The Emperor's New Clothes

and other tales of
Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 1620
edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1999-2019


  1. The Emperor's New Clothes (Denmark).

  2. The Invisible Cloth (Spain).

  3. How Eulenspiegel Painted the Forbears of the Landgrave of Hessen (Germany).

  4. Fine Thread (Russia).

  5. The Miller with the Golden Thumb (England).

  6. The King's New Turban (Turkey).

  7. The King and the Clever Girl (India).

  8. The Invisible Silk Robe (Sri Lanka).

  9. Links to related tales.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

The Emperor's New Clothes


Many years ago there lived an emperor who loved beautiful new clothes so much that he spent all his money on being finely dressed. His only interest was in going to the theater or in riding about in his carriage where he could show off his new clothes. He had a different costume for every hour of the day. Indeed, where it was said of other kings that they were at court, it could only be said of him that he was in his dressing room!

One day two swindlers came to the emperor's city. They said that they were weavers, claiming that they knew how to make the finest cloth imaginable. Not only were the colors and the patterns extraordinarily beautiful, but in addition, this material had the amazing property that it was to be invisible to anyone who was incompetent or stupid.

"It would be wonderful to have clothes made from that cloth," thought the emperor. "Then I would know which of my men are unfit for their positions, and I'd also be able to tell clever people from stupid ones." So he immediately gave the two swindlers a great sum of money to weave their cloth for him.

They set up their looms and pretended to go to work, although there was nothing at all on the looms. They asked for the finest silk and the purest gold, all of which they hid away, continuing to work on the empty looms, often late into the night.

"I would really like to know how they are coming with the cloth!" thought the emperor, but he was a bit uneasy when he recalled that anyone who was unfit for his position or stupid would not be able to see the material. Of course, he himself had nothing to fear, but still he decided to send someone else to see how the work was progressing.

"I'll send my honest old minister to the weavers," thought the emperor. He's the best one to see how the material is coming. He is very sensible, and no one is more worthy of his position than he.

So the good old minister went into the hall where the two swindlers sat working at their empty looms. "Goodness!" thought the old minister, opening his eyes wide. "I cannot see a thing!" But he did not say so.

The two swindlers invited him to step closer, asking him if it wasn't a beautiful design and if the colors weren't magnificent. They pointed to the empty loom, and the poor old minister opened his eyes wider and wider. He still could see nothing, for nothing was there. "Gracious" he thought. "Is it possible that I am stupid? I have never thought so. Am I unfit for my position? No one must know this. No, it will never do for me to say that I was unable to see the material."

"You aren't saying anything!" said one of the weavers.

"Oh, it is magnificent! The very best!" said the old minister, peering through his glasses. "This pattern and these colors! Yes, I'll tell the emperor that I am very satisfied with it!"

"That makes us happy!" said the two weavers, and they called the colors and the unusual pattern by name. The old minister listened closely so that he would be able say the same things when he reported back to the emperor, and that is exactly what he did.

The swindlers now asked for more money, more silk, and more gold, all of which they hid away. Then they continued to weave away as before on the empty looms.

The emperor sent other officials as well to observe the weavers' progress. They too were startled when they saw nothing, and they too reported back to him how wonderful the material was, advising him to have it made into clothes that he could wear in a grand procession. The entire city was alive in praise of the cloth. "Magnifique! Nysseligt! Excellent!" they said, in all languages. The emperor awarded the swindlers with medals of honor, bestowing on each of them the title Lord Weaver.

The swindlers stayed up the entire night before the procession was to take place, burning more than sixteen candles. Everyone could see that they were in a great rush to finish the emperor's new clothes. They pretended to take the material from the looms. They cut in the air with large scissors. They sewed with needles but without any thread. Finally they announced, "Behold! The clothes are finished!"

The emperor came to them with his most distinguished cavaliers. The two swindlers raised their arms as though they were holding something and said, "Just look at these trousers! Here is the jacket! This is the cloak!" and so forth. "They are as light as spider webs! You might think that you didn't have a thing on, but that is the good thing about them."

