If the name Narcissus sounds familiar to you, it is because the word narcissism is a derivative of it. In society today, the word narcissism relates to a person who is vain, egotistical and just plain selfish. They are in love with themselves. The Story of Narcissus is one of the more popular examples of Greek myths.
Who was Narcissus?
Narcissus was an exceedingly handsome young boy whose hair was of spun gold, and eyes the color of the sea. As the son of a blue nymph and a river god, he was destined to be handsome. By the time he was fifteen, his good looks were admired by all who had met him, including himself and the many other nymphs of the forest. He knew it and, needless to say, he was a bit conceited. While every girl and many nymphs would throw themselves at him, he found many ways to thwart off the affections of those who fell in love with him, including a nymph named Echo.
Narcissus and Echo
One day, while engaged on one of his hunting expeditions, the handsome Narcissus heard footsteps stealthily approaching behind him. When he turned to look, he saw no one – and then he asked who was there. To his chagrin, the reply was the same as what he asked. Echo continued to reply with the question that he asked until she could take it no longer.
She soon appeared, revealing herself before the boy’s eyes. Then, acting on impulse, she embraced Narcissus, feeling his heartbeat against her very own. Narcissus was not impressed, and pulled away from Echo abruptly, belittling her affections by dismissing her abruptly. Echo was crushed, and watched as Narcissus walked away, leaving her standing in the forest, heartbroken.
She stayed in that very spot, waiting, and hoping that she would see Narcissus again – yet this would never happen, and when she died, only her voice was left lingering in the wind.
Sometime in between Echo being in the forest and her death, she prayed to the goddess Venus (love goddess) to avenge her for Narcissus’ rejection. Venus heard Echo’s prayer, and thought of a most dutiful punishment for Narcissus. She would make him fall in love only with himself, which would only lead to disaster.
The Fate of Narcissus
So it was that fair Narcissus fell in love with himself. One day as he was walking in the forest he stopped to refresh himself at a pond of water. As he bent down to drink from the pool, he noticed something that he had not noticed before. It was a reflection of someone so fair and pure that he just could not help but to fall head over heels in love with it.
In his eyes, this reflection was the most beautiful he had ever seen. Not realizing that the reflection was of his very own, he tried to touch the face, yet each time he reached down to touch the reflection it quickly ripped away, only to reappear in a moments time when the pond went still.
Narcissus would stare at his reflection for the next several years until death finally took him. When he died, poor Echo cried tears of sorrow, and as Venus watched from above, she took pity on Narcissus’ soul and let a flower (a narcissus flower) grow in the exact spot where he died. Legend has it that Narcissus still gazes at his reflection where flowers meet ponds and trees.