Chapter 28 of the Book of Stories for the Storyteller
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The Book of Stories for the Storyteller, by Fanny Coe
The Emperor's New Clothes
There once lived an Emperor who was so fond of fine clothes that he spent great sums of money in order to be beautifully dressed. He cared little about his army or other affairs of State; he did not care for amusements; nothing pleased him so much as walking abroad to show off his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day; and as they often say of a king, "He is in the council chamber," here it would usually be, "The Emperor is at his toilet."
The great city in which he lived had always something fresh to show; every day many strangers came there. One day two men arrived who said that they were weavers, and knew how to manufacture the most beautiful cloth imaginable. Not only were the material and texture uncommonly beautiful, but clothes made of the stuff possessed this wonderful property that they were invisible to anyone who was not fit for his office, or who was very stupid.
Author Hans Christian Andersen, 1805 - 1875
"Those must indeed be splendid clothes," thought the Emperor. "Besides, if I had an outfit, I could find out which of my servants are unfit for the offices they hold; I should know the wise from the stupid! Yes, this cloth must be woven for me." And he gave the men much money that they might begin at once to weave their cloth.
Of course they were impostors, but they put together two looms, and began to move about as if they were working, though they had nothing whatever on the looms. They were also given quantities of the finest silk and the best gold, which they hid.
"I wonder how far they have got on with the cloth," thought the Emperor one day. He remembered that whoever was stupid or not fit for his office would be unable to see the material. He certainly believed that he had nothing to fear for himself, but he decided first to send a high official in order to see how he stood the test. Everybody in the whole town knew by this time what a wonderful power the cloth had, and all were curious to see what was to happen.
"I will send my prime minister to the weavers," thought the Emperor. "He can judge best what the cloth is like, for he is the wisest man in my kingdom."
Accordingly the old minister went to the hall where the impostors sat working at the empty looms. "Dear me!" thought the old man, opening his eyes wide, "I cannot see any cloth!" But he did not say so. "Dear, dear!" thought he, "can I be stupid? Can I be not fit for my office? No, I must certainly not admit that I cannot see the cloth!"
"Have you nothing to say?" asked one of the men.
"Oh, it is lovely, most lovely!" answered the old minister, looking through his spectacles. "What smooth texture! What glowing colours! Yes, I will tell the Emperor that it is certainly very fine."
"We are delighted to hear you say that," said both the weavers, and they proceeded to name the colours and describe the appearance of the texture.
The old minister listened with great attention, so that he could tell the Emperor all about it on his return.
The impostors now demanded more money, and more silk and gold to use in their weaving. They pocketed all, and went on as they had done before, working at the empty loom. The Emperor soon sent another official to report as to when the cloth would be finished. The minister looked and looked, but there was nothing on the empty loom and of course he could see nothing.
"Is it not a beautiful piece of cloth?" asked the impostors, and they appeared to display material which was not there.
"Stupid I am not!" thought the minister, "so it must be that I am not fitted for my office. It is strange certainly, but no one must be allowed to notice it." And he, too, praised the cloth and pretended delight at the beautiful colours and the splendid texture. "Yes, it is indeed beautiful," he reported to the Emperor.
Everybody in the town was talking of the magnificent cloth, and the Emperor decided to see it himself while it was still on the loom. With a great crowd of courtiers, among whom were both the ministers who had been there before, he went to the impostors, who were making believe to weave with all their might.
"Is it not splendid!" said both the old statesmen. "See, your Majesty, how fine is the texture! What remarkable colours!" And then they pointed to the empty loom, believing that all but themselves could see the cloth quite well.
"What is wrong?" thought the Emperor. "I can certainly see nothing! This is indeed horrible! I must be stupid, or unfit to be Emperor! It will never do to let it be known! Yes, it is indeed very beautiful," he said. "It has my entire approval."
And then he nodded pleasantly, and examined the empty loom with an appearance of interest, for he would not admit that he could see nothing.
His courtiers, too, looked and looked, and saw no more than the others; but they said like the Emperor, "Oh! it is beautiful!" Everyone seemed so delighted that the Emperor gave to the impostors the title of Weavers to the Emperor.
Now there was to be a State procession the following week and throughout the night before and the morning of the day on which this was to take place the impostors were working by the light of many candles. The people could see that they appeared to be busy putting the finishing touches to the Emperor's new clothes. They pretended that they were taking the cloth from the loom; they cut nothing with huge scissors, sewed with needles without thread, and at last said, "The clothes are finished!"
The Emperor came himself with his favourites and each impostor held up his arms as if he were showing something and said, "See! here are the breeches! Here is the coat! Here the cloak!" and so on.
"Our clothes are so comfortable that one might imagine one had nothing on; that is the beauty of them!"
"Yes," nodded the courtiers, although they could see nothing, there being nothing there.
"Will it please your Majesty graciously to disrobe," said the impostors.
The Emperor took off all his clothes, and the men busied themselves as if they were putting on various garments, while meantime the Emperor surveyed himself in the mirror.
"How beautifully they fit! How well they suit his Majesty!" said everybody.
"If it please your Majesty, the procession is ready," announced the Master of the Ceremonies.
"I am ready," said the Emperor. And he turned again to the mirror as if to take a last admiring view of his finery.
The courtiers whose duty it was to bear the Emperor's train put their hands near the floor as if to lift the train; then they acted as if they were holding it up. They would not have it known that they could see nothing.
So the Emperor strutted forward in the procession under a splendid canopy, and the people in the streets and at the windows said, "How grand are the Emperor's new clothes! What beautiful silk, how it shines!"
No one would admit that he could see nothing, for that would have proved him unfit for his office, or stupid. None of the Emperor's clothes had ever been so praised.
"But the Emperor has nothing on!" said a child at last.
"Listen to the innocent child!" said the father, and each one whispered to his neighbour what the child had said.
"The Emperor has nothing on!" the people began to call out at last.
This seemed to the Emperor to be true; but he thought to himself, "I must not stop now." And the courtiers walked behind him with pompous air, gravely holding up the train which was not there.