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The Emperor's New Clothes

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

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 cannot 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 impacted everyone's mind, including the emperor, and he ended the parade with an even more flamboyant (and vain) show of dignity.

Of The Story

To be completely neutral to analysis, whether the cloth actually exists would be a philosophical question; it is much similar to the canonical Zen Koan "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?"

Yet, this is beyond the common encompass of the short story; even the author writes the story from the perspective of a non-seer. The story is used to express morals of society, similar to fables. Generally, the morals are of "self-deceiving vanity", "vanity of surface appearance", "voice for the truth", and "innocence versus deception".