by: Hans Christian Andersen

Long ago there lived an emperor, who was so found of new clothes, that he spent all his money on dresses and finery. He took no care of his soldiers or his people or his fields. All he cared about was showing off his grand wardrobe. He had a coat for every hour of the day.

One day two rogues arrived in the great city where he lived. They heard about the emperor’s love for new clothes and pretended that they knew how to weave the most beautiful cloth. Not only were the colors unusually fine, the cloth was so delicate, that nobody who was either unfit for his office or stupid could see it.

Soon the emperor heard of the two weavers. “Ah,” he thought to himself, “I must have this! They must weave for me. At once!”  He called them and gave them a lot of money in advance.

They set to work, weaving actually nothing at all. They sat at their looms late into the night and there they pretended to weave.

“Go to see how the weavers are progressing!” said the emperor to his old minister. “I know you are wise and fit for your position, and so I wish you to be the one to judge how my new clothes look.”

The minister walked into the room where the two rogues sat, working. “Oh my,” he thought when he looked. “I cannot see a thing!”

“Come closer,” said the first weaver. “Aren’t these colors beautiful?” He pointed at the empty loom and pretended to finger fine cloth. The minister opened his eyes wide and stared. He saw nothing at all.

“Oh my, I am quite foolish, I suppose. I am unfit for my position”… he thought to himself

The rogues went on pretending to weave. “Have you nothing to say about our lovely clothes?” they asked. “Enchanting!” said the minister as he peered closer and closer. “What a fine pattern this one has. Yes, I shall tell the emperor that you are indeed grand weavers.”

“I am glad you like the royal blue and gold of this lovely rainbow pattern here,” said the second weaver. He pointed to the loom and pretended to touch cloth.

The minister listened closely. “Yes,” he said, “it is beautiful indeed!” Then he hurried to the emperor to tell him of the details he had memorized. “We need more money!” called the weavers as he left. “We need yet to weave another coat, more magnificent still.”

The emperor, pleased by the reports his minister had given him, sent the weavers more gold and silver. Again the two rogues set to work at empty looms.

The emperor soon sent another honest officer of his court to see how the weaving was going. The officer also saw nothing, but he said to himself, “I must not appear to be a fool and unfit for my office.”

“Isn’t it lovely?” asked the first weaver. “Don’t you adore the flight of butterflies upon this rose-colored stream? And see here, the majestic purple mountains and the glistening green willow trees?”

“Marvelous,” said the officer. “Yes, glorious! I shall tell the emperor at once.”

Soon all the people in the town were talking of the beautiful coats and cloaks and capes the minister and the officer described. They exclaimed about the brilliant silver skies, the golden sunsets and the lustrous birds.

After a while the emperor could bear the suspense no longer. He had to see for himself. With a flock of his chosen advisers, he went to the room where the two rogues were weaving.

“Splendid!” said one statesman. “Marvelous. Your Majesty, look at those patterns and colors.” Another statesman pointed at the empty loom, as did another, for every one was certain that every other man could see the clothes. No one would admit he could not.

The emperor was horrified. “What’s this?” he thought. “I cannot see a thing. I must be foolish, or unfit to be the emperor! Oh, this is dreadful, dreadful!” He stared hard at the looms. He stared and stared. At last he said, “Yes, these clothes meet with my royal approval.”

Everyone crowded closer. They all stared. “Glorious, magnificent, exquisite!” Then one counselor said, “Your Majesty, you must have a procession and march through town wearing these extraordinary clothes!”

The emperor agreed.

The night before the procession, the rogues stayed awake, pretending to work through the night. At dawn, they cried, “The emperor’s clothes are ready!” The emperor came to the weaving room. The two rogues lifted up their arms, pretending to hold before them a splendid coat, trousers and cape. “Ah, feel that, Your Majesty,” they said, “light and fine as spider webs, and ever so colorful. Aren’t these the finest clothes you’ve ever seen?”

The emperor stepped out of his old clothes and gingerly stepped toward the weavers. They held out nothing and pretended, all the while, to wrap the emperor in fine new garments. “How well they fit!” cried the first rogue. “How well the colors match your splendid hair.”

“Yes,” the emperor said, “these suit me well indeed.” Then he turned to look into the mirror. The chamberlains stooped down and reached to lift the train they could not see, for not one would let another know that he saw and felt nothing at all.

The procession began. The people crowded into the streets and stood at their windows and doorways. “How fine the emperor looks in his new clothes!” they called as he passed. “How beautiful! How grand!” You see, no one wished the others to know that he was foolish or unfit for his position.

At last a small child ran into the road and stood before the emperor. “But the emperor is wearing nothing!” exclaimed the child.

“Just hear what that innocent says!” said the father: and one whispered to another what the child had said.

“The Emperor has nothing on!” said the whole people at length. That touched the Emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but the thought to himself, “I must go through with this.” And so he held himself a little higher, and the chamberlains held on tighter than ever, and carried the train which did not exist at all and the procession went on.



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