Emperor's New Clothes
By Hans Christian Andersen
Many, many years ago lived an emperor, who
thought so much of new clothes that he spent
all his money in order to obtain them; his
only ambition was to be always well dressed.
He did not care for his soldiers, and the
theatre did not amuse him; the only thing,
in fact, he thought anything of was to drive
out and show a new suit of clothes. He had a
coat for every hour of the day; and as one
would say of a king "He is in his cabinet,"
so one could say of him, "The emperor is in
The great city where he resided was very gay;
every day many strangers from all parts of
the globe arrived. One day two swindlers
came to this city; they made people believe
that they were weavers, and declared they
could manufacture the finest cloth to be
imagined. Their colours and patterns, they
said, were not only exceptionally beautiful,
but the clothes made of their material
possessed the wonderful quality of being
invisible to any man who was unfit for his
office or unpardonably stupid.
"That must be wonderful cloth," thought the
emperor. "If I were to be dressed in a suit
made of this cloth I should be able to find
out which men in my empire were unfit for
their places, and I could distinguish the
clever from the stupid. I must have this
cloth woven for me without delay." And he
gave a large sum of money to the swindlers,
in advance, that they should set to work
without any loss of time. They set up two
looms, and pretended to be very hard at work,
but they did nothing whatever on the looms.
They asked for the finest silk and the most
precious gold-cloth; all they got they did
away with, and worked at the empty looms
till late at night.
"I should very much like to know how they
are getting on with the cloth," thought the
emperor. But he felt rather uneasy when he
remembered that he who was not fit for his
office could not see it. Personally, he was
of opinion that he had nothing to fear, yet
he thought it advisable to send somebody
else first to see how matters stood.
Everybody in the town knew what a remarkable
quality the stuff possessed, and all were
anxious to see how bad or stupid their
"I shall send my honest old minister to the
weavers," thought the emperor. "He can judge
best how the stuff looks, for he is
intelligent, and nobody understands his
office better than he."
The good old minister went into the room
where the swindlers sat before the empty
looms. "Heaven preserve us!" he thought, and
opened his eyes wide, "I cannot see anything
at all," but he did not say so. Both
swindlers requested him to come near, and
asked him if he did not admire the exquisite
pattern and the beautiful colours, pointing
to the empty looms. The poor old minister
tried his very best, but he could see
nothing, for there was nothing to be seen.
"Oh dear," he thought, "can I be so stupid?
I should never have thought so, and nobody
must know it! Is it possible that I am not
fit for my office? No, no, I cannot say that
I was unable to see the cloth."
"Now, have you got nothing to say?" said one
of the swindlers, while he pretended to be
"Oh, it is very pretty, exceedingly
beautiful," replied the old minister looking
through his glasses. "What a beautiful
pattern, what brilliant colours! I shall
tell the emperor that I like the cloth very
"We are pleased to hear that," said the two
weavers, and described to him the colours
and explained the curious pattern. The old
minister listened attentively, that he might
relate to the emperor what they said; and so
Now the swindlers asked for more money, silk
and gold-cloth, which they required for
weaving. They kept everything for themselves,
and not a thread came near the loom, but
they continued, as hitherto, to work at the
Soon afterwards the emperor sent another
honest courtier to the weavers to see how
they were getting on, and if the cloth was
nearly finished. Like the old minister, he
looked and looked but could see nothing, as
there was nothing to be seen.
"Is it not a beautiful piece of cloth?"
asked the two swindlers, showing and
explaining the magnificent pattern, which,
however, did not exist.
"I am not stupid," said the man. "It is
therefore my good appointment for which I am
not fit. It is very strange, but I must not
let any one know it;" and he praised the
cloth, which he did not see, and expressed
his joy at the beautiful colours and the
fine pattern. "It is very excellent," he
said to the emperor.
Everybody in the whole town talked about the
precious cloth. At last the emperor wished
to see it himself, while it was still on the
loom. With a number of courtiers, including
the two who had already been there, he went
to the two clever swindlers, who now worked
as hard as they could, but without using any
"Is it not magnificent?" said the two old
statesmen who had been there before. "Your
Majesty must admire the colours and the
pattern." And then they pointed to the empty
looms, for they imagined the others could
see the cloth.
"What is this?" thought the emperor, "I do
not see anything at all. That is terrible!
Am I stupid? Am I unfit to be emperor? That
would indeed be the most dreadful thing that
could happen to me."
"Really," he said, turning to the weavers, "your
cloth has our most gracious approval;" and
nodding contentedly he looked at the empty
loom, for he did not like to say that he saw
nothing. All his attendants, who were with
him, looked and looked, and although they
could not see anything more than the others,
they said, like the emperor, "It is very
beautiful." And all advised him to wear the
new magnificent clothes at a great
procession which was soon to take place. "It
is magnificent, beautiful, excellent," one
heard them say; everybody seemed to be
delighted, and the emperor appointed the two
swindlers "Imperial Court weavers."
The whole night previous to the day on which
the procession was to take place, the
swindlers pretended to work, and burned more
than sixteen candles. People should see that
they were busy to finish the emperor's new
suit. They pretended to take the cloth from
the loom, and worked about in the air with
big scissors, and sewed with needles without
thread, and said at last: "The emperor's new
suit is ready now."
The emperor and all his barons then came to
the hall; the swindlers held their arms up
as if they held something in their hands and
said: "These are the trousers!" "This is the
coat!" and "Here is the cloak!" and so on. "They
are all as light as a cobweb, and one must
feel as if one had nothing at all upon the
body; but that is just the beauty of them."
"Indeed!" said all the courtiers; but they
could not see anything, for there was
nothing to be seen.
"Does it please your Majesty now to
graciously undress," said the swindlers, "that
we may assist your Majesty in putting on the
new suit before the large looking-glass?"
The emperor undressed, and the swindlers
pretended to put the new suit upon him, one
piece after another; and the emperor looked
at himself in the glass from every side.
"How well they look! How well they fit!"
said all. "What a beautiful pattern! What
fine colours! That is a magnificent suit of
The master of the ceremonies announced that
the bearers of the canopy, which was to be
carried in the procession, were ready.
"I am ready," said the emperor. "Does not my
suit fit me marvellously?" Then he turned
once more to the looking-glass, that people
should think he admired his garments.
The chamberlains, who were to carry the
train, stretched their hands to the ground
as if they lifted up a train, and pretended
to hold something in their hands; they did
not like people to know that they could not
The emperor marched in the procession under
the beautiful canopy, and all who saw him in
the street and out of the windows exclaimed:
"Indeed, the emperor's new suit is
incomparable! What a long train he has! How
well it fits him!" Nobody wished to let
others know he saw nothing, for then he
would have been unfit for his office or too
stupid. Never emperor's clothes were more
"But he has nothing on at all," said a
little child at last. "Good heavens! listen
to the voice of an innocent child," said the
father, and one whispered to the other what
the child had said. "But he has nothing on
at all," cried at last the whole people.
That made a deep impression upon the emperor,
for it seemed to him that they were right;
but he thought to himself, "Now I must bear
up to the end." And the chamberlains walked
with still greater dignity, as if they
carried the train which did not exist.