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 his
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
'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 neighbours
'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
'Now, have you got nothing to say?' said one of the
swindlers, while he pretended to be busily weaving.
'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 much.'
'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 he did.
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 empty
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
'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
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 thread.
'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
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 clothes!'
The master of the ceremonies announced that the bearers of
the canopy, which was to be carried in the procession, were
'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 see anything.
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 admired.
'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.