit of thread on the looms." However, he did not express his thoughts aloud.

The impostors requested him very courteously to be so good as to come nearer their looms; and then asked him whether the design pleased him, and whether the colors were not very beautiful; at the same time pointing to the empty frames. The poor old minister looked and looked, he could not discover anything on the looms, for a very good reason, viz: there was nothing there. "What!" thought he again. "Is it possible that I am a simpleton? I have never thought so myself; and no one must know it now if I am so. Can it be, that I am unfit for my office? No, that must not be said either. I will never confess that I could not see the stuff."

"Well, Sir Minister!" said one of the knaves, still pretending to work. "You do not say whether the stuff pleases you." "Oh, it is excellent!" replied the old minister, looking at the loom through his spectacles. "This pattern, and the colors, yes, I will tell the Emperor without delay, how very beautiful I think them."

"We shall be much obliged to you," said the impostors, and then they named the different colors and described the pattern of the pretended stuff. The old minister listened attentively to their words, in order that he might repeat them to the Emperor; and then the knaves asked for more silk and gold, saying that it was necessary to complete what they had begun. However, they put all that was given them into their knapsacks; and continued to work with as much apparent diligence as before at their empty looms.

The Emperor now sent another officer of his court to see how the men were getting on, and to ascertain whether the cloth would soon be ready. It was just the same with this gentleman as with the minister; he surveyed the looms on all sides, but could see nothing at all but the empty frames.

"Does not the stuff appear as beautiful to you, as it did to my lord the minister?" asked the impostors of the Emperor's second ambassador; at the same time making the same gestures as before, and talking of the design and colors which were not there.

"I certainly am not stupid!" thought the messenger. "It must be, that I am not fit for my good, profitable office! That is very odd; however, no one shall know anything about it." And accordingly he praised the stuff he could not see, and declared that he was delighted with both colors and patterns. "Indeed, please your Imperial Majesty," said he to his sovereign when he returned, "the cloth which the weavers are preparing is extraordinarily magnificent."

The whole city was talking of the splendid cloth which the Emperor had ordered to be woven at his own expense.

And now the Emperor himself wished to see the costly manufacture, while it was still in the loom. Accompanied by a select number of officers of the court, among whom were the two honest men who had already admired the cloth, he went to the crafty impostors, who, as soon as they were aware of the Emperor's approach, went on working more diligently than ever; although they still did not pass a single thread through the looms.

"Is not the work absolutely magnificent?" said the two officers of the crown, already mentioned. "If your Majesty will only be pleased to look at it! What a splendid design! What glorious colors!" and at the same time they pointed to the empty frames; for they imagined that everyone else could see this exquisite piece of workmanship.

"How is this?" said the Emperor to himself. "I can see nothing! This is indeed a terrible affair! Am I a simpleton, or am I unfit to be an Emperor? That would be the worst thing that could happen—Oh! the cloth is charming," said he, aloud. "It has my complete approbation." And he smiled most graciously, and looked closely at the empty looms; for on no account would he say that he could not see what two of the officers of his court had praised so much. All his retinue now strained their eyes, hoping to discover something on the looms, but they could see no more than the others; nevertheless, they all exclaimed, "Oh, how beautiful!" and advised his majesty to have some new clothes made from this splendid material, for the approaching procession. "Magnificent! Charming! Excellent!" resounded on all sides; and everyone was uncommonly gay. The Emperor shared in the general satisfaction; and presented the impostors with the riband of an order of knighthood, to be worn in their button-holes, and the title of "Gentlemen Weavers."

The rogues sat up the whole of the night before the day on which the procession was to take place, and had sixteen lights burning, so that everyone might see how anxious they were to finish the Emperor's new suit. They pretended to roll the cloth off the looms; cut the air with their scissors; and sewed with needles without any thread in them. "See!" cried they, at last. "The Emperor's new clothes are ready!"

And now the Emperor, with all the grandees of his court, came to the weavers; and the rogues raised their arms, as if in the act of holding something up, saying, "Here are your Majesty's trousers! Here is the scarf! Here is the mantle! The whole suit is as light as a cobweb; one might fancy one has nothing at all on, when dressed in it; that, however, is the great virtue of this delicate cloth."

"Yes indeed!" said all the courtiers, although not one of them could see anything of this exquisite manufacture.

"If your Imperial Majesty will be graciously pleased to take off your clothes, we will fit on the new suit, in front of the looking glass."

The Emperor was accordingly undressed, and the rogues pretended to array him in his new suit; the Emperor turning round, from side to side, before the looking glass.

