The Story of Echo & Narcissus

Derived from the Greek mythology, Narcissus is perhaps one of the most recognizable figures to date.

The myth of Narcissus comes in two different versions, the Greek and the Greco-Roman version, as both Conon the Greek and Ovid, the Roman poet, wrote the story of Narcissus, enhancing it with different elements. As the story has been told, Narcissus was a strikingly handsome figure who upon seeing his reflection in a pool of water fell in love with himself.

According to this myth, Narcissus’ parents the River God, Cephisus and nymph Lyriope, were worried because of the extraordinary beauty of the child and asked Teiresias (also known as Tiresias) who was a blind prophet of Apollo in Thebes, famous for clairvoyance and being transformed into a woman for seven years, what to do regarding their son’s future.The prophet told them that the boy would grow old only if “he didn’t get to know himself”. 

One day Narcissus was walking in the woods and a young mountain nymph, Echo. A nymph in ancient Greek folklore is a minor female nature deity. Not regarded as highly as Greek goddesses, nymphs are generally known as personifications of nature, are typically tied to a specific place or landform, such as mountains, springs and flowers and are usually depicted as beautiful maidens.

Echo, had been wondering the woods after falling under the spell of Hera that she would always have the last word but never be able to speak first. Because of Echo’s beauty, Hera believed her to be the object of her husband, Zeus’s affection. Plagued by her inability to express herself, Echo had retreated to the woods where she saw Narcissus and felt madly in love but because of Hera’s curse, she was unable to tell him, so she followed the boy and waited for him to speak.

Eventually, Narcissus began to call for his companions. Echo eagerly stepped out of the trees and repeated the words. A confusing and repetitive conversation ensued, ending with Narcissus pushing her away. Echo, heartbroken, ran away and hid in a cave, not eating or sleeping, just pining for Narcissus. After some time, Echo began to grow skinny from starvation until her body withered away entirely into dust, leaving nothing but her voice. To this day Echo’s voice still calls back from caves and labyrinths, repeating the last spoken words forever.

Having broken many hearts, one of his suitors pleads with Nemesis, the Goddess of revenge that, “he who loves not others love himself.” As punishment, Nemesis arranges for Narcissus to see himself in the pond. Upon first gaze, he is amazed by the beauty of his own reflection. Once he figured out that his love could not be addressed, he vowed never to leave himself alone and remained in that very spot until the day of his death, near the cave where Echo had died. Because Narcissus refused to leave the reflection of himself, he and Echo shared a similar fate. But not before he cried out to his reflection one last time, “Farewell, dear boy. Beloved in vain.” Echo’s voice repeated the words from the cave.


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