The Emperor’s New Clothes

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a work of fiction published in 1837 by Hans Christian Andersen. It is the story of a vain emperor who spends all his time fussing about his appearance, and no time at all on the duties of his office.

The emperor learns of a new fabric that is said to be invisible to anyone who is ignorant and incompetent. He arranges for a new suit of clothes to be made from this extraordinary fabric.

The emperor’s advisers cannot see the new clothes. They do not want to be perceived as ignorant or incompetent, so when they are called into his presence they pretend to see the new garments. They shower him with compliments on his eye for quality.

News of the amazing properties of the emperor’s new clothes spreads throughout the kingdom. A ceremonial parade is arranged so they may be displayed for all to see. As the emperor passes along the parade route,  each person conceals his or her disappointment at not being able to see the clothes so as to not reveal his or her own incompetence. Onlookers comment to each other on the richness of the fabric and the workmanship of the tailoring.

A young boy sees things as they really are and announces loudly, “The Emperor is naked!”

The boy’s father encourages those around him to listen to the voice of innocence. The bystanders repeat the boy’s words over and over, until a chant rises up from the crowd, “The emperor is naked!”

The emperor knows the people are no longer fooled, but he refuses to acknowledge the truth. He stands stiffly under the parade canopy as the procession moves on, ignoring the cries of the people. He continues to pretend he is wearing a fine new suit of clothes.

The story concludes with a description of a nobleman standing behind the emperor, who raises his arms to hold his imaginary mantle even higher.