There’s a theory, one I find persuasive, that the quest for knowledge is, at bottom, the search for the answer to the question: “Where was I before I was born.” In the beginning was . . . what? Perhaps, in the beginning, there was a curious room, a room like this one, crammed with wonders; and now the room and all it contains are forbidden you, although it was made just for you, had been prepared for you since time began, and you will spend all your life trying to remember it.
Angela Carter (1940 – 1992)
There is a Japanese tale of a small farmer who bought his young wife a mirror. She was surprised and delighted to know that it reflected her face, and cherished the mirror above all her possessions. She gave birth to one daughter, and died young; and the farmer put the mirror away in a press, where it lay for long years. The daughter grew up the very image of her mother; One day when she was almost a woman, her father took her aside, and told her of her mother, and of the mirror which reflected her beauty. The girl was devoured with curiosity, unearthed the mirror from the old Press, and looked into it.
‘Father!’ she cried, ‘See! Here is mother’s face!’
It was her own face she saw; but her father said nothing.
The tears were streaming dow his cheeks, and the words would not come.
Angels Carter (ed) Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales