The mythological story about Narcissus and Echo is famous for being the proof of Tiresias’ prophecy gift. When Jupiter got into a debate with Juno about lust being bigger with women than with men they decided to ask the prophet. He spent seven years as a woman and answered that woman’s lust is bigger than man’s so Juno deprived him of his eyesight but Jupiter lowered his misery. He gave him a gift of prophecy that proved himself in the story about Narcissus.
The story is in the 3rd book that is consisted of mostly Theban stories. They are linked to the worshipment of Bacchus’ cult but the story about Narcissus isn’t part of that cult nor has a Theban origin.
Narcissus and Echo (Metamorphosis, Book 3)
The prophet Tiresias was famous for his prophecies in all cities. Liriope was also convinced his powers were true. She was loved by a man and had a child with his who the nymphs loved a lot and gave him the name Narcissus. Tiresias was asked whether the boy will grow old but he gave an undefined answer. He told him that he will have the chance to grow old only if he gets to know himself. That answer seemed meaningless until one event occurred. When Narcissus turned 16 he was loved by many boys and girls. Despite his gentile look he was rude and emotionless. The nymph Echo caught him hunting a frightened deer. Before finding Narcissus Juno found Jupiter with the nymphs. Echo entertained Juno so she would buy some times for the nymphs to run away. A goddess saw what she did and she took away her ability to speak. She would only be able to listen to others and then reflect their last word as her own.
She was Narcissus and started following him. She wanted to come close to him but she never knew how to start a conversation. She waited patiently for other people’s voices to enter her and then she reflected them as her own. Narcissus asked if anyone was there and she answered there. Narcissus thought they should meet but she again reflected only the last word. When Echo left the forest Narcissus started following her any yelling how he’d rather die than have her love. She hid because of shame and started living a lonely life in caves and forests but the love remained in her. Her poor body started falling apart until all she had left was her voice. She hid away in the forest where no one can see her but everyone can hear her. Narcissus despised Echo and all the other nymphs.
A god saw what he did so he asked the skies to let Narcissus love but to make his love impossible to reach. Narcissus was drawn to a place by its beauty and water. He was very thirsty after hunting. No shepherd nor animal never touched that water source and the forest didn’t let even one sun ray to get through. He wanted to drink something so he approached the source of water and while he drank he was astonished by the character (himself) he saw in the water. He started kissing what wasn’t there, the shadow of himself. He admired himself. He placed his hand into the water many times trying to catch what he saw. He saw himself and it would have gone with him when he would leave but he couldn’t do that. He just kept on staring at his own appearance that he couldn’t get enough of.
He asked the forest around him if anyone ever loved more painfully. He didn’t know why the man he saw would disappear every time he tried to reach him. He told him that he can run away as much as he wants to but that because of his beauty he was loved by the nymphs too. By saying that h realized it was his reflection. He knew he can’t asked for treasure when he already had it even though it made him poor. The pain he felt gave him strength to take away his own life. Death didn’t come hard on him because he knew it will stop the sufferings. Narcissus, destroyed by love, bangs his hands against his chest. His beauty disappeared and not even his body was left. When Echo saw that, even though he hurt her, she felt sorry for him. A yellow flower with white leaves remained in the place where his body disappeared.
Narcissus – Liriope’s son whose faith was marked by Tiresias’ prophecy in which he will grow old only if he knows himself. The nymphs loved him because of his beauty but despite that he was rude and emotionless. He didn’t care about other people’s feelings and only cared about his needs. He admired his beauty and was very aware of it. He was punished for that by falling in love with his own reflection in the water and then he felt the pain he caused to others. He died in the end.
Echo – a very chatty nymph. She was punished for being prone to the nymphs and not respecting Juno. She was a bit shy, very patient, especially in her intention to show her love for Narcissus. Because of her love her body falls apart and she is left only with her voice. Despite the pain Narcissus had caused her she felt sorry for him while he was dying.