"Yes," said the cavaliers, but they couldn't see a thing, for nothing was there.

"Would his imperial majesty, if it please his grace, kindly remove his clothes." said the swindlers. "Then we will fit you with the new ones, here in front of the large mirror."

The emperor took off all his clothes, and the swindlers pretended to dress him, piece by piece, with the new ones that were to be fitted. They took hold of his waist and pretended to tie something about him. It was the train. Then the emperor turned and looked into the mirror.

"Goodness, they suit you well! What a wonderful fit!" they all said. "What a pattern! What colors! Such luxurious clothes!"

"The canopy to be carried above your majesty awaits outside," said the grandmaster of ceremonies.

"Yes, I am ready!" said the emperor. "Don't they fit well?" He turned once again toward the mirror, because it had to appear as though he were admiring himself in all his glory.

The chamberlains who were to carry the train held their hands just above the floor as if they were picking up the train. As they walked they pretended to hold the train high, for they could not let anyone notice that they could see nothing.

The emperor walked beneath the beautiful canopy in the procession, and all the people in the street and in their windows said, "Goodness, the emperor's new clothes are incomparable! What a beautiful train on his jacket. What a perfect fit!" No one wanted it to be noticed that he could see nothing, for then it would be said that he was unfit for his position or that he was stupid. None of the emperor's clothes had ever before received such praise.

"But he doesn't have anything on!" said a small child.

"Good Lord, let us hear the voice of an innocent child!" said the father, and whispered to another what the child had said.

"A small child said that he doesn't have anything on!"

Finally everyone was saying, "He doesn't have anything on!"

The emperor shuddered, for he knew that they were right, but he thought, "The procession must go on!" He carried himself even more proudly, and the chamberlains walked along behind carrying the train that wasn't there.

The Invisible Cloth


Three impostors came to a king, and told him they were cloth-weavers, and could fabricate a cloth of so peculiar a nature that a legitimate son of his father could see the cloth; but if he were illegitimate, though believed to be legitimate, he could not see it.

Now the king was much pleased at this, thinking that by this means he would be able to distinguish the men in his kingdom who were legitimate sons of their supposed fathers from those who were not, and so be enabled to increase his treasures, for among the Moors only legitimate children inherit their father's property; and for this end he ordered a palace to be appropriated to the manufacture of this cloth. And these men, in order to convince him that they had no intention of deceiving him, agreed to be shut up in this palace until the cloth was manufactured, which satisfied the king.

When they were supplied with a large quantity of gold, silver, silk, and many other things, they entered the palace, and, putting their looms in order, gave it to be understood that they were working all day at the cloth.

After some days, one of them came to the king and told him the cloth was commenced, that it was the most curious thing in the world, describing the design and construction; he then prayed the king to favor them with a visit, but begged he would come alone.

The king was much pleased, but wishing to have the opinion of some one first, sent the lord chamberlain to see it, in order to know if they were deceiving him.

When the lord chamberlain saw the workmen, and heard all they had to say, he dared not admit he could not see the cloth, and when he returned to the king he stated that he had seen it; the king sent yet another, who gave the same report. When they whom he had sent declared that they had seen the cloth he determined to go himself.

On entering the palace and seeing the men at work, who began to describe the texture and relate the origin of the invention as also the design and color, in which they all appeared to agree, although in reality they were not working; when the king saw how they appeared to work, and heard the character of the cloth so minutely described, and yet could not see it, although those he had sent had seen it, he began to feel very uneasy, fearing he might not be the son of the king, who was supposed to be his father, and that if he acknowledged he could not see the cloth he might lose his kingdom; under this impression he commenced praising the fabric, describing its peculiarities after the manner of the workmen.

On the return to his palace he related to his people how good and marvelous was the cloth, yet at the same time suspected something wrong.

At the end of two or three days the king requested his Alguacil (or officer of justice) to go and see the cloth. When the Alguacil entered and saw the workmen, who, as before, described the figures and pattern of the cloth, knowing that the king had been to see it, and yet could not see it himself, he thought he certainly could not be the legitimate son of his father, and therefore could not see it. He, however, feared if he was to declare that he could not see it he would lose his honorable position; to avoid this mischance he commenced praising the cloth even more vehemently than the others.

