Once there was a village who came together every night and danced around the bonfire in a great circle. Young and old alike danced as they watched the fire’s mysterious power to transform anything it touched into a dazzling display of light. And it made them feel empty inside and ready to fill themselves with tomorrow.
And then the mirror man came with his wagon of mirrors for sale. He had been to other villages like this one and knew just what to do in order to sell as many of his mirrors as possible. First he got permission to set up mirrors around the bonfire and the folk let him without thinking anything of it as long as there was enough room to dance. But that night as they danced he got some of them to look at the concentric circle of mirrors. And when they did, suddenly the fire lost its power and they looked at how they were dancing instead.
Some stopped dancing altogether. Others changed their dance according to how they wanted their reflection to look. The next day most of the folk did not feel as refreshed as usual by their transformative dance. They knew something was wrong and the mirror man offered them his solution: buy a mirror for your hut to improve your dancing in addition to such things as table manners, appearances of hair and clothes, and much more for when you look into a mirror because you see the truth.
Even the folk who didn’t want to look in a mirror and knew in their gut that it was better to live looking at the fire instead, had to give in when the rest of the folk got one and insisted that they do the same. Soon after, the folk quit dancing around the fire and held dances during the day for more light to focus on how their bodies moved. And they built a stage and held competitions to judge each other with a harshness that seemed harsher than the day before. When anyone tried to argue against it, the mirror man convinced them that they had greatly improved and were better than any other village he had ever come across..
A few of them cried themselves to sleep at night when they remembered the time they danced around the fire and how great they felt in unison with the whole village. But this mirror divided everyone with a strange sense of some truth. One time, a girl was angry at how she was judged and she broke as many mirrors as she could. Soon after it was forbidden to break a mirror or else suffer the punishment of seven stones thrown to break bones.
And so in every home a mirror showed each family what was wrong with it. And the more they tried to improve their reflection, the more they saw wrong with themselves. The kids never had enough manners. Workers never did everything the right way.
Mirrors were put everywhere so that anyone could look into any home to help criticize whatever they saw. All the folk spent their extra time watching everyone else. It was as if the world outside the village disappeared and the one that used to exist in it. Everything was in the mirror now.
As usual, the mirror man moved on to the next village to change it with his tool for the sole purpose of his gain, for he did not feel anything bad about this because he had lost himself in his mirror image long ago. He had learned to see how others see himself through the mirror and that told him what was more important than what he saw in himself. So he became rich by selling what seemed a harmless or even helpful trinket without ever warning his customers of what was to come. For any consequence of his product was not his fault but the fault of whoever chose to purchase it. And so he lived without blame as he burned each village he visited to the ground in its mirror image.