Posted by: Natalie | March 15, 2010

Echo and Narcissus

Well today is a beautiful day! The sun is shining, the sky is blue (in patches, but hey there’s some!), spring is definitely making its mark on the world! And as you can tell, I am feeling a damn sight better than the end of last week. I think the panic has passed.

One of my favourite things about spring aside from the inevitable end of the darkness, is the availability of Daffodils. These are my absolute favourite flower, so happy and so cheap! They really, genuinely make me smile, so bright and vibrant and beautiful. I am currently on the second bunch sitting on my dining table. I think also because they last so long, I see them as great value for money as you can usually buy two-three bunches for a measly £1! I am very easily pleased!

So today I thought I would share with you a story; a Greek Myth to be exact. The ancient Greeks were incredible at explaining our world and I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching these tales to children at school. The story of Echo and Narcissus fits in well with the genre of Greek Tragedy, providing a sorrowful tale that inevitably benefits the world in which we live; in this case and explanation of the humble daffodil.

Many of the Goddesses liked to play amongst the happy trees and the beautiful surroundings of the silent woods on Mount Olympus. They would soak in the sun and play like nymphs in the abundance of nature. They would often quiet in order to entice the deer and other gentle creatures closer, celebrating the wonder of the living world they and their Gods had created.

However, their silence and reverie was often spoiled by Echo. When she wasn’t gossiping about the other Gods and their indiscretions, she was running and shrieking, arguing and chattering and generally making a din. She would regularly disturb the animals causing them to run away and empty the woods of their peace and calm. Hera finally grew exasperated with Echo and demanded her silence – forever. She cast a spell on Echo, condemning her never to be able to speak her free will again,

“You always wanted the last word!” spat Hera in anger, “Now, you will always have it!”

” . . . always have it!” repeated Echo.

Echo threw her hands to her lips, grasped at the throat, no words would leave her mouth. She could only ever repeat the last words spoke around her, for the rest of her existence. She began to cry silent tears and sob stifled gasps of stilled and muted air. No one would ever hear her sorrow. She wandered away through the woods sad and ashamed, crying a lament no one would know.

Until one day, she came across a shepherd boy. Her tears instantly dried as her heart strings were plucked one by one. She feel totally and utterly in love. Narcissus was beautiful, a figure to rival the Gods themselves. He was tall and incredibly handsome; broad and muscular; he had luscious blonde locks that even the sun envied; and blue piercing eyes that paled the oceans of the world into insignificance.

But for every inch of beauty on the outside, his ego-filled and heartless dalliances with the fawning women around him, created a rotting interior; a vain, self indulged pit of arrogance and conceit. He knew how women followed him, he knew how deeply they fell and he used it to his own advantage. Echo was different though, she irritated Narcissus more than those others, as she would never answer his questions.

“Why everyday must you follow me?!” he barked in frustration.

” . . .follow me . . . follow me . . .” she replied.

“You stupid girl?! I suppose it is because you love me!”

” . . . love me . . . love me . . .” Tears began to well in her eyes in desperation.

“I could never love such a pathetic creature as you, you hateful stick insect! Look at yourself!” he spat.

” . . . look at yourself . . . look at yourself . . .” she was pleading internally to be released of her spell, to speak to this gorgeous creature as she had not spoken in years.

“Very well!” he mocked as he walked towards the still pool close by.

Echo’s love quickly turned to hate, she crossed that delicate line in an instant, appalled and hurt by his cruel expression. There and then she cast a silent spell of her own, willing Narcissus to fall as deeply in love as she had, but with something or someone out of reach.

Narcissus crept closer to the pool and stared into the water and there, before him, lay the most beautiful vision he had ever seen. A shimmering beauty with sunlight locks and crystal blue eyes, a handsome and mesmerising face. Narcissus had never looked into the pool before and was unaware he was staring deeply into his won reflected eyes. Echo looked on as Narcissus fell into the most devoted love and reached out to the face in the water. But as his hands broke the surface, his love disappeared. Time and again he tried to touch and each time he cried loudly as the image vanished into ripples.

Eventually he refrained from reaching into the pool and simply lay along its side, staring and smiling and longing for his beauty to surface. Echo continued to sit and watch as she faded, faded into nothing until only her repeating voice remained.

“I love you!” Narcissus would whisper to his own refelction.

” . . . I love you . . . I love you . . .” it seemed to echo.

With nothing else to do, Narcissus lay there until his hair lost its shine and his eyes lost their sparkle. Eventually his skin began to shed like petals and his bent and withered stalk drooped into the water.

Meanwhile, Hera was reminded of his rash reaction to the loud and impatient Echo. Guilt ravaged her heart so she sent out the Goddesses to search for the lost Echo. They searched the woods calling her name, but all they ever heard was a sorrowful repeat, ” . . . Echo . . . Echo . . .”

Unable to find their invisible Goddess, they came to rest at the edge of a quiet pool. But, they were alerted to something they had never seen before; beautiful, big-headed, bright yellow flowers bending to look at themselves in the water’s reflection. They shone as brightly as the sun and drooped happily towards their own image.

“What are these entrancing  flowers?” spoke one as a breeze began to flutter, swaying the flower heads gently. The breeze seemed to whisper ” . . . Narcissus . . . Narcissus . . .” the only words that Echo did not echo.

I love this story, even though I don’t think the tale truly represents my own personification of daffodils. I don’t see them as vain, but genuine and humble, simple and elegant, beauty in its truest form. But I do like the explanation of how Daffodils bend into water, line the edges of waterways in our country and cover the floor of peaceful spring time woods.

So, go ahead, treat yourself! Spread a little happiness (and maybe some vanity!) and indulge! Go, buy yourself some Daffs today; a truly bargainus piece of Spring happiness!


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