"How splendid his Majesty looks in his new clothes, and how well they fit!" everyone cried out. "What a design! What colors! These are indeed royal robes!"

"The canopy which is to be borne over your Majesty, in the procession, is waiting," announced the chief master of the ceremonies.

"I am quite ready," answered the Emperor. "Do my new clothes fit well?" asked he, turning himself round again before the looking glass, in order that he might appear to be examining his handsome suit.

The lords of the bedchamber, who were to carry his Majesty's train felt about on the ground, as if they were lifting up the ends of the mantle; and pretended to be carrying something; for they would by no means betray anything like simplicity, or unfitness for their office.

So now the Emperor walked under his high canopy in the midst of the procession, through the streets of his capital; and all the people standing by, and those at the windows, cried out, "Oh! How beautiful are our Emperor's new clothes! What a magnificent train there is to the mantle; and how gracefully the scarf hangs!" in short, no one would allow that he could not see these much-admired clothes; because, in doing so, he would have declared himself either a simpleton or unfit for his office. Certainly, none of the Emperor's various suits, had ever made so great an impression, as these invisible ones.

"But the Emperor has nothing at all on!" said a little child.

"Listen to the voice of innocence!" exclaimed his father; and what the child had said was whispered from one to another.

"But he has nothing at all on!" at last cried out all the people. The Emperor was vexed, for he knew that the people were right; but he thought the procession must go on now! And the lords of the bedchamber took greater pains than ever, to appear holding up a train, although, in reality, there was no train to hold.

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The Emperors New Clothes story was taken from the Project Gutenberg library.

The Emperors New Clothes is actually quite a modern story, if you really think of it.

The Emperors New Clothes also tells what can happen if you are too obsessed with good looks.

The Emperors New Clothes tells what may happen if you are too afraid of what others think of you and don't have the courage to doubt things aloud.

The Emperors New Clothes warns against falling for flattery. You should learn that you don't need flattery from others - if you develop a strong enough self esteem, you are no longer addicted to the acceptance of others.

The Emperors New Clothes warns against believing everything other people tell you.

The Emperors New Clothes teaches us to be like children - without prejudice and pre-conceived ideas we see what is really there and what isn't. From the mouth of babes, as the saying goes.

The Emperors New Clothes has been filmed, published in books, researched... The Emperors New Clothes keeps on living on stage too. Some have seen The Emperors New Clothes as a political story. To others The Emperors New Clothes is a pure children's story. Some seach deeper philosophy and life lessons in The Emperors New Clothes.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about The Emperors New Clothes:

The Emperors New Clothes (Kejserens nye Klæder) is a fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen about an emperor who unwittingly hires two swindlers to create a new suit of clothes for him. The tale was first published in 1837 as part of Eventyr, fortalte for Børn (Fairy Tales, Told for Children).

The tale is one of Andersen's most popular. It appears often in selected collections of his work and is frequently published in illustrated storybook editions for children. The tale has seen adaptations in animated film, and television drama.

Plot summary

An emperor of a prosperous city who cares more about clothes than military pursuits or entertainment hires two swindlers who promise him the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth. This cloth, they tell him, is invisible to anyone who was either stupid or unfit for his position. The Emperor cannot see the (non-existent) cloth, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing stupid; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they dress him in mime. The Emperor then goes on a procession through the capital showing off his new "clothes". During the course of the procession, a small child cries out, "the emperor has no clothes!" The crowd realizes the child is telling the truth. The Emperor, however, holds his head high and continues the procession


The story has been parodied numerous times, including one story in the animated television series Alftales where Alf plays a frustrated tailor of comfortable casual clothes who pulls the trick on the uninterested emperor who refused his usual goods. At the end, when the emperor's pretension is exposed by a girl who makes some sarcastic comments about his state of undress, Alf's character supplies the ruler some of his usual wares which the emperor finds agreeable. However, the story ends with the emperor making the best of his humiliation by indulging in his one opportunity to go streaking, and then announces to his subjects that he is giving away all his unwanted clothes to charity.

The Emperors New Clothes is the title of a fanciful 2001 film starring Ian Holm as Napoleon, and a 1996 play by playwright Eric Coble.

The 1990 song The Emperors New Clothes by recording artist Sinéad O'Connor has the same general message as the original fairytale. The song ends with the lines, "through their own words / they will be exposed / they've got a severe case of / the emperor's new clothes."

