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The Magic Mirror
Based On a Folktale From Spain
The king had decided that it was time to find a wife. At the palace, everyone was talking about the news. One of the servants asked, “How will the king choose his bride?”
“The king will not choose his bride,” said the king’s barber. “I will.”
“You, a barber, will choose the king’s wife?” the servant asked in disbelief.
“Indeed, it is true,” said the barber. “I have told the king that I have in my possession a magic mirror. This mirror can see all the faults in a person’s character. If someone has told lies or been unkind to others, the mirror can tell. If someone is greedy or too proud, the mirror can tell. It is impossible to hide anything from the mirror. For every fault, a dark spot appears on the mirror’s surface. The king has agreed that I should use this mirror to choose him a wife. Any woman who wishes to marry the king must look into this mirror while I stand at her side. If no dark spots appear, she will become our queen.”
“You are going to be very busy,” said the palace cook. “Every unmarried woman in the kingdom will want to look into the mirror.”
“Perhaps,” said the barber, “but I will work night and day if necessary. Beginning next Monday, women may come to my shop if they are interested in marrying the king. I will have the mirror ready.”
Soon everyone in the kingdom was talking about the barber’s magic mirror. When Monday came, a large crowd gathered outside the barber’s shop. Everyone wanted to see who came to look into the mirror, but not one woman entered the shop. The same thing happened day after day.
Each day, the king asked the barber if any women had come to look into the mirror. Each day he received the same answer—not one woman had come. The king became very discouraged.
“If I may make a suggestion,” the barber told the king, “I have heard of a young woman who is said to have no faults whatsoever. She is highly praised by all who know her, but she is a poor peasant girl who spends her days tending sheep on the hillside. Would you consider marrying such a woman?”
“I would,” said the king. “Tell this young woman about the mirror and see if she is willing to look into it. If she is, have her come to the palace. She will look into the mirror in front of the people in my court and anyone else who wishes to attend.”
The next day, the barber led the peasant girl into the palace. The royal hall was filled with curious people who wanted to watch the event. The girl was very shy, as she had never dreamed of meeting the king, let alone marrying him. The king found her quite charming.
“Has the barber explained to you about the mirror?” the king asked the girl.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” she replied.
“You understand that if there are any faults in your character, the mirror will show them?” inquired the king.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” answered the girl, blushing. “Everyone makes mistakes now and then, and I am no different. But I love and protect my sheep, and they seem to love me in return. I am not afraid to look into the mirror.”
The king motioned to the barber to bring the mirror. The hall grew silent. The ladies of the court crowded around the young woman to see what would happen. They were sure she must have some faults. But when she held the mirror and looked into it, not a single dark spot appeared on its surface.
One of the ladies snatched the mirror and passed it around to her friends. No matter who looked into the mirror, no dark spots appeared. “It is a trick!” the ladies cried. “There is no magic in this mirror!” Many were furious that they—or their daughters—had missed a chance to become queen.
The king was not disturbed. “If you had been as confident about your character as this young woman, you would not have been afraid to look into the mirror,” he said. “Perhaps there was no magic in the mirror, but it has found me a young woman who is worthy to be my bride.”
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1. Before the peasant girl came to the palace, no women wanted to enter the barber’s shop to look into the mirror. In your own words, explain why.
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2. After the barber described the peasant girl to the king, the barber asked him if he would consider marrying her. Why do you think the barber asked this question if people said that the girl had “no faults whatsoever”?CorrectIncorrect
3. The peasant girl was not afraid to look in the magic mirror and show her faults.CorrectIncorrect
4. The mirror did not have magic powers, so it could not reveal whether the peasant girl had any faults.
Why did the king feel confident that the peasant girl was worthy to be his bride?
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5. The barber took a big risk by lying about the mirror. What could have gone wrong?CorrectIncorrect