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In Love With His Own Reflection: The Story Of Narcissus And Echo

Narcissus looking at his reflection mythologyEver known someone like this before?

That person always glued to a mirror. They are obsessed with their own reflection and treating everyone else like dirt?

Or worse, you somehow ended up being in a relationship with that person.

There’s a special word in the dictionary for people who are obsessed with themselves like this: narcissists. The word comes from an ancient Greek story about a guy named Narcissus, whose love for his own beauty got him into a lot of trouble…


FOOTSTEPS IN THE WOODS

The son of a powerful river god and fountain nymph, Narcissus was the most beautiful being in all the world. His beauty was so strong that it seemed to hypnotize those around him, and he grew up showered with constant praise and admiration.

It was nothing for him to reject the affection of his admirers with cruel words, or worse. The way he saw it, no one was good enough to match his stunning beauty. Yet his cruelty didn’t sway others from their love for him.

One fateful day when he was a young man he went walking in the woods alone. Alone, because in his mind no one was Echo following Narcissus Greek mythologyworthy to even behold his footsteps that day. But someone did anyway. There on the path he was spotted by a mountain nymph named Echo, and she fell madly in love with him the moment she laid eyes on him.

The problem was, Echo couldn’t talk to Narcissus because she had recently angered Hera, the vengeful and extremely jealous wife of Zeus. Hera had cursed Echo and robbed her of her own speech. Now Echo was only able to say the last few words of whatever someone had just spoken to her.

Still, the sight of Narcissus was too much to resist and she followed him through the path in the woods. She went from tree to tree, hiding and peering out at the gorgeous young man. Soon Narcissus felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck –he sensed someone was behind him.


SHOW YOURSELF

“Who’s there?” said Narcissus gazing into the dense forest around him.

“Who’s there?” replied Echo in a soft voice.

“Come out and show yourself,” said Narcissus.

“Show yourself,” answered Echo from behind a tree.

This went on for quite some time and Narcissus became impatient. He decided to try one more thing to get the mystery person to show themselves.

“Let us join one another!” he said in the most persuasive tone he could.

“Join one another!” said Echo brightly. Her heart swelled, delusional with love for Narcissus, she thought what he had said meant that he felt the same love for her. She came out from behind a nearby tree and walked up to him with open arms.

Shocked, Narcissus jumped back. The words flew out of his mouth, “Hands off you beast, may I die before I let you embrace me!”

Greek Goddess Nemesis inflicting revenge.“Embrace me,” said Echo sadly. She ran sobbing into the woods, her heart shattered into a million pieces.

What neither of them realized was that Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, had witnessed this entire scene. Knowing about Narcissus’ cruel history, she decided to do something about it.


THE POOL OF WATER

Feeling annoyed, Narcissus continued his stroll through the woods in hopes of forgetting the whole ugly encounter. He became thirsty in the afternoon sun, so he found a crisp pool of water and stopped to take a drink.

But as Narcissus lowered his lips to the water, Nemesis put her powers into action.

The pool of water became like a mirror and Narcissus beheld the clearest reflection of himself he’d ever seen in his life. Immediately, he was hypnotized by his own beauty.

‘How stunning!’ he thought to himself. He perched above the water to get an even better view of himself. ‘Incredible,’ he sighed to himself.

And it was there at the edge of the pool that he fell in love with the face he saw in the water.

Story Narcissus Gazing Into Water Reflection

Much time passed with Narcissus still perched there. He would smile at the face, and it would smile encouragingly back. His heart beating faster, he would go to touch the face with his hand, but it only made the water ripple and distort the reflection.

Many a sun rose and set over Narcissus, with him becoming desperately obsessed with this reflection that could never return his love.

Behind the trees that ringed the pool of water often stood Echo, her love for Narcissus as strong as ever. She watched as he started to fade away. Finally, Narcissus whispered his last loving words to his reflection:

“Oh marvelous face, I loved you in vain. Farewell,” and he was gone.

“Farewell,” sighed Echo.

And over time she, too, would fade. All that remains of her now is the the sound of her voice when you hear an echo in the woods.


MORAL OF THE STORY

So that is the story behind the word narcissist. The moral of the story is a strong one, as important now as it was in the days of ancient myth:

Don’t fall in love with a Narcissus or you’ll end up an Echo!

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10/09/2016
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Oops! The Greek Myth Of Pandora’s Box

Picture of Pandora trying to keep evil spirits in Pandora's Box.
“Oops!”

—Pandora about two seconds after opening The Box

Ever heard the saying ‘opening Pandora’s box‘?

It means to do something small that then gets way out of hand.

