The Emperor's New Clothes

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A vain emperor is the target of two tricksters who claim they weave beautiful clothing that's invisible to simpletons or those unfit for office. The emperor pays them a large sum, and they pretend to weave him a suit on their looms. The emperor and his men check on the weavers' progress but are afraid to admit they see nothing. The emperor puts on his new “suit” and parades naked through town. The people admire his “clothes,” until a boy says what no one else would—the emperor is wearing nothing! This story is a reminder to speak the truth, regardless of what others might think.

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Once upon a time, there was an Emperor, who was so very fond of new clothes that he spent all of his money on buying them. He did not worry about his land or army or people or ruling his empire at all. He had a different suit for each hour of the day.
One day, two tricksters appeared at the kingdom. They dressed and acted as though they were trustworthy men and claimed to be clothes makers.
They said that they knew how to weave clothing that had the most beautiful colors and patterns.
But, they said to anyone who would listen, “Our clothing is very different from anything else you know of. Our clothing is invisible to anyone who is either a simpleton or who is unfit to hold their office.”
But, they said to anyone who would listen, “Our clothing is very different from anything else you know of. Our clothing is invisible to anyone who is either a simpleton or who is unfit to hold their office.”
When the men told the Emperor about their clothing, he thought to himself, “What fabulous clothes! If I wore a suit made of these fabrics, I could determine which of my men is unfit for their office and I could tell who is wise and who is foolish.”
“Now,” said the Emperor to the clothes makers, “you must weave me a suit immediately.”
Then, he gave the weavers a large bag of money so that they could begin their work immediately. He also told his servants to take the weavers to a large room in the palace so that he could check on them while they worked on his suit.
The two weavers, who were great tricksters and did not know how to weave at all, set up two weaving looms and pretended to work very hard.
Days passed, and the Emperor wanted to know how much work had been done on his suit. But, he did not want to visit the weavers himself, because he knew that a simpleton or a person unfit for his job would not be able to see the fabric. And, the Emperor did not want to know if he was such a person. So, he decided to send someone else to find out how the weaving was going.
He sent his old faithful minister, who he knew to be very wise and very worthy of his job. The faithful old minister went to the room where the tricksters were working with all of their might at their empty looms.
But when he entered the room, the old man was shocked and embarrassed. He could not see anything on the looms. They looked empty to him.
The impostors asked him to come very close to the looms, and while pointing to the empty looms, asked the minister whether he liked the design and the colors. The poor old minister looked and looked, but he could not discover anything on the looms, and for a very good reason. There was nothing there!
“What!” he thought to himself. “Is it possible that I am a simpleton? I have never thought so, and I cannot let anyone know if I am. Or, what if I am unfit for my office? Well, no one can know that either. I will just pretend I can see the fabric.”
Then he listened very closely as the impostors named the different colors and described the pattern of the imaginary fabric. When he saw the Emperor, he repeated what the imposters had said, and the Emperor was very happy, for the suit sounded wonderful.
More time passed, and the Emperor sent more and more officers of court to see how much longer it would take for the suit to be completed.
Each one looked at the empty looms, and each was afraid that he was a simpleton or unfit for his job. And so, each listened to the imposters’ descriptions of the suit, and then repeated it to the Emperor.
Soon, the whole empire was talking about the Emperor’s suit, and they all knew what it meant if one could not see it. They were all very excited to find out who among them was wise or foolish.
And now, it was time for the Emperor himself to see the suit, which had cost him a lot of money. He went to the weaver’s room, with a few of the officers of the court who had already seen the suit.
When he looked at the empty looms, an officer asked him, “Isn’t this suit absolutely magnificent?”
“How can I not see the suit?” thought the Emperor to himself. “Am I a simpleton, or am I unfit to be the Emperor? That would be horrible!”
“Oh! I love what you have done with fabric. The suit is absolutely fabulous,” said the Emperor to the weavers.
He too had decided to pretend to see the suit so that no one would know that he was a simpleton or unfit to be Emperor. The officers advised the Emperor to wear the suit to the upcoming festival, which was to begin with a parade led by the Emperor and he agreed.
On the day of the parade, the Emperor came to the weavers.
One of the tricksters held his arms up as if he were carrying a jacket and said, “Your Majesty, here is your jacket, please try it on.”
The other pretended to be holding something as well, and said, ““Your Majesty, here are your trousers, please try them on.”
The Emperor took off his silk suit, which was very regal and tried to put on the invisible one. Finally, the Emperor walked out of the palace and led the parade through the city.
All the people looking on cried out, “Oh! How beautiful are our Emperor’s new clothes! What a magnificent suit he has.”
No one would admit that they could not see the Emperor’s clothes because no one wanted to be thought of as a simpleton or unfit for their job.
“But the Emperor has nothing on at all!” said a little child.
“Listen to the voice of an innocent child!” exclaimed the child’s father, and what the child had said was whispered from one person to another.
Finally, all the people cried out, “The Emperor has nothing on at all!”
The Emperor was very upset because he knew that the people were right, but he knew that the procession must go on until he could get back to his palace.

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  • Based on the story by: Hans Christian Andersen
  • Illustrated by: Constanthing


  • Narrator: Harry Shearer