“Mirror, mirror, on the wall!
Who’s the fairest of them all?”
Mirrors have been an eternal part of fantasy literature. Their spooky other-worldliness and eerie beauty have caused many fantasies and superstitions to arise about them. From C.S. Lewis to J.K. Rowling, generations of authors have feasted upon the wide scope for imagination they provide. It is no doubt justified, hence, to start this series on fantasy literature with some memorable magical mirrors in literature.
Mirrors, mirrors, magical all! Who’s the most famous of them all? Undoubtedly, the silver mirror of Snow White. Both the mirror that showed the queen the fairest face in the land and the epic lines by the Brothers Grimm will remain etched in our memories. In Through the Looking Glass by C.S. Lewis, Alice steps through a mirror into an alternate world. This is one of the best-loved uses of mirrors in literature. The text itself utilizes a narrative that mirrors that of its predecessor, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The “Mirror of Galadriel” in The Lord of the Rings can show the one who dares look upon it, his past, present or future! In Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray , a portrait serves as a magical mirror that reflects the true visage of the perpetually youthful protagonist, as well as the effect on his soul of each sinful act. There is an ancient story of Narcissus, who fell in love with and pined for his own reflection in a pool of water. Alfred Lord Tennyson, in his poem The Lady of Shalott, writes of a mirror that enables a character to look out on the people of Camelot, as she is under a curse that prevents her from seeing Camelot directly. J.K. Rowling has used magical mirrors in plentiful in her Harry Potter series. The “Mirror of Erised” is a classic example that’ll be remembered for a long time. It shows the person who looks upon it the innermost desires of his heart. Dumbledore, the ever-surprising man, remarks that he sees himself wearing a warm pair of socks! The series also has two way mirrors which consist of a pair of mirrors which allow their bearers to always see each other. Any place. Any time. Convenient!
Magic aside, mirrors also have an element of spookiness about them. In ancient Chinese mythology, there’s the story of the Mirror Kingdom, where creatures are bound by magic to sleep but will one day rise again to do battle with our world. Strange movements we see in mirrors out of the corners of our eyes are supposedly the first stirrings of this world as it wakes up. Mirrors are often connected to souls. Vampires, being soulless, show no reflection in a mirror (That’s how you identify them!). It is said that mirrors can trap dying souls. If you go to a mirror on New Year’s Eve with a candle in your hand and call out the name of a dead person in a loud voice, the power of the mirror will show you that person’s face. Spooky? Mirrors are more than mere reflectors of light!