Long ago and far away, there lived an Emperor. This Emperor was very vain and could think about nothing but his clothes. He had wardrobes and cupboards full of clothes. They filled his spare bedrooms and upstairs corridors of the palace.
The courtiers were worried that the wardrobes would begin to appear downstairs and in their chambers.
The Emperor spent hours every morning getting dressed. He had to choose his outfit, preferable a new one, and the shoes and wig to go with it. Mid-morning, he invariably changed into something more formal for his short meetings with his councillors and advisors. He would change again for lunch, and then again for a rest in the afternoon. He just had to change for dinner and them again for the evening!
He kept all the weavers, tailors, cobblers and silk merchants of the city very busy and very happy! News of the Emperor spread to distant kingdoms and finally came to the ears of two very shady characters.
"Could we?" they asked themselves. "Could we fool the Emperor who loves new clothes?" "Let's try," they decided.
They left their homes and traveled to the Emperor's city. there they saw the many shops selling clothes, shoes and fabrics. For, if the Emperor dressed finely, so too did his couriers. The two travelers went to the palace along with many other tradesmen hoping to sell their wares to the Emperor. They asked to meet the Emperor. "We have something very special to show him," they told the Chamberlain. "That's what everyone says," said the Chamberlain. "Ah, but his is magical," said one, "We have invented a new cloth by using a very special and secret method."
The Chamberlain felt that it was his duty to bring new items to the Emperor's attention and he went to tell him. "Something magical?" said the Emperor, who was changing for lunch and admiring himself in the mirror. "Oh, I love new things, Show the two weavers in."
The two weavers were shown in, and began to describe their cloth to the Emperor. "It is gold, silver and rainbow colored, all at the same time," said one. "It shimmers." "It feels like silk, but is as warm as wool," said the second. "It is as light as air," said the first. "A most wonderful fabric."
The Emperor was enchanted. He must have an outfit from this new cloth. "There is a grand parade in the city in two weeks time," he said. "I need a new outfit for it. Can one be ready in time?" "Oh yes, your Majesty," said the weavers. "But there is a problem. The cloth is very expensive to make." "No matter," said the Emperor, waving his hand. "Money is no object. I must have an outfit. Just see the Chamberlain and he'll sort it out. Make it here in the palace."
The Chamberlain showed the two weavers to a large airy room and they set to work. They asked for a loom, and a sack of gold to start buying materials. The Chamberlain followed the Emperor's orders and they were denied nothing. The weavers worked away behind closed doors. The loom could be heard clattering away. Every now and then a courtier would stand and listen at the door. News of the magic cloth had spread.
Finally, the Emperor could stand it no more. "Chamberlain, go to the weavers and see how the cloth is processing. The parade is only a week way." The Chamberlain knocked at the door and waited. "Enter!" said the weavers. They had been expecting someone soon! "The Emperor has sent me to check on the progress of the cloth," said the Chamberlain, staring at the empty loom. "Is it not beautiful?" said one of the weavers, holding out nothing to the Chamberlain. "See the lustre, feel the softness!" "Um," said the Chamberlain, not quite sure what to say. "Oh wise Chamberlain," said the other weaver.
"Now you can see why it is magical. Only the truly clever and brilliant can see the cloth. Most people would see an empty loom, but a clever man like you will see our wonderful cloth." "Of course," said the Chamberlain, not wanting to look stupid. "It really is quite marvelous. Those colors, that shimmer of the gold and silver threads. Marvelous." "Oh, you are so wise," said the weavers.
The Emperor was very impatient and couldn't wait for the Chamberlain to return. After ten minutes of pacing up and down, he went to the weavers' room, followed by half of his court. He threw the doors open, and saw the empty loom. "Why!" he cried in a surprised voice. "Your Majesty," said the Chamberlain quickly. " A wise man such as yourself can surely see the colors and sheen of this magical cloth." "Of course I can," said the Emperor, wondering why he could not. "It's beautiful. Simply enchanting. When can my outfit be made? Send for the royal tailors!" "Your Majesty," said the two weavers. "We would be delighted to make your outfit for you. There is no need to trouble your hard-working tailor. It is such a difficult fabric to cut and sew. We will make the suit." "Very well," said the Emperor. "First fitting tomorrow."
The courtiers had followed the Emperor, and they now came into the room. Of course, they could see nothing on the loom for there was nothing to see. "Is it not beautiful?" said one of the weavers. "Of course, only the wise and very clever can see the beauty of the cloth. Look at the colors, feel the weight." The courtiers queued up to look at the colors and feel the weight, and each went away exclaiming over the marvelous cloth which was indeed as light as air. But each courtier secretly wondered if they were really stupid, as they had seen nothing at all. The two weavers then set to work as tailors. They muttered and discussed at the Emperor's fittings, stitching here, cutting there until at last the suit was made.
The following day was the day of the parade. "Am I not the handsomest of men in my marvellous suit?" said the Emperor to the Chamberlain, as he showed off his new outfit. "Just look at the tiny stitches and the lacework. Truly marvelous." "Undoubtedly, sir," said the Chamberlain. "There is no outfit on earth to equal this one."
The Emperor was dressed in his new suit and ready for the parade. News of his amazing outfit had reached the people of the town and all wanted to see him. There were people crowded along the sides of the streets.
The parade began!
People gasped. "What a suit!" they cried. "What suit?" asked a small boy, who had not heard of the magical cloth. "The Emperor has no clothes on at all!" "It's true! No clothes! The Emperor is naked!" the people cried. And the Emperor was very ashamed. He had been so vain, and now he had been made to look a fool. As for the two tailors -- they were in fact thieves, and had long since left the town with their bags of gold. Probably laughing all the way! But the Emperor is a wiser man now, and spends a lot more time with his advisors and far less with his tailors.