There was once a dreadfully wicked hobgoblin. One day he was in capital spirits because he had made a looking-glass which reflected everything that was good and beautiful in such a way that it dwindled almost to nothing, but anything that was bad and ugly stood out very clearly and looked much worse. The most beautiful landscapes looked like boiled spinach, and the best people looked repulsive or seemed to stand on their heads with no bodies; their faces were so changed that they could not be recognised, and if anyone had a freckle you might be sure it would be spread over the nose and mouth.
That was the best part of it, said the hobgoblin.
But one day the looking-glass was dropped, and it broke into a million-billion and more pieces.
And now came the greatest misfortune of all, for each of the pieces was hardly as large as a grain of sand, and they flew about all over the world, and if anyone had a bit in his eye there it stayed, and then he would see everything awry, or else could only see the bad sides of a case. For every tiny splinter of the glass possessed the same power that the whole glass had.
Some people got a splinter in their hearts, and that was dreadful, for then it began to turn into a lump of ice.
The hobgoblin laughed till his sides ached, but still the tiny bits of glass flew about.
1 Translated from the German of Hans Andersen by Miss Alma Alleyne.