Shraddha S. wrote to me requesting more stories from Greek Mythology, so here’s the story behind the saying ‘opening Pandora’s box’ that comes to us from long ago. It all starts with a tricky guy named Prometheus…



NOT LIKE THE OTHERS

Prometheus wasn’t like the other Gods and Titans that lived on Mt. Olympus. Instead of enjoying the paradise that life in the clouds provided, he liked to spend time on earth and walk amongst humans.

According to Greek mythology at this time people on earth consisted only of men, something that the ancient Greeks thought was the ideal state of the world. Despite this though one thing wasn’t ideal about the setup, people lived in misery because they had to eat raw food each day and shivered from the cold every night.

Picture of Prometheus from Greek Mythology.Prometheus saw how the people around him were suffering and decided to take action. He knew that on Mt. Olympus the Gods and Titans had a thing called fire that would make the life of humans a lot better, so he went up to Zeus, the king of all the Gods, and asked to take some fire down to earth.

Zeus wasn’t having it though. He basically said ‘oh hell no’ and GTFO with that idea’. See, Zeus felt that giving humans fire would make them too powerful and would eventually enable them to overthrow the Gods of Mt. Olympus and he wasn’t going to let that happen.

Prometheus wasn’t intimidated though. He knew he wasn’t powerful enough to challenge Zeus but he was a clever guy, so he used his mind to keep looking out for a way to get fire to humans. One day while he was on one of his long walks he noticed a stalk of fennel and a lightbulb went on in his mind. He broke off the stalk and excitedly headed up to Mt. Olympus.


ANGRY ZEUS

Prometheus waited until Zeus was fast asleep after an evening of partying on Mt. Olympus. He tiptoed slowly over to where Zeus kept the famous lightning bolt he used to throw lightning out of the sky, and then scraped some sparks into the fennel stalk.

Story of Prometheus stealing fire from Zeus.

Inside the fennel stalk was a dry, cotton like material that would burn slow enough for Prometheus to get the ember back to earth. Once there he made sure that every group of humans had their own fire.

It wasn’t long before Zeus found out what had happened, after all, the earth was that was normally pitch dark at night was now lit up with the fires people were using to keep warm.

Zeus was shaking with anger. Prometheus had disobeyed and tricked him before, but this was the last straw. By giving fire to humans Prometheus had potentially threatened the survival of the Gods themselves.

For punishment Zeus immediately ordered Prometheus chained to a rock. There he was to stay in misery for all eternity as an eagle sat there slowly pecking out his liver during the day. Because he was immortal each night his liver would grow back, making his days an endless row of excruciating pain.

Luckily a few years later Hercules came by and got rid of the Story Prometheus liver being eaten by hawk.eagle and freed Prometheus from eternal torment. But human beings were not so lucky.


PANDORA’S BOX

Just because humans had nothing to do with getting fire didn’t mean that Zeus was going to let them escape his wrath. He was *ahem* burning mad and intended on showing humans who was boss.

He ordered a new type of human created, not a man like the rest, but a woman. Her name was Pandora and all of the Gods on Mt. Olympus gave her a gift, some were nice and some were mean, but Zeus himself gave her the gift of curiosity. Then he set his plan into action.

When he sent Pandora to her new life he put a beautiful golden box in her hands. He ordered her to keep it but said to never ever open it as long as she lived. Well as you can imagine, try as she might when she got to her new home she just couldn’t get her mind off of what might be in the box. No matter if she hid it in a corner or tried to completely remove it from the house it just wouldn’t work.

Story of Pandora opening Pandora's Box.One day she couldn’t stand it anymore and figured she’d just take a peek into the box for a second. But as soon as she lifted the lid it flew open and all the evil spirits it contained went out and spread over the earth. According to Greek mythology this is how most of the sorrows of the world were unleashed on humanity. All the problems of disease, war, sorrow, and on and on.

As you can imagine Pandora was horrified at what happened, and even more, she was terrified that Zeus would strike her down for not following his orders. But he never did anything about it at all since everything went according to his plan, now he’d gotten his revenge on humans.



CURIOSITY

So this my friends is the story behind the saying ‘opening Pandora’s box’. In the time of the ancient Greeks this story was a way for them to try and understand why things like disease and war existed.

Of course nowadays we’re much more advanced and know that the problems of the world weren’t released from a box by a lady named Pandora. But there’s still something we can learn from this ancient story: curiosity is a great gift, but think before you act, or else you might end up releasing all sorts of problems into your life!

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11/27/2014
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Greed And Gold: The Story Of King Midas And The Golden Touch

Picture of King Midas from the story of the golden touch.Ever heard of the saying ‘the golden touch’ (as in, “she has a golden touch, everything always works out for her no matter what”)?

