Many years ago there lived an emperor who was so fond of beautiful new clothes that he wasted all his money to become really nice and handsome. He didn't care about his soldiers, didn't care about the theater or going about the promenades unless it was to show off his new clothes. He changed his coat every hour of the day. Other kings were often said to sit in council. About this one, they always said: the emperor is in the closet.
In the big city where he lived, things were very lively. Every day many strangers came. One day two fraudsters came. They pretended to be weavers and said they could weave the most beautiful cloth imaginable. Not only that the colors and pattern were unusually beautiful, the clothes that were sewn from the fabric also had the wonderful property that they were invisible to the people who mismanaged their work or were stupid.
- Those would be nice clothes, thought the emperor. Wearing them, I would be able to discover which men in my kingdom mismanage their work and I would be able to distinguish the wise from the foolish. That cloth must be woven for me immediately. And so he gave the two swindlers a lot of money in advance so that they could begin their work.
They also set up two looms and pretended they were working, but they had nothing on the loom. They incessantly desired the finest silk and the most magnificent gold; but this they put into their own pocket, and worked with the empty looms, and that until late at night.
- Now I would still like to know how far they got with the fabric, thought the emperor. He was a little strangely at ease when he thought that he who was stupid or who mismanaged his work could not see it. As for himself, he didn't think he needed to be worried, but wanted to send someone first to see how things were. Every man in the town knew what strange power the cloth possessed, and every one wished to see how bad or stupid his neighbor was.
- I want to send my old, faithful minister away to the weavers, thought the emperor. He can best see how the fabric will turn out because he has sense, and no one does his job better than he.
Now the old, honorable minister entered the hall, where the two swindlers sat working at the empty looms. Oh, God save us! thought the old minister, narrowing his eyes. I can't see anything! But he didn't say that.
The two impostors asked him to come closer and asked if it was not a beautiful pattern and beautiful colors. With the same they pointed to the empty loom. The poor old minister kept opening his eyes, but could see nothing, for there was nothing. Oh my God! he thought, would I be stupid? I never believed that, and no one should know that. Would I not be able to handle my work? No, it is not possible for me to say that I cannot see the fabric.
- Well, you don't say anything, said one.
- Oh, it's beautiful, absolutely extraordinarily beautiful! said the old minister, looking through his spectacles. What a pattern and what colors! Yes, I will tell the Emperor that I liked it very much.
- Well, that pleases us, said the two weavers, and now they mentioned the colors and the rare pattern by name. The old minister listened carefully,. so that he might say the same when he came home to the emperor, and he did.
Now the fraudsters demanded more money, more silk and gold, which they would use for the tissue. All they put into their own pockets, and not a thread came into the loom, but they continued to weave as before on the empty loom.
The emperor soon sent another of his honorable officials there to see how the loom was doing and if the cloth would soon be ready. It went the same way as with the minister: mocking looked and looked, but as there was nothing but the empty looms, he could see nothing.
- Yes, isn't it a beautiful fabric? said the two impostors, showing and explaining the beautiful pattern, which did not exist at all.
- I'm not stupid, thought the man. It must be my employment with the king that I am not fit for? It was really strange then! But I mustn't let anyone notice that. And so he praised the cloth, which he did not see, and explained to them his delight in the beautiful colors and the magnificent pattern. Yes, it is really exquisitely beautiful, he said to the emperor.
All the people in the town were talking about the beautiful fabric.
Now the emperor wanted to see it himself, while it was still in the loom. With a whole host of excellent men, among them the two old, honorable men who had been there before, he went to the two crafty impostors, who were now weaving with all their might, but without any material in the loom.
- Yes, isn't it magnificent? said the two honorable men. Or how your majesty see, what pattern, what colors! And then they pointed to the empty loom, because they thought that the others could probably see the fabric.
- What does this mean! thought the emperor. I can't see anything, it's horrible! Am I stupid? Am I not good enough to be emperor? It was the most terrible thing that could happen to me!
- Oh, it's very beautiful! said the emperor. It has my highest approval. And he nodded contentedly, and regarded the empty loom; for he would not say that he could see nothing. Everyone he had with him saw and saw, but still saw no more than all the others. They said, like the emperor: Oh, it is very beautiful! and advised him to dress in this new splendid cloth for the first time at the great procession which was soon to take place.
- It is magnificent, excellent, charming! word of mouth passed. The emperor gave the impostors each a knight's cross to hang in their buttonhole and the title of weavers.
All night before the day on which the procession was to take place, the impostors sat up and had over sixteen candles lighted. People could see that they were in a hurry to get the emperor's new clothes ready. They pretended to take the fabric from the loom. They cut the air with big scissors. They sewed with a sewing needle without thread and finally said
- Look, now the clothes are ready!
The emperor himself came there with his most distinguished companions, and the two impostors raised one arm in the air, as if holding something, and said:
- Here are the leg clothes!
- Here's the rock!
- Here's the cloak!
and so on. They are light as cobwebs! You could think that you had nothing on your body, but that is precisely the beauty of these clothes.
- Yes! said all the companions, but they could see nothing, for there was nothing to see.
- Should your imperial majesty most graciously think to take off his clothes, we will put the new ones on you over there in front of the big mirror, said the fraudsters.
The emperor took off all his clothes and the impostors pretended to give him garment after garment of the new ones, which were supposed to be sewn. They took him around the waist and sort of tied something. It was the trailer and the emperor twisted and turned in front of the mirror.
- God, how well it dresses! What a perfect fit! they all said. What a pattern! Which colors! It is a precious garment!
- The throne sky, which will be carried over your majesty in the procession, is waiting outside! announced the chief master of ceremonies.
- Yes, I'm ready! said the emperor. Does it not fit well? And then he turned once more in front of the mirror, so that it would appear as if he were really looking at his state.
The chamberlains, who were to carry the sleigh, groped their hands to the floor, as if they were picking up the sleigh, and went, holding their hands in the air, for it was not to be seen that they could see nothing.
And so the emperor went in procession under the beautiful throne sky, and all the people in the street and in the windows said:
- Oh, how beautiful the emperor's new clothes are! What a beautiful trail he has on his mantle! It fits so perfectly! Nobody wanted to reveal that he didn't see anything, because then he wouldn't have been good enough for his job or would have been very stupid. None of the emperor's clothes had made such a fortune.
- But he's not wearing anything! said a small child.
- Lord God, hear only the voice of the innocent! said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said.
- He has nothing on, is a small child saying.
- He's got nothing on!
- He's got nothing on! finally shouted all the people and it crawled into the emperor, because he thought they were right, but he thought: Now I must keep my good looks until the end of the procession. And so he stood still straighter, and the chamberlains went, carrying a trailer that was not fans.