|THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES|
|by Han Christian Anderson*|
| Many years ago, there
was an Emperor, who was so excessively fond of new clothes, that he spent all his money on
them. He did not trouble himself in the least about his soldiers; nor did he care to go
either to the theatre or the chase, except for the opportunities then afforded him for
displaying his new clothes.
He had a different suit for each hour of the day. Although it is often said of almost any other king or emperor, "He is sitting in council," it was always said of this one, "The Emperor is sitting in his dressing room."
Time passed merrily in the large capital city. Strangers arrived every day at the court.
One day, two rogues, claiming to be weavers of a magical cloth, made their appearance at the palace. They let it be known that they had discovered a secret process to weave expensive threads into the most beautiful colors and elaborate patterns of clothes that would be invisible to any of the Emperor's people who was unfit for the office he held or who was extraordinarily stupid.
"These must, indeed, be splendid clothes!" thought the Emperor. "Had I such a suit, I might use it as a test of who in my realm is unfit for office, and also to distinguish the wise from the foolish! This stuff must be woven for me immediately."
Therefore, he caused large sums of money to be given to both so-called weavers in order that they might begin their work without delay. The two con men set up looms, and went through the motions of working busily, though in reality they did nothing at all.
They ordered the most delicate silk and the purest gold thread at the Emperor's expense but hid them in their own knapsacks and then continued their pretended work at the empty looms until late at night.
After some little time had elapsed the Emperor decided, "I should like to know how the weavers are getting on with my cloth." He was, however, a bit concerned when he remembered that a simpleton, or one unfit for public office would be unable to see the work in progress.
To be sure, he thought he had nothing to risk in his own person. Yet, he thought, he would prefer sending somebody else, to bring him intelligence about the weavers and their work before he troubled himself in the affair. "After all, why should I take even the smallest risk at being exposed in my constant fear that I myself am inadeqaute to this office."
But public pressure and curiousity were moutning. People throughout the city had heard of the wonderful properties the cloth was claimed to possess. All were anxious to learn how wise, or how ignorant, their neighbors might prove to be.
"I will send my faithful old minister to the weavers," said the Emperor at last, after some deliberation, "He will be best able to see how the cloth looks. He is a man of sense. No one can be more suitable for his office than he."
So the faithful old minister went into the shop, where the knaves were "working" with all their might at their empty looms. "What can be the meaning of this?" thought the old man, opening his eyes very wide. "I don't see the least bit of thread on the looms." However, he did not express his thoughts aloud.
The impostors requested him very courteously to be so good as to come nearer their looms. They then asked him whether the design pleased him, and whether the colors were not very beautiful, at the same time pointing to the empty looms. The poor old minister looked and looked, he could not discover anything on the looms, for a very good reason; there was nothing there.
"On no." he thought. "Is it possible that I am a simpleton? I have never thought myself so. But if I am, no one has realized it. Can it be, that I am unfit for my office? No, that must not be said either. I'd better keep my mouth shut."
"Well, Sir Minister!" said one of the knaves, still pretending to work. "Does our fabric please you?"
"Well, it is excellent!" replied the old minister, peering at the loom through his spectacles. "Oh, the pattern, and those marvelous colors! Yes, I will tell the Emperor, without delay, how very beautiful I think them."
"We shall be much obliged to you," said the impostors, and then they named the different colors and described the pattern of the pretended stuff. The old minister listened attentively to their words in order that he might repeat them to the Emperor. Then the knaves asked for more silk and gold, saying that it was necessary to complete what they had begun.
However, they again put all that was given them into their knapsacks and continued to work with as much apparent diligence as before at their empty looms. A few weeks later, the Emperor sent another officer of his court to see how the work was getting on and to ascertain whether the cloth would be ready for public display.
It was the same with this gentleman as with the minister. He surveyed the looms on all sides, but could see nothing at all but the empty frames.
"Does not the cloth appear as beautiful to you, as it did to my lord the minister?" the impostors asked of the Emperor's second ambassador.
"I certainly am not stupid!" thought the messenger. "It must be that I am unfit for my good, profitable office! That is very odd. I sure manage to squeeze enough money from it. I'm not going to be the one to admit my inadequacy."
Accordingly, he praised the stuff he could not see and declared that he was delighted with both colors and patterns. "Indeed, may it please your Imperial Majesty," said he to his sovereign when he returned, "the cloth the weavers are preparing is extraordinarily magnificent."
Soon, the whole city was talking of the splendid cloth which the Emperor had ordered to be woven at his own great expense. Finally, the Emperor himself wished to see the costly textiles while they were still on the loom.
Accompanied by a select number of officers of the court, among whom were the two "honest men" who had already admired the cloth, he went to the work shop. The crafty impostors, aware of the Emperor's approach, went on "working" more diligently than ever, although they still did not pass a single thread through the looms.
