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The Myth of Echo and Narcissus

Echo and Narcissus (1903), a Pre-Raphaelite interpretation by John William Waterhouse

In Greek mythology, there is a story about a young man named Narcissus and a mountain nymph named Echo. The tale of Echo and Narcissus is an enduring one that has been retold in various forms since antiquity—a cautionary tale of unrequited love and the tragedy it can bring.

The Curse of Hera

Echo was a young and beautiful Nymph who was famous for her charm and voice.

She was very talkative, which got her into trouble with Hera – The wife of Zeus and Queen of the gods. While Zeus was out “courting” other nymphs, Echo tried to distract Hera so she couldn’t find out where he was.

Unfortunately for Echo, Hera figured out what she was doing and became mad at her. She cursed Echo so that she could only repeat back what other people had said to her.

Echo’s Unrequited Love for Narcissus

Echo was disregarded by her friends and family because of this curse, and nobody wanted to talk with her anymore.

One day Echo wandered into the lands until she spotted a young man named Narcissus hunting deer. Narcissus was a very good-looking young man, the son of a river god and water Nymph. All the girls were falling for him but he never got interested in any of them. Breaking all their hearts.

Echo not indifferent fell in love with him at first glance, but she didn’t know how to reach out to him because of the curse of Hera.

Soon, Narcissus heard footsteps behind him and turned to shoot at the person following him. Echo’s voice resonated as she repeated the last word of Narcissus.

By misinterpretation, she thought that Narcissus wanted to be with her. She rushed to him to hold him but he pushed her away exclaiming “Hands off! May I die before you enjoy my body” or “I rather die than have you love me”.

Echo could only repeat her last words, “love me” or “enjoy my body,” while crying. Eventually, Echo fled in shame and humiliation. She wandered and reached a cave, so consumed with grief that she eventually faded away until nothing was left but her voice in the wind.

The Punishments Of Narcissus

The story of Echo and Narcissus doesn’t end here. Ameinias was another one of Narcissus’s deceived lovers. Before killing himself at Narcissus’ doorstep; he prayed to Nemesis – the goddess of revenge to punish Narcissus.

Nemesis sets Narcissus on a path to meet his fate. He meets a clear mirrored river and bends toward the water to drink. When he catches sight of himself in the water, he falls in love with his own reflection. Narcissus, mourning his own unattainable affections, dies of a broken heart and is transformed into the beautiful flower that bends toward the water —  that still bears his name today.

Nemesis sets Narcissus on a path to meet his fate. He meets a clear mirrored river and bends toward the water to drink. When he catches sight of himself in the water, he falls in love with his own reflection. He gazes at it for so long that he doesn’t notice time passing around him. Narcissus, mourning his own unattainable affections, dies of a broken heart and is transformed into the beautiful flower that bends toward the water —  that still bears his name today.

1920px Nicolas Poussin Eco e Narciso ca. 1629 1630 Museo del Louvre Parigi min
Echo and Narcissus (1627). Oil on canvas, 74 cm × 100 cm (29 in × 39 in). Louvre

Echo and Narcissus: The Moral

The myth of Echo and Narcissus is a cautionary tale about the dangers of vanity. Vanity leads to self-destruction. This is because people who are obsessed with their own appearance are usually those who are most unhappy with themselves. They are never satisfied with what they see in the mirror and are always looking for validation from others.

This can lead to them becoming single-minded and self-absorbed, ultimately losing touch with reality. The story of Echo and Narcissus teaches us that it is important to be content with who we are and not to seek approval from others.

We should appreciate our close friends and family who accept us for who we are instead of trying to impress those who don’t really care about us. It teaches us that it is important to be content with who we are and not to seek approval from others.

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