Echo & Narcissus

There was once a youth named Narcissus, so beautiful that scores of maidens and of young men fell in love with him. But he would have nothing to do with them. He thought himself above them all, and rejected them cruelly.

One youth, having been so treated, prayed to the goddess Nemesis that Narcissus would know the pain of unrequited love. Nemesis heard the prayer and approved, and so it was decided that Narcissus would know the pain he had caused others.

Meanwhile, the god Jupiter was one day lying with the nymphs on the hillside when he found that his wife Juno was approaching. One nymph, Echo, apprehended her and talked to her until Jupiter had time to flee, so that he was not caught. But Juno realized what had happened, and was furious. She swore that Echo would not babble and distract her again, and so took away the nymph's power of speech, so that she could only repeat the last thing said by someone else.

One day, Narcissus was hunting with his friends, and was separated from them. He wandered to a clearing with a glistening pool in it, and Echo, sitting nearby, saw him and fell in love immediately. Narcissus shouted, "Is anyone here?" and Echo answered, "Here!" Narcissus replied, "Let us meet!" and Echo happily replied, "Let us meet!" and rushed into the clearing. But when she tried to embrace Narcissus he recoiled with disgust, and told her in the roughest language that he wanted nothing to do with her. She fled to a cave, where she pined for Narcissus, and wasted away until only her voice remained.

As she left, Narcissus went to the pond for a drink. When he bent over the shining waters, he saw a beautiful youth below them. He had never seen his own reflection, and did not realize that he was now. He fell in love with the youth in the pond, and thought it must be mutual, for when he smiled, the youth smiled, and when he reached to embrace the youth, the reflections arms stretched out towards him. But when he tried to touch him, the water rippled and the image disappeared. He wept and lamented, and then realized that it was his own reflection he had fallen in love with. But it was too late. He was so deeply in love that all he could do was stay where he was, gazing at himself until he wasted away.

When he died, he was mourned by many, and by nobody so much as by Echo, who, now only a voice in her cave, fervently repeated the lamentations of others. But where he had finally succumbed, no body remained: only a beautiful flower of white and gold.


Myths, Legends, Folklore, and Faery Tales

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