"Is not the work absolutely magnificent?" urged the King's advisors. "If your Majesty will only be pleased to look at it! What a splendid design! What glorious colors!" and at the same time they pointed to the empty frames, for each imagined that everyone else but himself could see this exquisite piece of workmanship.
"This is indeed embarrassing!" said the Emperor to himself. "I can see nothing! Am I a simpleton, or am I unfit to be an Emperor? That would be the worst thing that could happen."
"Oh! the cloth is charming," said he, aloud. "I love the workmanship and the colors."
He smiled a most graciously royal smile but looked cautiously at the looms. Far be it from him to admit that he could not see what two of the most trusted officers of his court had praised so fulsomely. All his retinue now strained their eyes, hoping to discover something on the looms. They too saw nothing but said even less about that.
Instead, to protect his and her own position in the Court, each loudly exclaimed praise that was empty as the looms themselves. "Oh, how beautiful! Oh, please your Majesty, please have some new clothes made from this splendid material, for the approaching imperial procession."
"Magnificent! Charming! Excellent!" resounded on all sides. Everyone was forcefully excited.
The Emperor shared in the general satisfaction, for after all, every leader must be careful not to contradict his followers. He presented the impostors with the symbols of knighthood to be worn in the button-hole of their jackets and granted them each the valuable title of "Gentleman Weaver to the Imperial Court."
The rogues sat up the whole of the night before the procession. They left the shop's lights burning so that everyone might see how anxious they were to finish the Emperor's new suit. Just in case anyone should peek in on them, they diligently went through the motions of rolling the cloth off the looms and snapped viciously at the the air with their scissors. They vigorously "sewed" using needles without any thread in them.
At dawn, they opened the work shop doors and invited everyone in. "See!" they exulted, "The Emperor's new clothes are ready!"
And now the Emperor, with all the grandees of his court, came to the weavers. The rogues raised their arms, as if in the act of holding something up, saying, "Here are your Majesty's trousers! Here is the scarf! Here is the mantle! The whole suit is as light as a cobweb. One might fancy one has nothing at all on, when dressed in it. What better proof could anyone have of the great virtue of this delicate cloth and the wisdom of the Emperor in ordering it to adorn himself and test the intelligence and integrity of his appointed servants?"
"Yes indeed!" said all the courtiers, although not one of them could see anything of this exquisite manufacture.
"If your Imperial Majesty will be graciously pleased to take off your clothes,we will fit on the new suit, in front of the looking glass." The Emperor was accordingly undressed, and the rogues pretended to array him in his new suit. The Emperor turning round, from side to side, before the looking glass.
"How splendid his Majesty looks in these new clothes, and how well they fit!" everyone cried out. "What inspired design! What rare colors! These are indeed royal robes!"
The procession's Master of Ceremonies approached. "The canopy which is to be borne over your Majesty in the procession is waiting," announced .
"I am quite ready," answered the Emperor. "Do you like the fit? Do you approve of the style for this season?" asked he, turning himself round again before the looking glass, in order that he might appear to be examining his handsome suit.
The lords of the bedchamber who were to carry the supposedly long train of his Majesty's robe felt about on the ground as if they were lifting up the ends of the mantle. None were eager to let it be thought, especially by any other lord, that he was unable to se anything.
So now the Emperor walked under his high canopy in the midst of the procession, through the streets of the capital. The people standing along the route and those at the windows cried out, "Oh! How beautiful are our Emperor's new clothes! What a magnificent train there is to the mantle; and how gracefully the scarf hangs!" Like the lords, no one would allow that he could not see these much-admired clothes because, in doing so, he would have declared himself either a simpleton or unfit for his office or both.
Until this day, none of the Emperor's various garments had ever made so great an impression, as these invisible ones. Then it all began to unravel.
"But the Emperor has nothing at all on!" said a little child at the edge of the crowd. "He's naked. The man in the crown is naked." ."Listen to the voice of !" What the child said was recognized as the wisdom of innocence.
Soon it ran through the crowd faster than the shuttle of a loom. The fabric of truth was woven and became the snapping flag of reality. "The child is right. The Emperor has nothing at all on!" someone cried out.
The Emperor was vexed for he knew that the people were right. But the same pride and stubbornness that got him into this mess dragged him down even deeper. He thought to himself, "I cannot admit I was wrong. The procession must go on!"
So, the lords of the bedchamber took greater pains than ever to appear holding up the train of a non-existent robe, although, in reality, there was none. Thus, with the co-operation of his equally weak-minded court, the Emperor's humiliation was complete as he revealed himself to be unable to be honest even with himself.
After much pain and suffering inflicted on the people for the purpose of maintaining the fiction, long after it was exposed, the people removed both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon from office and sent each off in the disgrace their respective self-deceptions had earned.
(* no, that last paragraph was not written by Hans Christian Anderson. It is my own amendment in respectful memory of those who died during the Vietnam War at the behest of the Emperor's tailors.)