Once there was a woodland nymph named Echo. Echo had been cursed by Juno, the Queen of the Gods, whom Echo had angered. Echo’s curse is that she could only repeat the last few words of what others said first; she could never have the first word. At the same time, there was a young man named Narcissus. Narcissus was so beautiful that all the women who met him instantly fell in love. But Narcissus was not kind to others, and only cared about himself.
One day, Echo was wandering in the woods when she saw Narcissus. She thought he was so beautiful, and she longed to tell him how she felt. However, she was unable to talk to Narcissus, she could only repeat what he said. Narcissus got frustrated and angry when he heard his words repeated to him by Echo, and he rejected her. Echo, so sad his actions, was left to wander the woods for the rest of her life, until she turned into dust.
Narcissus was uninterested in anyone but himself. But he had a new admirer, who also fell in love with him. She wished that Narcissus would love her, but Narcissus ignored her. She got angry and asked the gods to make Narcissus love her. However, the gods who heard her cry are the gods of revenge, and they punished Narcissus.
They waited until Narcissus was hunting one day. He stopped because he was thirsty. When Narcissus bent down to get water, he immediately fell in love with the reflection in the mirror, though he doesn’t realize that it was his own reflection. Narcissus was so in love with the face that he saw that he tried to reach into the water to grab the reflection.
So heartbroken that he couldn’t reach the person he saw in the water, Narcissus stayed by the water, refusing sleep and food. He could not understand why the reflection didn’t return his affections, especially when all the other women loved him so.
Narcissus’ tears of sadness disturbed the reflection in the water, and he thought he was being abandoned. Only Echo stayed nearby to watch Narcissus, to repeat his cries of love and sadness. Eventually, Narcissus stared at his reflection so long that he died and turned to ashes. When Echo and the wood nymphs went to bury his ashes, they found a beautiful flower in his place.
Source: Echo and Narcissus
A retelling of the Roman myth by Ovid
Retold by Exploros, CC BY-SA 4.0; Illustration by John William Waterhouse (1903), via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain