The mirror is a recurring theme in fooldom, both as a symbol and a function of the role – fools 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 truly are.
One of Europe’s most irrepressible folk fools is Till 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 (Eulen+Spiegel = Owl+Glass). And two Chinese jesters included ‘Mirror’ in their names: Mirror-like Lu (Lu Ruojing) and Newly Polished Mirror (Jing Xinmo 鏡新磨).
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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