Mythology Monday: Echo and Narcissus

450px-John_William_Waterhouse_-_Echo_and_Narcissus_-_Google_Art_Project

Well, it’s that time of week again, where I talk about a myth or mythological figure I find interesting, or just plain funny. This week, we’re going to Ancient Greece, where I will tell you the story of Echo and Narcissus.

The most notable version of this story comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Like most myths, they have different versions, but the one I’ve mostly seen starts thusly.

See, Zeus likes to get his dick wet, and with women who were most definitely not his wife. This makes said wife, Hera, a little bit miffed. By which I mean she comes up with some rather interesting ways to punish the women he has those little flings with.

That’s not quite what happens with Echo. In this instance, Zeus decides to head down and get some sweet lovin’ from a bunch of mountain nymphs. Hera, of course, decides to come down looking for him but is stopped by the nymph Echo.

Now, Echo liked to talk. A lot. Which means that anyone caught in a conversation with her is likely to be there for a while. Which is naturally what happens with Hera. So Zeus decides to use this distraction to finish what he’s doing, then make his escape.

Hera is less than pleased by this development, and decides to punish Echo by cursing her so she’s only able to repeat the last thing she’s heard. And yes, this is where the word “echo” comes from.

Anyway, fast-forward a bit and Echo encounters Narcissus. Narcissus was a Laconion hunter who was basically the hottest dude around. Ladies wanted him, dudes wanted to be him (and also wanted him, because this is Ancient Greece we’re talking about). However, Narcissus was also an incredibly callous, self-absorbed douchebag. How much of a douchebag was he? Well, he ended up driving several of his jilted wannabe lovers to suicide. The most notable of these would be a dude named Aeminias, who ended up falling on his own sword after Narcissus rejected his love. So yeah, not the greatest of people.

Echo, naturally, falls in love with him at first sight, but the whole “only able to repeat things” thing kind of mucks all that up for her, and she isn’t really able to pursue her suit. Of course, Narcissus rejects her about as cruielly as someone can be rejected, prompting her to run away, leaving behind only the echo of her voice.

That’s not where it ends, though. See, the cries of the people that Narcissus was such a dick to reach the ears of Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance. Nemesis does not fuck around, and comes up with a fitting punishment for him.

But first, some backstory: on Narcissus’s birth, the prophet Tiresias did his thing and predicted that Narcissus would have a long life so long as he never “knows himself.”And this dovetails quite nicely into what Nemesis has in store for our boy.

So, Narcissus is out doing his thing in the woods when he comes across a pond. He looks into it, and Nemesis makes him fall in love with his own reflection.

Now, there are a couple of different endings to this story. In one ending, Narcissus simply can’t look away from his reflection and ends up starving to death. However, in another ending, he becomes so stricken with grief over the fact that he can’t bang his reflection that he mirrors Aeminias’s death and falls on his own sword.

Either way, he dies, and when the nymphs go to the area to gather his body for a funeral pyre, all they find of him is a flower. So, that’s how the narcissus flower got its name, and also, incidentally, the personality disorder.

And the moral of the story is that you shouldn’t be a self-centered jerk, or a god will kill you.

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