Our story begins with Ekho, a nymph who was somewhat unusual for her kind. Unlike her sisters, Ekho was not shy at all. She was outgoing and talkative, and loved to tell long-winded stories. The God Pan was hopelessly in love with her, but He had learned His lesson after an unfortunate incident with another nymph by the name of Syrinx. Pan did not approach her outright, although He acquired the habit of following her around all moony-eyed.
Now Ekho was a friend of Zeus. What kind of friendship we don’t know for sure, but knowing Zeus, it was the kind with lots of benefits. Sometimes when Hera came looking for Her husband, Ekho would play the distraction and talk to Hera until Zeus had the time to sneak away and hide his newest lover. Some poets staunchly protest that Ekho was innocent and met up with Hera completely by chance, but you know that the ways of poets may lay in the grey area between truth and fiction. By my story, Hera found Ekho fascinating and came to be fond of the talkative little nymph. Hera, who was known for being headstrong, was probably glad to meet another female who was not afraid to state her opinions. Which only made the Lady of Argos more furious when She discovered the deceptions. Knowing how much Ekho loved to talk, the Queen of the Gods cursed her to never again be able to use her own words, to only repeat what others had said. Ekho wandered through many forests, lonely and saddened, desperately seeking to express herself and speak her own words. But that was not her destiny. Poor Ekho was fated to meet up with Narkissus.
When Narkissus was born, the seer Teiresias prophesied that he would live a long life only if he never knew himself. No one had any idea what that meant. Narkissus became a gorgeous, self-centered youth. Men and women of all ages would fall for him, but he was interested in none. He would cruelly spurn them all with a laugh and a flip of his thick blond hair, breaking many hearts. He didn’t think anyone was good enough for him, and was very insulting in pointing out the faults, physical or otherwise, of his suitors.
Narkissus loved to hunt, an activity that took up much of his time. Ekho perchanced upon him one day, and fell deeply in love the moment she laid eyes him. Poor Ekho wanted badly to tell Narkissus how she felt, but the cursed nymph could only follow him and wait for him to approach her. When Narkissus heard a rustling behind him, he called “Is someone in the bushes?”
Ekho responded “In the bushes.”
“Come out and let me see you.”
With a “Let me see you,” Ekho walked out and threw her arms around Narkissus. He just pushed her away, disgusted. “Keep your hands off me! Never, ever touch me like that!”
Ekho sadly repeated “Touch me like that.”
But Narkissus just ignored her and walked past her. Ekho pined after Narkissus. She stopped eating and hid from the other nymphs. She just wasted away. Her body disappeared, but her voice remained, still repeating the last words of whatever anyone said. Narkissus knew what had happened to her, but he didn’t care about her misery, or that of the many others he had rejected. Someone who had loved Narkissus, perhaps more than one, prayed to Aphrodite that he might fall in love and be treated as coldly as he had his suitors, so he may know the pain they had felt.
As Narkissus was hunting, he stopped at a pool for a cooling drink of water. When he looked into the pool, he saw the face of the most beautiful boy he had ever seen and fell instantly in love. He tried to touch the face of the boy, but his fingers met only water. He tried to kiss the boy, but only water met his lips. Narkissus knew that the boy was just his reflection, but he still found himself obsessed with the youth in the pond. After all, only he deserved himself. Narkissus couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep, and he pined away just as Ekho had.
“I’m so miserable,” he sighed.
“So miserable,” Ekho replied.
“My love is futile,” Narkissus moaned.
“Love is futile,” Ekho agreed.
And on that depressing note, Teiresias’s prophecy was fulfilled. Narkissus died, and where his body had been, a pale yellow and white flower grew that blooms early in spring: the first narcissus. Hopefully all you young folk reading this tale will take its lesson to heart!
[Amanda Sioux Blake, 23, has been a Hellenic Pagan and devotee of Athena for ten years. She currently resides in South Bend, Indiana, with the various animals that find their way to her. She is the author of Ink In My Veins: A Collection of Contemporary Pagan Poetry, Songs of Praise: Hymns to the Gods of Greece and the forth-coming Journey to Olympos: A Modern Spiritual Odyssey. She also runs her own online clothing store Otherworld Creations, specializing in fantasy and Pagan designs; mostly Greek Gods but a few Egyptian designs are on the way.]