Everybody in the country knew his interest and came to see the emperor. One day two men came. They looked very lazy. They introduced themselves as tailors.
“We can make very beautiful clothes for you if you like,” they said. “But our clothes are quite different than the others. They are so beautiful that only clever people can see them.”
“So you will make the best one for me. Mine must be the most beautiful of all.” said the emperor. The men looked happy. The emperor was happy, too. “If I have those kinds of clothes, I can find out which people in my country are foolish.” thought the emperor himself.
“Then make the cloth for me.” he said and paid a fortune to the men. So the men went away to begin their work. Their work took long days. And as they worked, they wanted more and more money. But they did not work at all.
The emperor waited. He got bored. He wanted his new cloth, but he didn’t want to ask to the men if cloth was ready, because he was afraid. On the other hand he was also anxious that he would not see the cloth.
“What should I do if I can’t see the cloth.” he thought. “If I am foolish, of course, I can’t see it. And I should not be emperor.”
Then he called the greatest man in his country to consult about his new cloth. He was also wondering if he would see it.
“Go to the men and look at the new cloth. I want to know how it looks. And please ask them when it will be ready.”
So the great man went to the house where the two men worked. When he got into the house, he saw them working. But he couldn’t see any cloth at all. But he did not say anything because he did not want to be foolish.
“What are they doing?” the great man asked himself.
The two men asked him to come nearer. “Isn’t our cloth very nice? Didn’t you like it?” asked the men.
“Oh, it is the nicest cloth I’ve ever seen in my life.” said the emperor.
The great man looked in a surprise, because he could not see anything. There was nothing there.
“What!” he thought again. “Am I a fool? I’ve always thought that I am a great man. If anyone knows I am a fool, they never trust me any more. I must not tell anyone that I have not seen the cloth.”
“You have said nothing about our cloth.” said the men again.
“Oh, it is the nicest cloth I’ ve ever seen in my life.” the man answered. “I’ll go to the emperor at once and tell him how nice the cloth is.”
“Thanks a lot.” said the two men. Then they told the great man all about the cloth that was not there.
The great man tried to remember everything about the cloth. Because he thought he would have to tell all the details to the emperor. The two men asked for money again before he left.
After a week or two, the emperor sent another great man to learn what was going on.
“Go and learn when the cloth will be ready,” he said.
This great man went to the lazy men, but he also could see nothing.
“You see how nice the cloth looks.” said one of the men.
“The other great man liked it a lot.” said the other man.
“The other great man is not foolish, because he saw it. If I tell it to anyone that I haven’t seen the cloth, everyone will learn that I am a fool.”
So he looked at the cloth that was not there and said he liked it a lot. He went back to the emperor and said he liked the cloth a lot.
Soon all the people in the city were talking about the beautiful cloth.
“It’s so beautiful that foolish people can’t see it.” they said.
The emperor had been waiting for the cloth for long, so he himself wanted to see it. He took all his great men with him and had a visit to the lazy men. When they got there, the two men seemed to be working very hard.
“You look you’ve liked the cloth a lot.” said one of men to the emperor. “Please look at it more carefully. You will see how pretty it is.” And they acted as if they were holding the cloth in their hands.
“What does it mean?” asked the emperor to himself. “This is very bad. I can see nothing. Am I foolish? Can a fool emperor direct a country? No, nobody must learn this.”
Then he looked at the cloth which was never there. “Can you see how nice it looks?” he said to everyone. “I’ve liked it a lot.”
All the great men there looked and looked; but none of them could see anything. But each one did not want the other to learn that he was a fool. So they said; “Oh, very nice, lovely, very beautiful!”
“Oh, when you wear the dress made by this cloth and walk through the streets, all the people will see how great you are.”
The emperor was not very happy, but he gave the two men more money.
The two men didn’t go to bed that night. They lit some lamps and sat in their room all night.
They wanted the emperor and the others to think that they worked all night.
When the morning came, they cried out, “The emperor’s new clothes are ready.”
As soon as the emperor and the great men heard them shouting, they came near them at once. The lazy men put out their arms; everyone thought that they were showing the cloth to the emperor.
“Here you are, sir! Your lovely clothes!” said the men. “When you put on these clothes, you may think that you have nothing on at all. But that is the great thing about this beautiful cloth. That’s why people pay us so much for it.”
“Yes… yes,” said the great men. But none of them could see the cloth.
“Now, please take off your clothes.” said the lazy men. “When you put these new clothes on, you will see how nice it looks on you. We’ve made them just right for you.”
So the emperor did what he was told. The two men pretended to dress him in the new clothes. They put out their hands and they walked about. They looked at the emperor and touched him. No one knew that they were doing nothing at all. Everyone thought that they were putting the beautiful new clothes on the emperor.
“How nice, how handsome, how clever you are in your new dress!” Everyone cried out. “Only an emperor but no one else should be dressed in such beautiful clothes.”
“I am ready,” said the emperor. On the other hand, he was watching himself at the mirror.
“The clothes are very beautiful. They are just right for me, aren’t they?”
The emperor walked through the streets in front of all the great men and all his servants. People who were standing by or looking out of the windows, cried out, “How beautiful our emperor’s new clothes are!” although they could see nothing.
No one dared to say that he couldn’t see these beautiful new clothes, because nobody would like to be seemed foolish.
But a little child who was not aware of anything cried out; “But the emperor has nothing on!”
“Hear what my child says!” his father cried people around began to whisper one to another. “But he has nothing on!”
Very soon everybody heard of it. They all shouted; “But the emperor has nothing on!” The emperor was very angry, because he knew that the people were right. But he had to go on walking through the crowd. And the great men and the servants all walked after the emperor, looking at the clothes that were not on the emperor.