When the Alguacil returned to the king and told him that he had seen the cloth, and that it was the most extraordinary production in the world, the king was much disconcerted; for he thought that if the Alguacil had seen the cloth, which he was unable to see, there could no longer be a doubt that he was not the legitimate son of the king, as was generally supposed, he therefore did not hesitate to praise the excellency of the cloth and the skill of the workmen who were able to make it.

On another day he sent one of his councillors, and it happened to him as to the king and the others of whom I have spoken; and in this manner and for this reason they deceived the king and many others, for no one dared to say he could not see the cloth.

Things went on thus until there came a great feast, when all requested the king to be dressed in some of the cloth; so the workmen, being ordered, brought some rolled up in a very fine linen and inquired of the king how much of it he wished them to cut off; so the king gave orders how much and how to make it up.

Now when the clothes were made and the feast day had arrived the weavers brought them to the king, informing his majesty that his dress was made of the cloth as he had directed, the king all this time not daring to say he could not see it.

When the king had professed to dress himself in this suit he mounted on horseback and rode into the city; but fortunately for him it was summertime. The people seeing his majesty come in this manner were much surprised; but knowing that those who could not see this cloth would be considered illegitimate sons of their fathers, kept their surprise to themselves, fearing the dishonor consequent upon such a declaration.

Not so, however, with a negro, who happened to notice the king thus equipped; for he, having nothing to lose, came to him and said, "Sire, to me it matters not whose son I am, therefore I tell you that you are riding without any clothes."

On this the king commenced beating him, saying that he was not the legitimate son of his supposed father, and therefore it was that he could not see the cloth.

But no sooner had the negro said this, than others were convinced of its truth, and said the same; until, at last, the king and all with him lost their fear of declaring the truth, and saw through the trick of which these impostors had made them the victims.

When the weavers were sought for they were found to have fled, taking with them all they had received from the king by their imposition.

How Eulenspiegel Painted the Forbears of the Landgrave of Hessen


Many marvellous things did Eulenspiegel bring to pass in the land of Hessen. After that he had journeyed up and down in the country of Saxony, and his fame had spread so abroad that no longer dare he work his knaveries and beguilings in that land, came our worshipful master forth from Saxony, and did enter into the land of Hessen, and came therein unto Marburg, unto the landgrave where that he kept his court.

Then inquired the landgrave of Eulenspiegel, what manner of man he was and what he could do.

Then answered Eulenspiegel, and said: "Lord, I know the arts, and that manner of man am I, and your humble servant."

Thereat rejoiced the landgrave greatly, for he thought that Eulenspiegel was an alchymist, and in alchymy had the landgrave much delight. Then spake he unto him, saying: "Art thou an alchymist?"

And Eulenspiegel answered: "Nay, that am I not, in good sooth, for of dross make not I gold, but rather quite the other thing. Yet am I a painter, the equal unto whom can be nowhere found in any country, for my work is far better than the work of any other painter."

Then said the landgrave: "Come, let us now look upon some of thy work."

And Eulenspiegel said: "Yea, my lord."

And he had with him some paintings cunningly devised, the which he had brought out of Flanders. These took he from his wallet, and displayed them before that prince.

These pleased the lord much, and he said unto Eulenspiegel: "Worshipful sir painter, what money will ye have if that ye would paint on the wall of our castle hall the story of the family of the landgraves of Hessen, and how that through them I became friendly unto and with the King of Hungary, and other lords and princes, and how long the land of Hessen hath been established? And that must ye tell me in the wise that will be most costly and precious."

Then answered Eulenspiegel: "Behold, most gracious prince, if that ye would have it so rarely done, it might truly cost not less than four hundred marks."

Then answered the landgrave, and said unto Eulenspiegel: "Master, an if you do but make it rarely, the money shall not fail, nor will we forget to reward thee as ye shall deserve."

