The Emperor's New Clothes
Once upon a time there lived a vain emperor whose only worry in life was to
dress in elegant clothes. He changed clothes almost every hour and loved to
show them off to his people.
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
"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 chamberlain notified the prime minister, who 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 invisible, your Highness, this cloth will be woven in
colours and patterns 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 loom, silk, gold thread and then pretended to begin
working. The Emperor thought he had spent his money quite well: in addition to
getting a new extraordinary suit, he would discover which of his subjects were
ignorant and incompetent. A few days later, he called the old and wise prime
minister, who 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 finished, but we need a lot more gold thread. Here,
Excellency! Admire the colours, feel the softness!" The old man bent over the
loom and tried to see the fabric that was not there. He felt cold sweat on his
"I can't see anything," he thought. "If I see nothing, that means I'm
stupid! Or, worse, incompetent!" If the prime minister admitted that he didn't
see anything, he would be discharged from his office.
"What a marvelous fabric, he said then. "I'll certainly tell the Emperor."
The two scoundrels rubbed their hands gleefully. They had almost made it. More
thread was requested to finish the work.
Finally, the 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 bowed, the two scoundrels
pretended to be holding large roll of fabric.
"Here it is your Highness, the result of our labor," the scoundrels said.
"We have worked night and day but, at last, the 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 fabric, he 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 measurements, the two began cutting the air with scissors while
sewing with their needles an invisible cloth.
"Your Highness, you'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 were, he
felt relieved.
"Yes, this 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 people, but then he abandoned his fears. After all, no 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 square,
pushing and shoving to get a better look. An applause welcomed the regal
procession. Everyone wanted to know how stupid or incompetent his or her
neighbor was but, as the Emperor passed, a strange murmur rose from the
Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear: "Look at the Emperor's
new clothes. They're beautiful!"
"What a marvelous 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 clothes, and since nobody was willing to admit
his own stupidity and incompetence, they all behaved as the two scoundrels had
A child, however, who had no important job and could only see things as his
eyes showed them to him, went up to the carriage.
"The Emperor is naked," he said.
"Fool!" his father reprimanded, running after him. "Don't talk nonsense!"
He grabbed his child and took him away. But the boy's remark, which had been
heard by the bystanders, was 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 carriage, while behind him a page held his imaginary