Word of the Emperor's refined habits spread over his kingdom and beyond. Two scoundrels who had heard of the Emperor's vanity decided to take advantage of it. They introduced themselves at the gates of the palace with a scheme in mind.
"We are two very good tailors and after many years of research we have invented an extraordinary method to weave a cloth so light and fine that it looks invisible. As a matter of fact it is invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality."
The chief of the guards heard the scoundrel's strange story and sent for the court chamberlain. The charnberlain notified the prlme ministerwho ran to the Emperor and disclosed the incredible news. The Emperor's curiosity got the better of him and he decided to see the two scoundrels.
"Besides being invisibleyour Highnessthis cloth will be woven in colours and paterns created especially for you." The emperor gave the two men a bag of gold coins in exchange for their promise to begin working on the fabric immediately.
"Just tell us what you need to get started and we'll give it to you." The two scoundrels asked for a loomsilkgold thread and then pretended to begin working. The Emperor thought he had spent his money quite well: in addition to getting a new extraordinary suithe would discover which of his subjects were ignorant and incompetent. A few days laterhe called the old and wise prime ministerwho was considered by everyone as a man with common sense.
"Go and see how the work is proceeding" the Emperor told him"and come back to let me know."
The prime minister was welcomed by the two scoundrels.
"We're almost finishedbut we need a lot more gold thread. HereExcellency! Admire the coloursfeel the softness!" The old man bent over the loom and tried to see the fabric that was not there. He felp cold sweat on his forehead.
"I can't see anything" he thought. "If I see nothingthat means I'm stupid! Orworseincompetent!" If the prime minister admitted that he didn' see anythinghe would be discharged from his office.
"What a marvellous fabriche said then. "I'll certaln!y tell the Emperor." The two scoundrels rubbed their hands gleefully. They had almost made it. More thread was requested to finish the work.
Finallythe Emperor received the announcement that the two tailors had come to take all the measurements needed to sew his new suit.
"Come in" the Emperor ordered. Even as they bowedthe two scoundrels pretended to be holding large roll of fabric.
"Here it is your Highnessthe result of our labour" the scoundrels said. "We have worked night and day butat lastthe most beautiful fabric in the world is ready for you. Look at the colours and feel how fine it is." Of course the Emperor did not see any colours and could not feel any cloth between his fingers. He panicked and felt like fainting. But luckily the throne was right behind him and he sat down. But when he realized that no one could know that he did not see the fabriche felt better. Nobody could find out he was stupid and incompetent. And the Emperor didn't know that everybody else around him thought and did the very same thing.
The farce continued as the two scoundrels had foreseen it. Once they had taken the measurementsthe two began cutting the air with scissors while sewing with their needles an invisible cloth.
"Your Highnessyou'll have to take off your clothes to try on your new ones." The two scoundrels draped the new clothes on him and then held up a mirror. The Emperor was embarrassed but since none of his bystanders werehe felt relieved.
"Yesthis is a beautiful suit and it looks very good on me" the Emperor said trying to look comfortable. "You've done a fine job."
"Your Majesty" the prime minister said"we have a request for you. The people have found out about this extraordinary fabric and they are anxious to see you in your new suit." The Emperor was doubtful showing himself naked to the peoplebut then he abandoned his fears. After allno one would know about it except the ignorant and the incompetent.
"All right" he said. "I will grant the people this privilege." He summoned his carriage and the ceremonial parade was formed. A group of dignitaries walked at the very front of the procession and anxiously scrutinized the faces of the people in the street. All the people had gathered in the main squarepushing and shoving to get a better look. An applause welcomed the regal procession. Everyone wanted to know how stupid or incompetent his or her neighbour was butas the Emperor passeda strange murmur rose from the crowd.
Everyone saidloud enough for the others to hear: "Look at the Emperor's new clothes. They're beautiful!"
"What a marvellous train!"
"And the colours! The colours of that beautiful fabric! I have never seen anything like it in my life." They all tried to conceal their disappointment at not being able to see the clothesand since nobody was willing to admit his own stupidity and incompetencethey all behaved as the two scoundrels had predicted.
A childhoweverwho had no important job and could only see things as his eyes showed them to himwent up to the carriage.
"The Emperor is naked" he said.
"Fool!" his father reprimandedrunning after him. "Don't talk nonsense!" He grabbed his child and took him away. But the boy's remarkwhich had been heard by the bystanderswas repeated over and over again until everyone cried:
"The boy is right! The Emperor is naked! It's true!"
The Emperor realized that the people were right but could not admit to that. He though it better to continue the procession under the illusion that anyone who couldn't see his clothes was either stupid or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on his carriagewhile behind him a page held his imaginary mantle.