Then did Eulenspiegel consent to become the painter of the picture; and thereat gave the landgrave unto Eulenspiegel one hundred marks so that he might buy colours therewith.

But when that Eulenspiegel came with three servants he had found, to see what the work was which was to be done, he gat him unto the landgrave, and spake unto him, and entreated him, saying: "Behold, noble prince, I would crave a grace from ye, which I would ask that ye should grant unto me."

Then spake the landgrave: "Yea, that I will grant thee. Speak on."

And Eulenspiegel answered, and said: "The grace I crave from thee is, that, while my work is going forward, no one shall enter without that they ask of me whether they may enter therein."

And therewith the landgrave granted Eulenspiegel the grace he desired. Then conferred Eulenspiegel with his men, and said unto them, that they must take an oath unto him not to betray him; and so did they. And he said unto them, that they need not do any kind of labour, but they might play at tables and chess and other merry pastimes. And thereat were the men content; nor was it greatly marvellous that in such wise they should be, for Eulenspiegel did promise to pay them for serving him after this manner. Then it came to pass, after some three or four weeks had gone by, that the landgrave craved much to see in what measure the painting of Eulenspiegel was ready, and whether, of a truth, it did resemble the ensamples which Eulenspiegel had shewn unto him, which were so goodly and fair.

Thereat gat he him to Eulenspiegel, and said unto him: "Alas, most worshipful master, I would fain come into the hall and see in what measure my picture doth grow ready."

Then Eulenspiegel spake unto the landgrave, and answered him, and said: "Yea, and that shall ye also do. But I must tell unto thee a marvellous secret which doth touch all my painting, in that no one, if he be ignobly born, or not according unto the ordinance of Holy Church, can behold my painting to see it."

The landgrave said thereafter: "Truly that is a marvellous thing."

Yet, my masters, ye may perceive in that the landgrave was an alchymist, so had he also more belief in such affairs than cometh unto the lot of all men. And then went he with Eulenspiegel into the hall, and there had Eulenspiegel hanged up a white cloth, that he should have painted.

And with a white wand did he point to the wall when that he had with his hand put the cloth somewhat aside, and then spake he to the landgrave, and said unto him: "Most noble landgrave, look upon this painting, so marvellous well done and with fair colours, and behold here in this corner he that was first lord of Hessen and earl of the land. And here perceive ye one that was an earl of Rome there unto, and he had a princess and a wife, who was duchess of Bavaria and a daughter of the mild and good Justinian, who afterwards became emperor. And look ye, noble lord; of them was born Adolphus. And of Adolphus came William the Swart; and this William had a son Ludwig, who was named the Pious; and so forward until that we come down unto your lordship's grace. And I know well that there is no person living that can reprove my work, so curiously have I made it, and with such fair and goodly colours."

Yet saw the lord nought before his face but the white wall, and he thought unto himself: "Though I see no thing but the wall, yet will I say nought unto the master, else will he know full well that L am not nobly born, but basely and vilely."

Therefore said the landgrave unto Eulenspiegel: "Learned and cunning master painter, your work pleaseth me marvellously well, yet is my understanding very small therein."

Therefore departed he out of the hall. And when that he did come unto the princess his wife, she spake unto him, and asked him, saying: "How goeth it with the master painter? Ye have seen his work and devices, and how are ye pleased therewith? Truly have I but small belief in him; for he seemeth unto me a rare and most cunning knave and beguiler."

And the landgrave answered her: "I have shrewd trust in him; and therein is displayed great cunning and mastery; I like it well. Would it please thee also to look thereon?"

And she said: "Yea, that it would."

And the landgrave said: "Then, with the master's consent, shall ye do it."

Then sent she for Eulenspiegel, and said unto him, that she did desire to behold his painting. And that did Eulenspiegel grant unto her; but he told her likewise the marvellous secret which did hang upon his painting. And they entered in, and with the princess came eight maidens of her women and her woman-fool, which did everywhere be in her company.

And Eulenspiegel put back the cloth with his hand, and with his wand told them the same story which he had told unto the landgrave.

Yet perceived they nothing; but being ashamed, spake not any word, neither praising nor blaming the picture.

