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The Emperor’s New Clothes Fairy Tale

Updated on January 30, 2020
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As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

My illustration for E is for The Emperor's New Clothes
My illustration for E is for The Emperor's New Clothes | Source

The FairyTale Alphabet Book

As a background for this story, I have to tell how it all began. If you an old friend, you probably know I’ve written and illustrated a children’s alphabet book using fairy tales and folk tales from around the world as prompts for the letters of the alphabet. Some years ago I started it as a thesis project for my illustration degree. The whole project transformed and morphed many times before I was done. I am planning a series with several more folktales and fairytales from around the world for each letter of the alphabet.

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.

— Sophia Loren
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Thumbnail sketches for the final illustrationThumbnail sketch 2Thumbnail sketch 3Thumbnail sketch 4
Thumbnail sketches for the final illustration
Thumbnail sketches for the final illustration | Source
Thumbnail sketch 2
Thumbnail sketch 2 | Source
Thumbnail sketch 3
Thumbnail sketch 3 | Source
Thumbnail sketch 4
Thumbnail sketch 4 | Source

Collage Illustrations

First, I decided I didn’t want the typical “A is for Apple” type of book or animal alphabet book; those have been done. It was my love of fairy tales that started me on this theme. Second, my advisors saw some of my collage work and suggested that I make the illustrations in collage instead of watercolor. Knowing that would take much longer, I began right away. But even then the transformation continued.

Value Sketch for the final illustration
Value Sketch for the final illustration | Source

Global Fairytales

After doing R is for Red Riding Hood and J is for Jack in the Beanstalk, I thought I was going to have trouble finding fairy tales for all 26 letters if I stuck to the typical Grimm’s Fairy Tales. And that’s when it hit me to be more global. Why not research fairy tales and folk tales from all over the world? This added to my work but in the end, it became very satisfying. You probably know this fairy tale from the many tales told by Hans Christian Anderson of Denmark.

Color Composition with the collage of the boy added
Color Composition with the collage of the boy added | Source

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.

— Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Emperor’s New Clothes, A Danish Fairytale

In a certain country long ago, there was a very vain emperor who cared about nothing except wearing the best and most expensive clothes. One day two weavers come to his kingdom, who promise him they will make him the best and fanciest suit of clothes. The weavers are liars, called con-men, who convince the emperor they are using a special fine fabric invisible to anyone who is either unfit for his position or "hopelessly stupid". The weavers, of course, are actually only pretending to sew the clothes in order to charge the emperor a lot of money for nothing.

When the weavers showed the fine fabric to the ministers of the emperor, they too said they could see it because they didn’t want to be accused of being stupid. No one can see the alleged "clothes", but they all pretend they can for fear of appearing stupid.

Finally, the weavers report that the suit is finished and they pretend to dress the emperor. He is very excited to show off his new suit of clothes so he prepares a parade through the town. All the townsfolk have heard about the special fabric and also do not want to appear stupid so they cheer for the emperor’s new clothes when in truth he is wearing nothing. Finally, a child in the crowd blurts out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all and laughs. The people also see the humor and begin laughing also. The emperor realizes it is true but continues the parade so he won’t appear stupid for paying for no clothes at all.

Published with Lulu

This fairy tale has been shortened to fit into my book along with all the other letters of the alphabet. If you would like to read the full version, you can Google the title and find several versions of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

My book, The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World, was self-published last year with because Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing) refused to allow illustrations that spanned the central gutter of the page. They demanded at least a half-inch margin around the outside, which I could have done, and a half-inch margin through the center margin, which would destroy the look and cohesiveness of the double-page illustrations. I had to find a different publisher who would allow the illustrations the way I wanted them. KDP obviously does not understand illustrated children’s picture books.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The finished collage of the boyThe finished collage of the background legsThe finished collage of the E
The finished collage of the boy
The finished collage of the boy | Source
The finished collage of the background legs
The finished collage of the background legs | Source
The finished collage of the E
The finished collage of the E | Source

When you buy something from an artist, you’re buying more than an object. You’re buying hundreds of hours of errors and experimentation. You’re buying years of frustration and moments of pure joy. You’re not buying just one thing, you are buying a piece of a heart, a piece of a soul… a small piece of someone else’s life.

— Anonymous

Final Thoughts

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. Lately, I’ve been doing some research to begin another one. There were so many stories I had to pass over with the first book because there was just not enough room or letters in the alphabet. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.


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