The mirror is a recurring theme in fooldom, both as a symbol and a function of the role – they hold a mirror up to show things as they really are, in turn allowing us to ‘reflect’ on our behaviour. In European iconography, the jester can be seen looking into a mirror, or somehow holding one up; in carnival for example, they might hold one up to the participants, inviting them to consider themselves as they.
One of Europe’s most irrepressible folk fools is Eulenspiegel and a regular image has him holding up an owl in one hand and a mirror in the other, the wisdom and reflexive nature of the fool captured in the two elements of his name. And two Big Names in Chinese jesterdom included ‘Mirror’: Mirror-like Lu (Lu Ruojing) and Newly Polished Mirror (Jing Xinmo).
The Town Hall of Nördlingen in Germany has a Narrenspiegel, a stone-carved ‘mirror’ – an image of a fool with the words below making clear that it is but a reflection of you, the watcher – the real fool – standing in front of it: ‘Nun sind unser zwey’ (‘Now we are two’).
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