But then did the woman-fool open her mouth, and spake, and said unto Eulenspiegel: "Worshipful master, an if it be that I am basely born, yet see I no thing of thy device upon the wall."

And Eulenspiegel thought: "Now goeth the matter not so rarely on as before; for if the fools speak truth, then truly must I depart hence," and laughed thereat within himself.

Thereafter departed the princess, and went unto her lord and husband, and he spake unto her, and asked her how that the work liked [pleased] her.

And she answered and said: "Most gracious lord, it liketh me as well as it did you, and truly is most rare. But my woman-fool it liketh not; and she saith that she cannot see any painting there at all. And she and my maidens think that there lieth hid some knavish practice therein."

Thereat began the landgrave to take counsel within himself, if it might be that he was beguiled; but he sent word unto Eulenspiegel that he should make ready his work, for that all his court was coming to behold the picture, and that if any among them fortuned to be base-born, then should their lands be escheated unto the landgrave.

Thereat gat him Eulenspiegel unto his fellows and discharged them, and gave them money, and they departed. And then went he unto the treasurer, and of him gat he other hundred marks; and then went he forth from the castle, and so departed on his way. And it came to pass that on the morrow the landgrave demanded where that his painter might be -- but he had departed.

Thereat went he with all his lords into the hall where that the master had exercised his cunning device, but there saw they no painting; so they spake no words, but kept their mouths shut.

Thereat said the landgrave, for he beheld the sign which Eulenspiegel did always write where that he had worked any knavery, which was that he wrote up the device of an owl [Eule] and a glass [Spiegel]: "Now do we know that we are be guiled; and with Eulenspiegel have we but little for to be moved, but rather for the two hundred marks, but the loss thereof can we likewise bear. But a great knave is he, and must henceforth remain far from our lands."

Thus did our noble Master Eulenspiegel everywhere teach wisdom unto the lieges; but from Marburg had he gat him forth, nor would he again have to do with the painter's mastery.

Fine Thread


A man ordered some fine thread from a spinner. The spinner spun it for him, but the man said that the thread was not good, and that he wanted the finest thread he could get.

The spinner said: "If this is not fine enough, take this!" and she pointed to an empty space.

He said that he did not see any.

The spinner said: "You do not see it, because it is so fine. I do not see it myself."

The fool was glad, and ordered some more thread of this kind, and paid her for what he got.

The Miller with the Golden Thumb


A merchant that thought to deride a miller sitting among company said to him, "Sir, I have heard that every honest miller that tells the truth has a golden thumb."

The miller answered and said it was true.

Then the merchant said, "I pray, let me see your thumb." And when the miller showed his thumb, the merchant said, "I cannot perceive that your thumb is gold. It is the same as other men's thumbs."

The miller answered, and said, "Sir, the truth is that my thumb is gold, but you have no power to see it, for it has the property that he who is a cuckold shall never have power to see it."

The King's New Turban


Of old time there was a great king. One day a man came before him and said, "My king, I shall weave a turban such that one born in wedlock will see it, while the bastard will see it not."

The king marveled and ordered that that weaver should weave that turban; and the weaver received an allowance from the king and tarried a long while. One day he folded up this side and that side of a paper and brought it and laid it before the king and said, "Oh king, I have woven that turban."

So the king opened the paper and saw that there was nothing; and all the viziers and nobles who stood there looked on the paper and saw nothing. Then the king said in his heart, "Do you see? I am then a bastard"; and he was sad. And he thought, "Now, the remedy is this, that I say it is a goodly turban and admire it, else will I be put to shame before the folk." And he said, "Blessed by God! Oh master, it is a goodly turban, I like it much."

Then that weaver youth said, "Oh king, let them bring a cap that I may wind the turban for the king."

They brought a cap, and the weaver youth laid that paper before him and moved his hands as though he wound the turban, and he put it on the king's head. All the nobles who were standing there said, "Blessed be it! Oh king, how fair, how beautiful a turban!" and they applauded it much.

Then the king rose and went with two viziers into a private room and said, "Oh viziers, I am then a bastard; I see not the turban."

