The Emperor's New Clothes
Hans Christian Andersen
MANY years ago there lived an emperor who was so exceedingly fond of beautiful new clothes that he spent all his money just on dressing up, He paid no attention to his soldiers, nor did he care about plays or taking drives in the woods except for the sole purpose of showing off his new clothes. He had a robe for every hour of the day, and just as it is said of a king that he is "in council," so they always said here: "The emperor is in the clothes closet!"
In the great city where he lived everybody had a very good time. Many visitors came there every day. One day two charlatans came. They passed themselves off as weavers and said that they knew how to weave the most exquisite cloth imaginable. Not only were the colours and the pattern uncommonly beautiful but also the clothes that were made from the cloth had the singular quality of being invisible to every person who was unfit for his post or else was inadmissably stupid.
"Well, these are some splendid clothes," thought the emperor. "With them on I could find out which men in my kingdom were not suited for the posts they have; I can tell the wise ones from the stupid! Yes, that cloth must be woven for me at once!" And he gave the two charlatans lots of money in advance so they could begin their work.
They put up two looms, all right, and pretended to be working, but they had nothing whatsoever on the looms Without ceremony they demanded the finest silk and the most magnificent gold thread. This they put in their own pockets and worked at the empty looms until far into the night.
"Now I'd like to see how far they've come with the cloth!" thought the emperor. But it made him feel a little uneasy to think that anyone who was stupid or unfit for his post couldn't see it. Of course he didn't believe that he himself needed to be afraid. Nonetheless he wanted to send someone else first to see how things stood. The whole city knew of the remarkable powers possessed by the cloth, and everyone was eager to see how bad or stupid his neighbor was.
"I'll send my honest old minister to the weavers," thought the emperor. "He's the best one to see how the cloth looks, for he has brains and no one is better fitted for his post than he is!"
Now the harmless old minister went into the hall where the two charlatans sat working at the empty looms.
"Heaven help us!" thought the old minister, his eyes opening wide. "Why, I can't see a thing!" But he didn't say so.
Both the charlatans asked him to please step closer and asked if it didn't have a beautiful pattern and lovely colours. Then they pointed to the empty loom, and the poor old minister kept opening his eyes wider. But he couldn't see a thing, for there was nothing there.
"Good Lord!" he thought. "Am I supposed to be stupid? I never thought so, and not a soul must find it out! Am I unfit for my post? No, it'll never do for me to say that I can't see the cloth!"
"Well, you're not saying anything about it!" said the one who was weaving.
"Oh, it's nice! Quite charming!" said the old minister, and peered through his spectacles. "This pattern and these colours! Yes, I shall tell the emperor that it pleases me highly!"
"Well, we're delighted to hear it!" said both the weavers, and now they named the colours by name and described the singular pattern. The old minister paid close attention so he could repeat it all when he came back to the emperor. And this he did.
Now the charlatans demanded more money for more silk and gold thread, which they were going to use for the weaving. They stuffed everything into their own pockets. Not a thread went onto the looms, but they kept on weaving on the empty looms as before.
Soon afterward the emperor sent another harmless officfal there to see how the weaving was coming along and if the cloth should soon be ready, The same thing happened to him as to the minister. He looked and he looked, but as there was nothing there but the empty looms, be couldn't see a thing.
"Well, isn't it a beautiful piece of cloth?" both the charlatans said, and showed and explained the lovely pattern that wasn't there at all.
"Well, I'm not stupid!" thought the man. "Then it's my good position that I'm unfit for? That is strange enough, but I must be careful not to show it!" And so he praised the cloth he didn't see and assured them how delighted he was with the beautiful colours and the lovely pattern. "Yes, it's quite charming!" he said to the emperor.
All the people in the city were talking about the magnificent cloth.
Now the emperor himself wanted to see it while it was still on the loom. With a whole crowd of hand-picked men, among them the two harmless old officials who had been there before, he went to where the two sly charlatans were now weaving with all their might, but without a stitch or a thread.
"Yes, isn't it magnifique?" said the two honest officials "Will your majesty look - what a pattern, what colours!" And then they pointed to the empty looms, for they thought that the others were certainly able to see the cloth.
"What's this?" thought the emperor. I don't see anything! why, this is dreadfull Am I stupid? Am I not fit to be emperor? This is the most horrible thing that could happen to me!"
