The Trouble with Mirrors

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Read by Jana
Stories adapted by Bertie
Sponsored by Athletic Greens / AG1

The Trouble with Mirrors..


This is Jana and I’m here with two stories about mirrors. One is from Korea and the other is from Japan. In both stories, the main characters have never seen a mirror before, and are puzzled by their own reflections. The first story is funny and the second one is more touching. In between the stories, I’m going to be telling you about our new and very healthy sponsor which is called Athletic Greens.

Once upon a time, there was a farmer who had worked very hard for many years and saved up a nice amount of money. He lived in the countryside and had never seen a big city. An idea grew in his mind to visit Seoul and to buy some useful things for the house and some gifts for his family. His wife and daughters thought this was a wonderful ambition and gave him plenty of encouragement.

One day in May, he was ready to leave on the great journey. His tearful wife warned him to look out for robbers on the road and to steer clear of any tempting distractions in the city. He in turn told her to lock the house up at night nice and tight, and to make sure that the pigs were safe in their pen from tigers who loved to eat pork.

His daughters begged him not to forget to buy presents, and he assured them that they would not be disappointed. And then he set off in high spirits on the long tramp to the splendid city of Seoul.

After walking for two weeks, he arrived in the most amazing place he had ever seen. He spent a long while standing on a street corner with his mouth gaping wide open as he gazed at the gorgeous shops and crowds of finely dressed pedestrians. But there is a saying that there are rude people even in Seoul and this proved to be true. Some witty citizens laughed at the country bumpkin. One boy told him that his mouth was like a bird box and something might fly into it.

Eventually, he worked up the courage to step inside some of the fine shops and to buy some gifts. He was astonished by what he found, and not least by the prices. However he bought plenty of pretty things for his wife and daughters including silk, a fan, a box of hairpins, amber beads, and a comb made from tiger’s tooth. That made him think of his pigs, and he hoped that they were safe at home from the marauding tigers.

Finally, he went in search of something for himself. He found a shop that sold all sorts of metal and silver objects. The shopkeeper soon realised that the farmer was from out of town, and decided to have some fun with him - as well as to make a nice sale.

“Would you like to see something truly miraculous?” He asked. The farmer thought it was impossible to be more astonished than he already was that day, but he was willing to try.

The shopkeeper led him to an object that was like an ornate round tray, only one side was covered with highly polished crystal.

“This,” said the shopkeeper, “is called a mirror. It contains spirits.”

The farmer peered into the mirror. He had never seen anything like it before. He found the face of a man about his age. He opened his mouth in astonishment, and the man in the mirror copied him. Then he pulled a face, and the man returned the compliment. So he went round the back of the mirror to see who was hiding there, but there was nobody. The shopkeeper understood that the farmer was totally unable to comprehend the wonder of the mirror and he named a fancy price. Somehow he managed to guess exactly how much the farmer had left to spend on gifts - and then he added on a little bit more because he knew that he would have saved money to buy food on the journey home. The farmer, who was completely overwhelmed by his experience, readily agreed to the extravagant purchase.

Two weeks later the honest farmer arrived home, dusty from the road, and rather hungry. Oh how his family were delighted to see him and shower him with kisses. Before too long, the family sat down and opened all the wonderful presents. They were truly thrilled with all the pretty things and thanked the farmer over and over. He in turn was overjoyed to see the delight on their faces. But he decided to keep the mirror secret for now, and hold back some fun for another day.

However, his wife noticed that her husband had one more unopened box.

The next morning, when he went out to inspect his prized pigs, she found the box behind his table. “What is he hiding from me?” She asked herself as she opened it.

Inside she found a mysterious and silvery object. “No wonder he tucked this away!” she thought, “He must have paid a fortune for it!” Then she turned it around and saw something that caught her totally by surprise: there was the face of a woman inside the object! The face stared back at her with eyes and mouth wide open.

“Oh this is terrible!” She sobbed, “He’s only brought back another wife from Seoul!” The eldest daughter heard her mother’s cries and dashed into the room. “What is it Mama?“ she asked. Her mother showed her the mirror and then the daughter started to cry, for she discovered another young girl in the mirror. Soon grandma and grandpa were in the room and they saw an elderly couple in the mirror. Oh how furious they were! Where would they all live? How would there be enough food for all these new family members? Who would do all the cooking for them? Just then, the good farmer returned to the house. As he came through the door, Grandma hurled the mirror at him. He ducked just in time and the mirror slammed against the wall and broke…For a few moments the farmer was dismayed as he looked at the tiny fragments of crystal. Then he began to laugh, because he understood how they had all been tricked by the mirror. At first the family thought he had gone mad, but as he carried on laughing they could not help joining in. And to the end of their days, they did not really understand what had been the magical secret of the troublesome mirror

In a moment I’m going to tell you another story about a mirror - this time from Japan. In some ways, it’s very similar to the first story - but it takes a more serious and tragic turn.

Now, this is a story from Japan, and like our earlier story, it’s about a mirror. You will definitely recognise similarities with the first story, but about halfway through the story, the plot goes off in a different direction. I should warn you that it does take a tragic turn at one stage, and so if you are very sensitive, it might not be for you.

