4.25.2011

OF A MIRROR AND A BELL

Of A Mirror And A Bell is the title of a Japanese ghost story, as translated and told by Lafcadio Hearn around the turn of the last century in his collection Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. In the tale, a monastery in a remote village, in an effort to collect bronze enough to create a bell for their campus, requests that the local women donate their old bronze mirrors for melting. One woman, after donating her own, is overwhelmed with remorse for having parted with an object that she only then realizes has great sentimental value to her. She recalls the moments she shared with both her mother and grandmother in front of the mirror, and thinks of how a mirror is said to contain the soul of a woman. Suddenly she feels as though a piece of her soul is missing, and her sadness consumes her. When the priests of the monastery begin melting the donated bronze, they find that no matter what they try, one mirror in particular resists the heat of their fires. They conclude that the owner of the mirror did not sacrifice selflessly, and that it is because their soul is still so entwined with the object that it will not melt. Word spreads through the small village, and the family engravings on the mirror betray the woman. She is soon so ashamed of her failure to let go of her attachment, that she takes her own life, and upon doing so, promises that anyone who is able to break the great monastery bell will receive great fortune. The poor priests become so plagued by the incessant din of those attempting to crack the bell with any number of tools and objects that, in exasperation, they remove the bell and roll it down a great hill, it's holy peels muted in the depths of a swamp.

You can read the story in full here, though I highly recommend just purchasing the entire collection of "strange things".

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