Sid Caesar starred as the Emperor in the 1988 version of The Emperors New Clothes, from MGM Studios. Robert Morse played the tailor, with Jason Carter as the tailor's nephew, Clive Revill as the Prime Minister, and Lysette Anthony as Gilda, the princess. The tailor and his nephew are hired by the Emperor to make "something different" for the upcoming wedding of Gilda and Prince Nino, a very silly prince from a neighboring country. While the tailor is scheming to steal the jewels that is supposed to be used to make the clothes, the nephew is busy falling in love with Gilda.

In the 1952 film musical Hans Christian Andersen based on the life of the Danish poet and story-teller Hans Christian Andersen, starring Danny Kaye, the story of The Emperors New Clothes is told in The King's New Clothes as one of the film's eight songs.

In addition, Danny Kaye would also interpret the story in a 1972 animated half-hour special from Rankin-Bass productions entitled, The Enchanted World of Danny Kaye: The Emperors New Clothes.

In 1953 (later adapted in 1972), Hungarian composer György Ránki made a kid opera named 'King Pomádé’s New Clothes'.

Roald Dahl wrote a short story in line with Revolting Rhymes, in which he tells the story of an emperor who was so cruel his tailors plot against him. They fool him in believing they have a cloth which keeps the wearer incredibly warm, but is invisible to fools. He then goes skiing without any clothes on, freezing to death.

An animated interpretation was one of the Timeless Tales series on videocassette in 1990, and another, featuring the voice of Regis Philbin as the emperor, was an episode of Long Ago and Far Away on PBS in 1991.

A happier ending is found in Seriously Silly Stories by Laurence Anholt and Arthur Robins. The Emperor's Underwear is a reversal of the usual tale, the tailors providing real underwear that everyone pretends not to see.

In The Romans, a 1965 episode of Doctor Who, the Doctor convinces Emperor Nero that he can play the lyre by announcing before his performance that "the music is so soft, so delicate, that only those with keen, perceptive hearing will be able to distinguish this melodious charm of music". He then pretends to play, making no actual sound, and at the end of his performance he receives cheers and applause from the other guests at the banquet. He later boasts to one of his companions that he gave the idea to Hans Christian Andersen.

The tale itself was adapted as an episode of the 2008 series Fairy Tales.

An episode in the fourth series of the British TV show Hustle, A Designer's Paradise, bases a confidence trick around the story of The Emperors New Clothes.

The Emperors New Mind by Roger Penrose is a book about physics and complexity theory. Penrose concludes that computers, although they appear to think, cannot think as we experience it. He attempts to prove this hypothesis by examining all physics as we know it in a small amount of detail.

The novel Naked Empire by Terry Goodkind makes an allusion to the tale with its title and the book deals with similar themes.

Another book that alludes to the tale is "The Empire's Old Clothes: What the Lone Ranger, Babar, and Other Innocent Heroes Do to Our Minds," by Ariel Dorfman, the Chilean novelist, playwright, essayist, academic, and human rights activist.

The Chinese novelist Ye Shengtao continued the story which Andersen had left off; it is also titled, The Emperors New Clothes.

The PBS series Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat also aired an adaptation of this classic tale, with the Foolish Magistrate replacing the emperor.

A Disney Wonderful World of Reading book featured a version of the story, with Prince John from Robin Hood as the emperor and "Honest John" Foulfellow and Gideon from Pinocchio as the tailors. The three are portrayed as the only animals in a kingdom of humans.

Colloquial use as metaphor

The story has given rise to its common reference as a metaphor in numerous situations. Most commonly, the statement "the emperor has no clothes" is used to refer to a situation in which (at least in the opinion of those using the phrase) the majority of people are unwilling to state an obvious truth, out of fear of appearing stupid, unenlightened, sacrilegious, or unpatriotic, or perhaps out of "political correctness". In such cases it is often implied that the motive and rationale for not seeing the obvious truth has become so ingrained that the majority do not even realize that they are perpetuating a falsehood

Recent scholarship

Maria Tatar published The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen (Norton 2007), which offers a sustained scholarly treatment of the story. ISBN 0393060810

Hollis Robbins claims that The Emperors New Clothes is engaging with the emergence of constitutional monarchies in the early nineteenth century, asking whether the public really wanted transparent government. Emperor's New Critique

You can check The Emperors New Clothes on Wikipedia here as the text may change with time.

So wouldn't you say the Emperors New Clothes is still very much alive?

Imagine how a story that was written in the 19th Century still wins new friends. There has to be something very profound about The Emperors New Clothes!

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