"Oh, it's quite beautiful!" said the emperor. "It has my highest approval!" And he nodded contentedly and regarded the empty looms. He didn't want to say that he couldn't see a thing. The entire company he had brought with him looked and looked, but they weren't able to make any more out of it than the others. Yet, like the emperor, they said, "Oh, it's quite beautiful!" And they advised him to have clothes made of the magnificent new cloth in time for the great procession that was forthcoming.
"It is magnifique! Exquisite! Excellentl" passed from mouth to mouth. And every one of them was so fervently delighted with it. Upon each of the charlatans the emperor bestowed a badge of knighthood to hang in his buttonhole, and the title of "Weaver-junker."
All night long, before the morning of the procession, the charlatans sat up with more than sixteen candles burning. People could see that they were busy finishing the emperor's new clothes. They acted as if they were taking the cloth from the looms, they clipped in the air with big scissors, they sewed with needles without thread, and at last they said, "See, now the clothes are ready!"
With his highest gentlemen-in-waiting the emperor came there himself and both the charlatans lifted an arm in the air as if they were holding something and said, "See, here are the knee breeches! Here's the tailcoat! Here's the cloak!" And so on.
"It's as light as a spider's web! You'd think you had nothing on, but that's the beauty of it!"
"Yes," said all the gentlemen-in-waiting, but they couldn't see a thing, for there was nothing there.
"Now, if your majesty would most graciously consent to take off your clothes," said the charlatans, "we will help you on with the new ones here in front of the big mirror!"
The emperor took off all his clothes, and the charlatans acted as if they were handing him eachof the new garments that had supposedly been sewed. And they put their arms around his waist as if they were tying something on - that was the train - and the emperor turned and twisted in front of the mirror.
"Heavens, how well it becomes you! How splendidly it fits!" they all said. "What a pattern! What coloursl That's a magnificent outfit!"
"They're waiting outside with the canopy that is to be carried over your majesty in the procession," said the chief master of ceremonies.
"Well, I'm ready!" said the emperor. "Isn't it a nice fit"
And then he turned around in front of the mirror just one more time, so it should really look as if he were regarding his finery.
The gentlemen-in-waiting, who were to carry the train, fumbled down on the floor with their hands just as if they were picking up the train. They walked and held their arms high in the air. They dared not let it appear as if they couldn't see a thing.
And then the emperor walked in the procession under the beautiful canopy. And all the people in the street and at the windows said, "Heavens, how wonderful the emperor's new clothes are! What a lovely train he has on the robe! What a marvelous fit!" No one wanted it to appear that he couldn't see anything, for then of course he would have been unfit for his position or very stupid. None of the emperor's clothes had ever been such a success.
"But he doesn't have anything on!" said a little child.
"Heavens, listen to the innocent's voice!" said the father, and then the child's words were whispered from one to another.
"He doesn't have anything on! That's what a little child is saying-he doesn't have anything on!"
"He doesn't have anything on!" the whole populace shouted at last. And the emperor shuddered, for it seemed to him that they were right. But then he thought, "Now I must go through with the procession." And he carried himself more proudly than ever, and the gentlemen-in-waiting carried the train that wasn't there at all.
There was originally a different ending to this tale but the author was persuaded by his publisher to substitute the somewhat ridiculous version given above.
The original, and more likely ending is given here.
One day during my time at art college I was sitting in a bar near the college. At the next table were some final year students discussing, as final year students always do what grades they might be awarded.
One student confidently and loudly proclaimed that all you needed to do to get a first was to build something massive, attach a sheet of pretentious twaddle to it, and be nice to the staff.
At the time I viewed this as a cynical joke only. A few weeks later when the final year shows went up I was surprised to find the speaker had indeed built a massive structure - perhaps 15' x 15' x 30', had placed at its entrance a sheet of paper which appeared to be exclusively pretentious twaddle (I only read the first few lines), and, presumably had been nice to the staff, for he was indeed awarded a first for what was a blatantly obvious piece nonsense.
I must admit to a sneaking admiration of the student for his exposure of the credulous idiocy of staff who were paid good money to know better. Although not admiration for the intellectual dishonesty of exploiting that idiocy.