The viziers said, "Oh king, we too see it not." At length they knew of a surety that the turban had not existence, and that that weaver had thus played a trick for the sake of money.

The King and the Clever Girl


There was once a king who, during the day, used to sit on his throne and dispense justice, but who at night was accustomed to disguise himself and to wander about the streets of his city looking for adventures.

One evening he was passing by a certain garden when he observed four young girls sitting under a tree, and conversing together in earnest tones. Curious to overhear the subject of their discourse, he stopped to listen.

One of the girls said, "I think of all tastes the pleasantest in the world is the taste of telling lies."

This remark so interested the king that the next day he summoned the girl to his palace.

"Tell me," he said, "what you and your companions talked about under the tree last night."

"It was not about the king," answered she.

"Nevertheless," asked he, "what was it you said?"

"Those who tell lies, said I, must tell them because they find the practice agreeable," replied she.

"Whose daughter are you?" inquired the king.

"I am the daughter of a farmer," answered the girl.

"And what made you think there was pleasure in telling lies?" asked the king.

The girl answered saucily, "Oh, you yourself will tell lies someday!"

"How?" said the king. "What can you mean?"

The girl answered, "If you will give me two lacs of rupees, and six months to consider, I will promise to prove my words."

So the king gave the girl the sum of money she asked for, and agreed to her conditions.

After six months he called her to his presence again, and reminded her of her promise. Now, in the interval the girl had built a fine palace far away in the forest, upon which she had expended the wealth which the king had given to her. It was beautifully adorned with carvings and paintings, and furnished with silk and satin. So she now said to the king, "Come with me, and you shall see God."

Taking with him two of his ministers, the king went out, and by the evening they all arrived at the palace.

"This palace is the abode of God," said the girl. "But he will reveal himself only to one person at a time, and he will not reveal himself even to him unless he was born in lawful wedlock. Therefore, while the rest remain without, let each of you enter in order."

"Be it so," said the king. "But let my ministers precede me. I shall go in last."

So the first minister passed through the door and at once found himself in a noble room, and as he looked around he said to himself, "Who knows whether I shall be permitted to see God or not? I may be a bastard. And yet this place, so spacious and so beautiful, is a fitting dwelling place even for the deity." With all his looking and straining, however, he quite failed to see God anywhere. Then said he to himself, "If now I go out and declare that I have not seen God, the king and the other minister will throw it in my teeth that I am base-born. I have only one course open, therefore, which is to say that I have seen him."

So he went out, and when the king asked, "Have you seen God?" he answered at once, "Of course I have seen God."

"But have you really seen him?" continued the king.

"Really and truly," answered the minister.

"And what did he say to you?" inquired the king further.

"God commanded me not to divulge his words," readily answered the minister.

Then said the king to the other minister, "Now you go in."

The second minister lost no time in obeying his master's order, thinking in his heart as he crossed the threshold, "I wonder if I am base-born?" Finding himself in the midst of the magnificent chamber, he gazed about him on all sides, but failed to see God. Then said he to himself, "It is very possible I am base-born, for no God can I see. But it would be a lasting disgrace that I should admit it. I had better make out that I also have seen God."

Accordingly, he returned to the king, who said to him, "Well, have you seen God?" when the minister asserted that he had not only seen him, but that he had spoken with him too.

It was now the turn of the king, and he entered the room confident that he would be similarly favored. But he gazed around in dismay, perceiving no sign of anything which could even represent the Almighty. Then began he to think to himself, "This God, wherever he is, has been seen by both my ministers, and it cannot be denied, therefore, that their birthright is clear. Is it possible that I, the king, am a bastard, seeing that no God appears to me? The very thought is confusion, and necessity will compel me to assert that I have seen him too."

Having formed this resolution, the king stepped out and joined the rest of his party.

"And now, O king," asked the cunning girl, "have you also seen God?"

"Yes," answered he with assurance, "I have seen God."

"Really?" asked she again.

"Certainly," asserted the king.