One day, long ago, a father was about to set out on a long journey. He lived in a remote village and was heading for Kyoto, known far and wide as the city of purple hills and crystal streams. Before leaving, he sat down with his beloved wife and little girl to wish them goodbye. They were good-hearted people. The mother was crying, in fear that her husband would not return. Either he would be attacked by bandits on the way or he would enjoy Kyoto so much that he would stay there and forget all about them. He laughed and assured them that he would definitely be back, although he might be away for two or three months as the road was long and he had to walk all the way. Eventually, he fastened his sandals, placed his broad hat on his head, picked up his bundle of food, and set off. His little daughter ran after him and tugged his sleeve. “Father, father, don’t forget to bring me back a present from Kyoto,” she reminded him. “Never fear,” he said, “I won’t forget that most important thing.” And so she went home satisfied while he continued on his way.
The summer months came and went, and when the leaves turned golden on the trees, the father returned to his village. The little daughter was in the garden when she caught sight of him far down the road and she ran to meet him in great excitement. When they reached their home together, it was the mother's turn to be thrilled and to shower her husband with kisses. Soon they sat down in the same little room where they had gathered three months earlier and the father took out the boxes that he had fetched all the way from Kyoto.
The first box was full of dainty cakes. The second was a beautiful lacquered doll, the prettiest the little girl had ever seen. She loved her doll right away. And the third gift, for the mother, was something of a mystery. She opened a bamboo box smiling as she wondered what it could be. Inside, she found a round silver object with a handle …shaped sort of like a large spoon. It was decorated with patterns of birds and leaves. On the reverse side, she found the clearest crystal. She peered into it and saw, to her astonishment, a female face.
“Who is this woman?” She demanded to know, accusingly. “You met her in Kyoto, didn’t you? Why did you bring her picture back to me?”
Her husband laughed. “This is not a picture. It is called a mirror. And the person you see is none other than yourself!”
“Oh,”said his wife, still puzzled. She smiled and then stuck her tongue out and the woman in the mirror did the same. “It has captured my spirit!” She declared. And no matter how much her husband insisted otherwise she was convinced that the mirror contained some sort of evil magic. Later that evening, she returned the mirror to its box and placed it on the bottom of a larger box where she kept her clothes. And there it remained. Fortunately, the little girl loved her doll rather better than her mother liked the mysterious mirror. Or so it seemed.
The years passed, and when the girl was fourteen years old, her mother fell ill. One day, when the girl was sitting by her side, her mother said,

“Long ago, when you were little , your father travelled to Kyoto and brought back some presents for us. He gave you your beautiful doll and he presented me with a special object called a mirror. You will find it among my things when I am gone. I want you to have it. Look at it when you want to remember me.”

“Yes Mama,” said the girl, trying not to cry.

Sadly, the mother passed away. In time, after a period of mourning, the father found a new wife. He was overjoyed with his new partner in life. The daughter was not so thrilled. She did not get on particularly well with her new stepmother. Her father, who was besotted, sometimes forgot to pay attention to his daughter. There was, shall we say, some family friction.

One day the girl was sitting in her room crying when she recalled her mother’s words about the mirror. Where could it be? There weren’t so many places that her mother could have hidden it. Soon she discovered its location, and she took it out of its box. Full of wonder, she held the lovely silver object in her hand and peered into the polished Crystal. And there she discovered the face of her mother! Only she looked young and in the prime of life!

“This mirror truly is magical,” she thought. “It has preserved the spirit and the looks of my dear mother.” She returned the fantastical object to its box and hid it. From then on, whenever she was feeling low, she took the mirror out and gazed at the spirit of her mother.

After a while, the stepmother suspected that the girl had a secret. One day, after they had quarrelled, the girl fled into her room, and the stepmother spied on her through a crack in the door. She saw her take something out of a box and peer at it. In a fury, the stepmother fetched her husband and said:

“That daughter of yours keeps a secret image of me. Mark my words, she's up to no good. You can be sure she sticks pins into it make me ill. I told you how my back aches - although you have no sympathy - and it’s her evil magic that is the cause!”

So the father pushed the door open and the daughter hastily slipped the mirror into her sleeve. But he demanded to see what it was that she was hiding. Reluctantly she handed the mirror to him. He held the long-forgotten gift in his hand. Memories came back to him of the happy day when he returned from Kyoto and sat with his wife and daughter and watched their faces as they opened the gifts. He looked at his daughter and saw how closely she resembled his first wife. He kissed her on the forehead and promised her that he would never forget the memory of her mother. After that, he spoke to his new wife and explained how his daughter felt. He never forgot how much he loved his daughter who was the spitting image of his first wife. The stepmother was not so pleased, and she saw how close the father was to his daughter. She could not compete with that bond. So, she made sure not to make any more false accusations!

And that was our second story about a magic mirror. I do hope you enjoyed this week’s reflective stories.

For now, from me Jana, at Storynory.com. Goodbye.