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The Emperor's New Clothes

From Academic Kids

The Emperor's New Clothes is a short story written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837.

Contents

The story

The story presents an emperor who concerned himself with only surface appearance, who sought to dress and show himself with his elaborate clothing. Upon hearing of a new suit of clothes made from a special material that was fine, light, magnificent, and invisible to the foolish and the unworthy, he eagerly wished to try it on. Before doing so, however, he sent two of his trusted men to observe the cloth. Neither could see the cloth, and neither wanted to admit themselves foolish or unworthy, and thus both praised the cloth. The emperor then was dressed by the two swindlers ("weavers" of this "cloth"), and demonstrated himself in a parade.

All the citizens observing the parade praised wildly of the colour, the magnificence, and the design. Although everyone was praising empty air, as it seemed to themselves, all were afraid of the consequences if they admitted that they could not see a thing. The crowd (pretended to) cheer, marvel, and welcome the elegant new clothes of the emperor, when a small child noted:

"But he has nothing on at all"!

This remark had an impact on everyone, including the emperor, and he ended the parade with an even more flamboyant (and vain) show of dignity.

Similar tales

It has been claimed that Andersen's original source was a Spanish story recorded by Don Juan Manuel (1282-1348). This story of the little boy puncturing the pretensions of the emperor's court has parallels from other cultures, categorized as Aarne-Thompson folktale type 1620.

The story has been parodied numerous times, including one story in the animated television series Alftales where Alf plays a frustrated tailor of comfortable casual clothes who pulls the trick on the uninterested emperor who refused his usual goods. At the end, when the emperor's pretension is exposed by a girl who makes some sarcastic comments about his state of undress, Alf's character supplies the ruler some of his usual wares which the emperor finds agreeable. However, the story ends with the emperor making the best of his humiliation by indulging in his one opportunity to go streaking.

As a Metaphor

The Emperor's New Clothes is often used as a metaphoric phrase alluding to a situation where someone has convinced themselves of a value (or overvalue) of an item or service that is either not supplied, of no value, or from an unqualified person. There are many other applications of the phrase, mostly based on the tendency of some people to convince themselves that something is valuable despite other signs pointing to the contrary.

The story is also used to express a concept of "truth seen by the eyes of a child", an idea that truth is often spoken by a person too nave to understand group pressures to see contrary to the obvious. This is a general theme of "purity within innocence" throughout Andersen's fables and many similar works of literature.

In the realm of political and social protest, the term "The Emperor Wears No Clothes" or "The Emperor Has No Clothes" has become something of a cliche. There are many books written by activists with the title "The Emperor Wears No Clothes", so much so that it is difficult to discern one from the other without the actual topic or the name of the author. Amazon.com alone lists 17 works with one of these two phrases in the title. When political magazine articles and more esoteric book sellers are added into the mix, the number of works with this title quickly rises into the hundreds.

See also

Stone soup

External links

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