By Chris Fitzner - @ChrisFitzner
Alone in the stairwell and hidden from the view of my relatives, I gazed, wide eyed, at the beautiful antique mirror hanging on the wall of the landing. What was it like on the other side of the mirror? Could the reflection be its own world, simply an inverse of the world I lived in and if so, how could I get into it? I would poke at the hard glass surface, waiting for that magic moment when the barrier fell and the glass was suddenly pliable and I would step through into the heroic adventure I read about and longed for.
A mirror to validate me and to somehow make me special and though I shied away from the spotlight often enough, there was a part of me that wanted to stand out. I wanted to be That Girl Who Had Adventures.
Most of us know of the magic mirror in Snow White. The speaking, magic mirror has long been a common motif in Asian and European folktales. Steeped in symbolism for thousands of years but though it varies slightly from culture to culture, the themes of truth, wisdom and the soul are attached its reflective surface. They’ve also been popular objects for portals and doorways into parallel worlds.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, am I the fairest one of all?
Whispered words of a lonely child to any mirror she came across at grandma’s house; the antique hand mirror, the cheap platter with reflective bottom, the stairwell landing. Who would I be the fairest of? It didn’t matter when you longed for praise and recognition from your peers.
Mirrors are not just the physical appearance but the soul as well, which is also why it was considered bad luck to break a mirror; damaging the mirror would damage the soul of the person who broke it. That superstition and elaborations of it can be traced as far back as the Romans (who created the first glass mirrors).
The writers of Once Upon a Time seem to stray from the traditional portrayal of the queen and her mirror in their version of Snow White. While Regina is indeed a wicked stepmother, she is beautiful and confident in the knowledge that she is beautiful. The all-knowing mirror that Regina possesses is the prison of the genie who wished to never leave her side and look upon her forever, more a punishment for his foolish wish than a powerful object. But love was Regina’s deficiency, the desire to be loved and to give her heart which could be seen to be reflected, in a twisted way, by the genie’s imprisonment.
Alas, none of the mirrors in my grandmother’s house (or anywhere for that matter) spoke to me, reassuring me that I was the fairest of the land and so I moved on to searching for another world. There had to be more than this one, right? Even Jefferson in Once Upon A Time has pretty solid reasoning for believing in other lands.
‘A real world. How arrogant you are to think yours is the only one. There are infinite more. You have to open your mind. They touch one another pressing up in a long line of lands. Each just as real as the last. All have their own rules. Some have magic, some don’t. And some need magic; like this one.’ – season 1, episode 17 (“Hat Trick”)
Jefferson’s hat has taken us from the Enchanted Forest to Wonderland and given us a glimpse at several doors to other lands as yet unexplored. Lucy Pevensie found Narnia in the back of a wardrobe filled with old musty fur coats. Who’s to say I couldn’t find a hidden doorway in the back of grandma’s very full closets? ‘Other worlds’, ‘alternate universes’, ‘parallel dimensions’ have long been a part of popular culture. Literature, television and movies draw from the idea that there is more to the universe than what we can see. Multiple universes have even been hypothesized in sciences, religion and philosophy. Could Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis be onto something?
As tempting as the idea of another world (or multiple worlds) is the likelihood of running into your doppelganger is dim and remote but the idea is supported by astronomical observations. ‘The simplest and most popular cosmological model today predicts that you have a twin in a galaxy about 10 to the 10 to the 28th power meters from here. This distance is so large that it is beyond astronomical, but that does not make your doppelganger less real.’ (1)
So could another you be gallivanting among the talking flowers in Wonderland or sneaking a peak at Queen Regina’s magic mirror in the Enchanted Forest? Could there be a way for us to enter these other lands and do these things ourselves? Probably not, but remember not to steal from Rumpelstiltskin if you do find a way.
Explore the Arthurian legend surrounding Lancelot, take a trip into the woods to discover the mythology behind Red Riding Hood or learn more about a modern day hero called Snow White. Origins provides unique insights and perspectives from talented writers into the characters we know and love, going far beyond the boundaries of Storybrooke.