There once was a haughty young maiden who was very preoccupied with her looks--vain and shallow, some would say--and she was rude and cruel to every suitor who tried to win her hand. Every day she would go to her mirror and gaze at her appearance for a long time. Usually, she would talk to herself while doing so, telling herself how beautiful she was. Often she would have imaginary conversations with suitors, turning this way and that to see how she looked while spurning their imaginary affection. She decided she was very beautiful, and the more she thought about it, the more she wanted to visit her image in the mirror.
One day while she was visiting and regarding herself in this light and that, the image in the mirror talked back to her. At first she was shocked and frightened and she ran away, but the urge was irresistible to come back and see her image. When she came back, the image was smiling at her, even though she herself was not smiling. “I’m so glad you’ve come back,” the image said, “because I am so concerned about that spot on your chin.” The maiden was surprised because she hadn’t noticed a spot, but sure enough when she looked, there it was as plain as day. And it was so ugly, too. She became very upset to the point of tears, but the image soothed her and told her to come back the next day as it would probably be better then.
The next day the maiden rushed back to her mirror only to have the image show her three horrible spots on her face! One was on her chin and the other two on each cheek. She was mortified and began to cry, whereupon the image soothed her again, telling her to return the following day. On and on it went with the image pointing out more horrible spots each day until the maiden was convinced she was quite grotesque looking. Finally, the image looked at her with disdain and asked her not to come back again. The maiden cried and said she had nowhere to go and dare not show herself to anyone else, but the image stared back at her with a cruel smile and told her she was no longer welcome because she was so ugly. As she said this, the maiden saw herself grow even uglier before her very eyes.
|A mirror image.|
But the maiden begged and begged the image to help her. Finally, the image agreed to help her and suggested that they trade places for a while. The image said she would wear a pretty mask to fool others and the maiden could stay in the mirror until she healed. The maiden thought this was a very good idea, and so they joined hands and jumped toward one another. It was momentarily an odd feeling traveling through the glass, but soon the maiden was safe inside. The image smiled quickly and waved as she left, looking as pretty as ever, and she buried the mirror deep in an old chest in an attic, which she locked securely.
Days passed by, then weeks, and then years. The maiden waited patiently in her prison to be “pretty” again, although she had no way of knowing whether she was or not since she had no reflection to see. She had become the reflection of her inner soul, which she had never taken time to develop because of her vanity, and so there was precious little to see or delight in. The image, on the other hand, had escaped the prison and, once free, immediately transformed into the sprite she was. She flew off and was last seen tempting a beautiful young man to gaze yet deeper into his reflection in a pool of calm water.
Moral: No amount of beauty can mask an ugly soul for long.