Echo and Narcissus The beautiful nymph Echo liked to talk and argue. She never tired of it, and so she usually had the last word in any argument. She even argued with the goddess Juno and won. This made Juno so angry that she forbade the nymph ever to say anything again except the last word she was so fond of. But the saddest part of Echo’s punishment was that she could not say her own last words. She could only repeat those that other people said.
One day when she was wandering lonely and speechless in the Arcadian forest, Echo saw the handsome youth Narcissus. She fell in love with him at once.
Narcissus was looking for a friend who was lost. He called over and over again, “Where are you?”
Echo longed to tell Narcissus of her love, but all she could do was answer “You?” every time he called. Narcissus grew more and more puzzled by the lovely voice that tossed his last word back to him. He peered through the leafy branches of the forest but he could not see anybody. At last Echo ran from behind the tree where she was hiding and threw her arms around him.
But Narcissus was a strange young man. He did not know how to love. And so he could not understand Echo’s love for him. It frightened him. The minute she touched him he ran away as fast as he could.
Echo was so heartbroken and ashamed that she ran away too. She hid in a dark cave, and as time went on she grew thinner and thinner until there was nothing left of her except her voice. But Echo’s voice still answers anybody who calls to it.
Narcissus finally did fall in love. Kneeling by the side of a clear pool he saw his own face reflected in the water. He thought it was a water spirit and tried to put his arms around it, but as soon as he touched the water, the image disappeared. Fearful of losing it forever, Narcissus knelt day and night by the pool admiring his own face. He would not leave it even to eat and drink. Like Echo, he grew thinner and thinner. Finally there was nothing left of him but one last breath with which to breathe “Farewell!” to the image in the pool.
Deep in the forest faithful Echo answered, “Farewell.”
Where Narcissus had knelt there grew a beautiful white flower. We still call it by his name, “Narcissus.”