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There’s so more to the Narcissus story than the modern-day application of the word: narcissist. It’s a tragic tale of heart-wrenching unrequited love.
The story begins with Echo, a mountain nymph, who loved the sound of her own voice. Caught distracting Zeus’s wife, Hera, while Zeus was getting busy with another mountain nymph, she was cursed to lose her voice: never to speak again unless spoken to, and only then to repeat the last words spoken. The distraught and lonely Echo wandered the hills and glens until one day, she encountered the youthful and handsome god, Narcissus, hunting stag in the forest. Enraptured by his beauty and grace, yet unable to initiate a conversation, she followed.
“Who’s there?” he asked, finally.
“Who’s there?” she repeated.
Narcissus called, “Anyone here?”
“Here…” Echo answered.
Looking around, he saw no one. “Why run away?”
Upon hearing his own words repeated once again, he cheated the answering voice and interrupted. “Join me here.”
Never gladder to answer, she said, “Join me here.”
Emerging from the forest, she rushed to him and threw her longing arms around his neck.
“Keep your arms from me,” Narcissus rebuffed, pushing her away. “Be off! I’ll die before I yield to you.”
“I yield to you…” Echo replied with the only words she could say.
Shamed and rejected, she dwelled in desolate caves and ravines. Her love endured, however, growing on grief until all that remained was her haunting voice and petrified bones. Thus Narcissus had spurned and mocked her, and many others after. Until one day, another scorned would-be lover raised her hands and prayed to the gods. “So too may he love, and never win his love.”
Nemesis, Goddess of Revenge, heard the prayer and deemed it worthy, cursing Narcissus to fall in love with himself. Upon seeing his reflection, he wasted away at the banks of a still pond, unable to attain the object of his affection. Any words of love he uttered to himself, Echo hollowly repeated back.
The tale ends with Narcissus, overwhelmed with grief, thrusting his hunting knife deep into his own heart. From his spilled blood — Behold, white petals ’round a cup of gold — the first narcissus flower grew.
(Excerpt taken from The Dodona Prophecy)
Ryan stood high on the volcanic ridge, searching the landscape. The one-eyed giant appeared mid way up the slope and lumbered away. He had a long stick in his hand, like a weapon.
Ryan frowned, unable to shake the feeling that he was living a scene right out of Homer’s Odyssey — the tale of Odysseus and Polyphemus.
Trapped in the cyclops’ cave, Odysseus had lost many men to the man-eating giant. But there was only one way out and Polyphemus had it blocked with a giant boulder, moving it aside only twice a day: once to release his sheep in the morning and the other to admit them at night.
Eventually, Odysseus devised a clever ruse to escape. Befriending the giant, he and his remaining men inebriated Polyphemus, then speared him in the eye with a sharpened stick.
Hearing Polyphemus’s yells of agony, the other cyclopes on the island rushed to his aid. When they asked who’d hurt him, Polyphemus replied, “Nobody,” as that was the name Odysseus had given the cyclops while sousing him with wine. So they left.
The next day, Odysseus escaped with his men, clinging to the belly of the sheep as the blinded Polyphemus checked their backs when releasing them.
Departing the island, fuelled by triumph and hubris, Odysseus yelled back his true name. “Nobody can defeat the great Odysseus.”
Ryan took a deep breath, wondering what misadventures lay ahead. One thing was for sure. If he and Mandy ever managed to escape the cyclops, there was no way he’d taunt it like Odysseus — earning him Poseidon’s wrath, thwarting his homecoming for some time.
Ryan shook his head. Not very smart, was it Odysseus?