Three times the girl asked the same question, and three times the king unblushingly lied. Then said the girl, "O king, have you never a conscience? How could you possibly see God, seeing that God is a spirit?"

Hearing this reproof, the king recalled to mind the saying of the girl that one day he would lie too, and, with a laugh, he confessed that he had not seen God at all. The two ministers, beginning to feel alarmed, confessed the truth as well. Then said the girl, "O king, we poor people may tell lies occasionally to save our lives, but what had you to fear? Telling lies, therefore, for many has its own attractions, and to them at least the taste of lying is sweet."

Far from being offended at the stratagem which the girl had practiced on him, the king was so struck with her ingenuity and assurance that he married her forthwith, and in a short time she became his confidential adviser in all his affairs, public as well as private. Thus this simple girl came to great honor and renown, and so much did she grow in wisdom that her fame spread through many lands.

The Invisible Silk Robe

Sri Lanka

A Brahman wrote seven stanzas in praise of his king's copper-colored silk robes. Seven men heard these stanzas and resolved to trick a foolish king from another city.

Traveling to that city, the seven men said to the king, "Maharaja, what sort of robe is your majesty wearing? We have woven a copper-colored silk robe for the king of our city. It is like the thin silk robes from the divine world. In comparison to our king, you look like one of his servants." Thus spoke the seven men.

These words brought shame to the king. Thus filled with shame, he thought to himself, "I too am a king. Can I not have such robes woven for me as well?" Then he asked, "What would you require to weave such silk robes?"

The seven men replied, "You must obtain good silk thread and give it to us. Then construct for us a place in your festival garden and provide us with food and drink." Then they added, "The silk cloth that we weave is not visible to a low-born person; only a well-born person can see it."

So the king procured silk thread for the men. The men took it to the festival garden and put it away.

People came to the festival garden to look at the copper-colored silk robe. The seven men were there at work. The people could see their motions of weaving, cutting, and stitching, but the silk robe itself was not visible. Hence each man thought to himself, "I must be low-born, for I cannot see this copper-colored silk robe."

And what if these were their thoughts! Each person kept them to himself, and no one uttered them aloud.

The king sent a messenger to see if the robe was finished. He saw the seven men's motions of weaving and stitching, but the robe itself was not visible. "If I report that I did not see the robe, they will say that I am the son of a courtesan," he thought.

To hide his shame, the messenger returned to the royal house and said, "The men are weaving a priceless robe, but the work is not yet finished. Once finished, they will dress your honor in the robe."

Because of the messenger's statement, many people went to look at the robe, but in spite of the workers' motions, the robe was not visible to anyone. Fearing that others would call them illegitimate, they all said, "We see it. It is indeed a very costly robe." And they went away.

After seven days the king himself went to look at the silk robe. He looked, but it was not visible to him either. He uttered not a word that he could not see it.

Afterward the seven men came to the king and said, "We have woven for you the copper-colored silk robe. It is finished." Then they added, "Get out all the clothes that you have inherited from seven generations of ancestors. After we have dressed you in the new robe you must give us all those other clothes."

Thus the king took out all the vestments from his ancestors and gave them and all his other clothes to the seven men.

After receiving all the clothes, the seven men surrounded the king and told him that they were putting on him the copper-colored silk clothing. They stroked his head, saying that they were putting on the crown. They stroked his arms, saying that they were putting on the jacket. In the same manner they stroked all parts of his body, saying that they were dressing him.

Then they brought the king into the middle of a great procession and announced to the citizens, "Neither his majesty our king, nor any other person within this procession has ever worn or even seen such clothing as this. In celebration of the king's new robe, let him sit atop the festival elephant and be carried throughout the entire city and then back to the royal house!"

Having said this, they brought forth the elephant, seated the naked king upon it, and started him on his procession throughout the city.

But the seven men took goods from his house and went away. And the foolish king remained without clothes.

Links to related tales

  1. Doctor Know-All and other folktales of type 1641.

  2. Twigmuntus, Cowbelliantus, Perchnosius, the tale of a simple lad who confounds a group of scholars by pretending to know Latin.

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Revised September 7, 2019.