The idea for this series of posts came to me in a dream last night. Well, in the dream I had already posted about them, so I have to speculate that the idea actually came from somewhere else entirely.

Hmm. That’s a bit disturbing. Anyways, because I have a history of letting my dreams dictate the course of my artistic explorations, I present for you:

7 Famous Mirrors

•1: The Evil Queen’s Magic Mirror from the Grimm Fairytale Snow White.

Betty Boop Snow White

Everyone knows the schtick – the queen enquires of her mirror every morning “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest one of all”. The mirror obligingly tells the queen that it is she, until, one day (obviously tiring of her appalling poetry) it decides to point the finger* at Snow White, thus propelling the poor young girl into a terrifying future filled with dwarfs, coffins and tainted fruit.

In the Grimm telling of the story, the queen finally gets her come-uppance by being forced to don a pair of iron shoes that have been heated in a furnace. She is then compelled to dance in them until she dies. Modern screenwriters please take note – this is what is called an original idea.

•2: Archimedes’ Focussed Ship-Burning Mirrors.

Archimedes' Fresco

The story goes that around 200 BC during the Second Punic War, the accomplished Greek physicist and engineer Archimedes used mirrors, possibly polished bronze shields, to focus sunlight onto advancing Roman ships causing them to burst into flames. It seems this is probably a tale that grew in stature with the telling. Over the years there has been a lot of speculation about this claim, and while it is possible under exceptional conditions to focus very fine mirrors on a distant wooden object and ignite it, it is unlikely that even a huge number of highly polished bronze shields on a very sunny day could have done much more than just scorch moving, waterlogged wooden ships. The Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters effectively scuttled the story in their Archimedes Death Ray episode, in which they spent quite some time getting a stationary ship to even smoke. Their conclusion was that a catapult filled with flaming pitch would have been far more effective, and a lot easier to implement.


*Figuratively speaking of course, since it has no fingers. But since mirrors don’t talk either I think the metaphor holds up.