In The Magicians by Lev Grossman, Emily Greenstreet would often stare into a magical fountain on the Brakebills campus where she would sometimes see other people in the reflection.

Do we ever find out who these people are that she seems to be seeing?

Here is the relevant book quote where Janet is telling a story about Emily Greenstreet:

"Maybe you knew this, I don't know, I didn't, but Woof used to be different from the from the other fountains. That's why the doomers started hanging out there in the first place. You wouldn't notice what was off about it, at first, but after a while you'd realize that when you looked into it, you wouldn't see your reflection, just empty sky. And maybe if the sky was cloudy on that particular day, the sky in the fountain would be blue, or the other way around. It definitely wasn't a normal reflection. And every once in a while you'd look into it and you'd see other faces looking up at you, looking puzzled, as if they were looking into some other fountain somewhere else and not their own. Somebody must have figured out a way to switch the reflection in two fountains, but who did it and why, and how, and why the Dean didn't change them back, I have no idea.

"You have to wonder, too, if it was more than just the reflections--if you could dive down into one pool and come up in the other one, in this world or some other world. Did you know they were here before Brakebills? They build the school to be near them, and not the other way around. Or that's what people say."

Eliot snorted.

"Well that's what people say, darling. Anyway," Janet went on, "the thing is, Emily started spending a lot of time at Woof, just smoking and hanging out, and I guess mooning over her little affair. She spent so much time there that she started to recognize one of the faces in the fountain. Somebody like her, who was spending a lot of time at the other fountain, the one in the reflection. Let's call her Doris. After a while Emily and Doris got to noticing each other. They'd acknowledge each other, a little wave, you know, just to be polite. Porbably Doris was a little mopey, too. They got to feeling like kindred spirits.

"Emily and Doris worked out a way to communicate. Again, the exact details have eluded your intrepid correspondent. Maybe they held up signs or something. They must have had to be in mirror writing, to make sense as reflections, or am I getting that wrong?

"I don't know how things worked in Woofland, where Doris lived, maybe magic is different there. Or maybe Doris was fucking with our Emily, maybe she was sick of hearing Emily whine about her love life. Maybe there was something really wrong with Doris, maybe she was something genuinely evil. But one day Doris suggested that if Emily wanted her lover back, maybe her appearance was the problem, and she should try changing it?"

  • 1
    FYI, there are several stories called The Magicians, and you should always include both author and title as search fodder anyway.
    – user56
    Commented May 18, 2011 at 22:17
  • Ok, thanks. I'll fix the tag since its by Lev, not Dan Grossman
    – erik
    Commented May 19, 2011 at 12:35

2 Answers 2


Finished the book the day before yesterday!

It is never crisply answered, although there is a brief mention towards the end that the hillside leading up to the Tomb reminds one of the characters of the hillside seen in the fountains...although it is then said that this might just be coincidence.

More generally, Earth is supposed to be just one plane of existence among many, and so key point is that (a) there are multiple realms, (b) there is some communication between them.

  • So basically its just random people in other planes that happen to be walking by? I guess I can accept that...maybe the sequel will deal with this concept a bit more.
    – erik
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 11:51
  • 1
    The hill leading up to the Tomb is the same as seen in the mirror that Penny practiced his magic in when they were studying to advance to second year. It was not seen in a fountain. Also since fountains are the portals to other worlds, my assumption is that the fountain at Brakebills is a direct link to the fountain of another world. Commented May 8, 2012 at 14:07

3 options:

  1. Doris is Martin Chatwin or a servant thereof, fiddling with Emily Greenstreet was one of several attempts to wreck havoc at Brakebills perhaps it was even a more sophisticated plan to get Mayakovsky - possibly the only magician around even close to Martin in power - expelled

  2. Doris is Jane Chatwin - the knowledge of the unfortunate story of Emily and Charlie played a key role in Alice’s idea of how to kill Martin. It’s very likely that Jane initiated it as part of tinkering with reality in her quest to destroy her brother.

  3. Doris is a yet to be introduced villain from another plane of existence ....

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