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"I saw the monster I had become. Not the one Smyke created. [...] So I destroyed that mirror. I shattered them all in a blind rage."
The Shadow King, The City of Dreaming Books

Mirrors are traditionally seen as symbols of Vanity, since the beautiful and narcissistic (or just plain narcissistic) constantly stare at their reflection and adjust their hair, clothes and makeup. A broken mirror isn't a simple reversal however, a symbol of ugliness and selflessness... but of ugliness and insanity. The mirror casts a jumbled and distorted reflection, with missing pieces and dozens of small, fractured copies (and probably a little blood on it) and is oddly silenced. It can't reflect back a true image, and anyone normal looking at their reflection will feel a little diminished doing so.

So what does it say about a "person" when all the mirrors in their home are broken, and all the pictures have his or her face clawed or blacked or cut out? Quite simply, that they are not well.

Generally, whoever goes to the trouble of smashing all the mirrors in their home and removing or defacing all their likenesses has had some disfiguring accident or ego destroying revelation. The destruction is a kind of "defense" against being reminded how "ugly" they've become, or how far they've fallen. Typical examples include: Beauty to Beast, vampires without reflections, and victims of a Baleful Polymorph. Where this can be especially terrifying is if the resident is normal, or even beautiful save for one tiny scar or flaw, or from decades of emotional abuse brainwashing them into thinking they're ugly.

Friends or loved ones may have to use But Your Wings Are Beautiful, Cool Down Hugs, and other methods to get the resident to accept I Am What I Am and move on, though that's no guarantee.

Examples of House of Broken Mirrors include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Gunsmith Cats, one of the villains loses his right hand to Rally. He goes around his place hacking off the right hands of pictures and suits of armor.


  • Disney's Beauty and the Beast, conveniently enough, has this. The opening montage shows the beast shred his claws across a portrait of his former prince self right before the end of the montage. Belle discovers the portrait during the movie, but is interrupted by the beast before she can adjust the fragments of the image to see it. And the mirrors in his room are smashed.
  • Happened in The Punisher: Warzone with a villain who got messed up in the face.
  • In the movie The Skeleton Key, all the mirrors in the house are covered up. The reason for this is that the mirrors reveal the true form of the owner of the house, who is really a voodoo priestess possessing the owner's body.


  • In the Interactive Fiction game Bronze by Emily Short, a retelling of Beauty and The Beast, the heroine has moved all the mirrors in the Beast's castle into her room, at first to keep the beast away, and then, later, when she comes to know him, says that she'll keep them there because she knows the beast doesn't like seeing them around the castle.
  • Red Dragon: The fact that all the mirrors in the victim's house were smashed up leads the investigators to think the killer might be disfigured. As it turns out, he thinks he's deformed, even after undergoing surgery to have a cleft lip and palate repaired, and -- during the story -- it's news to him when he learns what people (especially women) really think of his appearance, after how he was treated as a child.
  • From a short in the French animation anthology Fears Of The Dark, there's a house where all the photos from more recent years have their heads cut out. But there is a mirror.
  • In the novel Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, the Peeps in question will do then when they first get the virus.
  • Granny Weatherwax in Witches Abroad has a sort-of subversion of this- she goes around destroying or hiding every mirror she comes across, however, this is because her sister is watching them through the mirrors.
    • When she breaks Lily's own mirrors, however, this is played straighter as the jagged, fractured reflections symbolise Lily's insanity.
  • In Alexander Pehov's pentalogy Spark and Wind the trope is played straight: Alenari rei Vallion, a beautiful noble sorceress, receives disfiguring scars during a mages' rebellion. The only capable healer refuses to help her. Alenari has a mask crafted from some precious alloy. As every really powerful mage gains some titles or nicknames, invoking this trope gains her the title "Executioner of Mirrors".

Live-Action TV

  • Are You Afraid of the Dark??: In "The Tale of the Mystical Mirror", a girl visiting the house of her new employer (who owns a beauty salon) notes that there are no mirrors in the house, even in the bathroom. Turns out it was to avoid Glamour Failure.
    • She remarked on it, noting that the woman was vain enough to have photos of her winning beauty contests (including ones that are suspiciously too old) should have mirrors all over the place.
  • In the first episode of Angel Cordelia realizes she's in the home of a vampire due to the house having a lot of very thick curtains for Los Angeles, and the total lack of mirrors.
    • Though that was probably just a sensible ploy to avoid Glamour Failure. A better example comes later in the same series, where Darla, upset about turning human, smashes mirrors so she won't have to see her own reflection.

Tabletop Games

  • Exalted: The Lunar Exalted Ma-Ha-Suchi. He used to be a dashing, urbane Bishounen who everyone desired (and not just the women), but centuries of hiding in the Wyld have warped him into a goat-man monstrosity. So now he set out to destroy anything resembling civilization, saying that they breed weakness. But of course the elder Lunars know his real reason. He also has a literal house for this, the Nameless Lair. Once the Salon Provocative, a wonderful temple devoted to the finest beauties of the First Age, Ma-Ha-Suchi destroyed most of the artwork inside once he got back from the Wyld, and only kept around a few things either because they were useful or they were enchanted not to break.

Video Games

  • No, the mirror in Adam Jensen's apartment hasn't been replaced yet. How did it get broken, anyways?
    • Probably the same way it got broken the last few times...
  • In Puyo Puyo! 15th Anniversary, Oshare Bones mentions having thrown away every picture of depicting himself when he was alive into the ocean. When another character considers recovering these photographs via magic, Oshare begs him not to.

Western Animation

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