The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Stratton)/The Emperor's New Clothes

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The Emperor's New Clothes

ANY years ago there lived an emperor, who was so fond of having new clothes that he spent all his money upon dress and finery. He did not trouble himself about his army, nor had he any taste for theatrical amusements, nor did he care even to drive out, except it was to show his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour in the day; and just as in other countries they say of a king, "His majesty is in his council-chamber," they said of him, "The emperor is in his dressing-room."

The large city which he inhabited was very gay, and was daily visited by numerous foreigners. One day, there came, amongst the rest, a couple of impostors, who gave themselves out as weavers, and pretended that they could weave the most beautiful stuff imaginable. Not only were the colours and the pattern of remarkable beauty, but the clothes made of this material possessed the wonderful quality of being invisible to the eyes of such persons as were either not fit for the office they held, or were irremediably stupid.

"Those would, indeed, be valuable clothes," thought the emperor; "for when I put them on I should be able to find out which men in my empire are unfit for their offices, and I should be able to distinguish the wise from the stupid ones. I must have some of this stuff woven for me directly." And he gave the two impostors a handsome sum as earnest-money to begin their work with.

They then put up two looms, and did as if they were at work, though there was nothing


whatever upon the looms. They next asked for the finest silk that could be had, and the most splendid gold thread; all of which they put into their pockets, and continued working at the empty looms till late at night.

"I should like to know how they are getting on with the stuff," thought the emperor. Yet he felt some misgivings when he recollected that stupid persons, or such as were unfit for their office, could not see the material; and though he trusted that he had nothing to fear personally, still he preferred sending some one else to see how the matter stood. All the inhabitants of the town had heard of the singular properties of the stuff, and everybody was curious to see how unfit or how stupid his neighbour might be.

"I will send my worthy old minister to the weavers," thought the emperor; "he is best capable of judging of this stuff, for he has a great deal of good sense, and nobody is more fit for his office than he."

The good old minister accordingly went into the room where the two impostors sat working at the empty looms. "Mercy on us!" thought the old minister, staring with all his might; "I can see nothing at all." But he took care not to say so.


The two impostors requested him to step nearer, and asked if he did not think the pattern very pretty and the colours extremely beautiful. They then pointed to the empty loom, while the poor old minister kept staring as hard as he could, but without being able to see what in fact, was not there to be seen. "Have mercy on us!" thought he; "can I be so stupid, after all? I never thought myself so, and I must not let any one know it. Can I be unfit for my office? No! it will never do for me to own that I could not see the stuff." "You have not told us what you think of our stuff," said one of the weavers.

"Oh! it is most elegant—most lovely!" answered the minister, looking through his spectacles; " both the pattern and the colours. I shall be sure to tell the emperor how pleased I am with the stuff."

"We are delighted to hear you say so," observed the weavers; and hereupon they mentioned the names of the colours, and explained the peculiarities of the pattern. The old minister listened very attentively, in order to be able to repeat what they said to the emperor, which he accordingly did.

The two impostors now asked for more money, more silk, and more gold, to go on with their work. They put it all into their pockets, as before, and not a thread was fastened to either shuttle, though they continued pretending to work at the empty looms.

The emperor soon sent another honourable statesman to see how the weaving was getting on, and whether the stuff would soon be ready. The same thing happened to him as had befallen the minister. He looked and looked, and as there was nothing but an empty loom, he could not contrive to see anything.


"Is not this a beautiful stuff?" asked the two impostors, pretending to show and expatiate on the beautiful pattern which was not there.

"I am not stupid," thought the statesman; "it would therefore seem I were unfit for my office. That would be comical, indeed; only I must not let anybody perceive it." So he praised the tissue which he did not see, and assured them that he admired its beautiful colours and remarkable pattern. "It is really exquisite," reported he to the emperor.

Everybody in the town spoke of the splendid stuff that was being woven.

The emperor had now a mind to see it himself, while it was still on the loom. So he went into the room where the two cunning impostors were working away at a great rate, without either woof or warp, followed by a retinue of picked men, amongst whom were the two worthy statesmen who had been there already.

"Is it not magnificent? " said the two latter. "Will your majesty be pleased just to examine the pattern and the colours?" And they pointed to the empty loom, concluding that those present would be able to see the tissue.

"Why, how's this?" thought the emperor. "I see nothing whatever. This is quite alarming. Can I be stupid? Am I not fit to be emperor? That would be the most shocking thing that could happen to me. Oh! its very pretty!" cried he; "it has our most gracious approval." And he nodded condescendingly as he gazed at the empty loom, for he would not own that he saw nothing.

His whole retinue looked and looked in turn, but could not make anything more out of it than the others had done; still they repeated after the emperor, "Oh! it's very pretty!" And they advised him to wear these beautiful new clothes on the occasion of a grand procession that was about to take place.

The words "elegant!" "splendid!" "magnificent!" were bandied about from mouth to mouth. Everybody seemed vastly delighted, and the emperor conferred on the two impostors the title of "weavers to the imperial court."

The two impostors sat up the whole of the night preceding the day on which the procession was to take place, and had lit up more than sixteen tapers. People could see them busy at work, finishing the emperor's new clothes. They imitated the action of taking the stuff off the loom; then they cut it out in the air with large scissors, and proceeded to sew the garments without either needles or thread, till at length they said: "The clothes are now ready."

The emperor then came in, accompanied by the principal lords of his court, when the two impostors each raised an arm as if they were holding something up, saying: "Here are the trunk-hose; here is the vest; here is the mantle"; and so forth. "The tissue is as light as a cobweb, and one might fancy one had nothing on; but that is just its greatest beauty."

"So it is," said the courtiers; though they could see nothing, as nothing was there to be seen.

"Will your imperial majesty be graciously pleased to take off your clothes?" said the impostors; " and we will dress you in the new ones before this large glass."


The emperor accordingly took off all his clothes, and the impostors made believe to put on each

of the new garments they had just finished; while his majesty turned and twisted himself round before the looking-glass.


"How capitally the clothes fit!" said all present. "What a beautiful pattern, and what vivid colours! What a costly attire!"

"They are waiting outside with the canopy that is to be carried over your majesty's head in the procession," said the master of the ceremonies, now coming in.

"I am quite ready, as you may perceive," answered the emperor. "My dress fits nicely—does it not?" added he, turning once more to the glass, to make it appear as if he were examining its beauties most minutely. The lords of the bedchamber, who were to bear the train, pretended to pick it up from the floor with both hands, and then did as if they were holding something in the air; for they did not venture to show that they saw nothing.

The emperor then went forth, in grand procession, under the splendid canopy, while the people in the street, and others at their windows, all exclaimed: "Dear me! how incomparably beautiful are the emperor's new clothes! What a fine train he has, and how well it is cut!" No one, in short, would let his neighbour think that he saw nothing, for it would have been like declaring himself unfit for his office, whatever that might be, or, at best, extremely stupid. None of the emperor's clothes had ever met with such universal approbation as these.

"But he has got nothing on!" cried at length one little child.

"Only listen to that innocent creature," said the father; and the child's remark was whispered from one to the other as a piece of laughable simplicity.

"But he has got nothing on!" cried at length the whole crowd.

This startled the emperor, for he had an inkling that they were in the right, after all; but he thought: "I must, nevertheless, face it out till the end, and go on with the procession."

And the lords-in-waiting went on marching as stiffly as ever, and carrying the train that did not exist.

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