That saying comes from a story in Greek mythology about a man named King Midas who gained the power to turn anything into gold with just a single touch, but it didn’t work out quite like he expected…

THE DRUNK SATYR IN THE ROSE GARDEN

One quiet evening King Midas was sitting in his beautiful palace counting his many piles of gold. Suddenly two of his guards burst through the doors and into the room. They were practically out of breath and each one was gripping an arm of a strange looking being, a half-man half-goat creature called a satyr.

Picture of Silanus the satyr, teacher of Dionysus.It only took a second to see why the guards had to grip onto the satyr, the creature was so drunk that another drop of wine would probably make him pass out.

The guards quickly explained that they had found the satyr stumbling around the royal rose garden with a jug of wine in his hand and singing loudly to the moon. They wanted to know if King Midas thought the creature should be thrown into a dungeon or simply tossed outside of the city gates.

King Midas, however, knew that doing either of those would be a very bad idea. He recognized the satyr as a good friend of Dionysus, the god of wine and chaos. Dionysus wasn’t someone whose bad side you wanted to get on that’s for sure, so King Midas ordered the guards to let the satyr go at once.

“Welcome to my palace honorable Silenus!” said King Midas to the satyr, “Sorry for the rough treatment, the guards didn’t recognize who you were.”

Silenus replied with a smile and mumbled something about getting lost from his group while they were out partying. Then he stumbled sideways over to a nearby table and fell asleep right on top of it.


A GOLDEN WISH

Picture of King Midas counting his golden coins.King Midas was a clever man and realized that he had a chance to make the strange situation with the satyr into a way to earn the favor of Dionysus. And maybe, if he was lucky, he might even get a nice pile of golden coins for his trouble.

King Midas wined and dined Silenus, treating him as an honored royal guest for quite some time. Then he personally escorted Silenus on the road back to where Dionysus was holding festivities.

Dionysus was so grateful for the return of his beloved friend that he immediately told King Midas he’d grant whatever wish he wanted, no matter what it was.

Well King Midas couldn’t believe his incredible luck. His first thought was to wish for a life-sized mountain made from golden coins, but then he had another idea that made his eyes sparkle with excitement.

“My wish is for anything I touch to turn into gold,” he said quickly, before Dionysus could change his mind.

Dionysus paused for a moment, then said “Are you sure this is what you really want? Perhaps …something else… would be better.”

But King Midas was adamant, what could be better than an endless supply of glittering gold?

“So be it,” said Dionysus and granted the wish.


THE GOLDEN TOUCH

Picture of King Midas demonstrating the golden touch.

King Midas rushed back to the palace to show off his newfound power to the people there. He walked up to a tree in the royal courtyard and touched a branch with his fingers and immediately the entire tree turned to solid gold, leaves and all.

He had a marvelous time turning every object in the courtyard into piles of gleaming gold right before the eyes of his astonished subjects, and that night a feast was held in honor of his new abilities. But as he bit down on his food he got a nasty shock on his teeth –the food had turned to solid gold in his hand.

Picture of the food of King Midas turned to gold.Frantically King Midas grabbed portion after portion of food, but each time it turned to gold. He tried to take a drink of wine to calm himself down …but the wine turned to solid gold as soon as it touched his lips.

By this time he was in great distress and everybody at the large table was noticing. “I’m going to starve to death! he said in exasperation.

What happened next changed King Midas’ life forever. Princess Aurelia, wanting to comfort her father, got up from her chair and gave him a reassuring hug. Instantly her entire body was transformed into solid gold.

Standing before him, where his daughter used to be, was now a beautiful but lifeless golden statue.


THE RIVER PACTOLUS

King Midas was insane with grief, his lust for gold had taken away the one thing he truly cared about in the world. He knew that his only hope now was to go back to Dionysus and beg to get rid of the golden touch. But when he got there he found that Dionysus did not want to cooperate.

Picture of King Midas in the Pactolus river.“You yourself chose this gift, and now you want to return it?”, said Dionysus raising an eyebrow.

King Midas begged and pleaded, he told the story of what happened to his daughter and how he would trade all the gold in the world to be able to have her back as she used to be. At this Dionysus finally relented.

“Go to the river Pactolus and wash yourself in the water. Then all will be as it was before you received your gift,” said Dionysus waving him away.

King Midas wasted no time going to the river Pactolus. He put his hands in the water and where the river flowed over them there were bright streams of gold. From that day forward the Pactolus river has always had gold mixed in with the sand on it’s riverbanks. More importantly though, the Princess Aurelia was restored to her former self.

King Midas was never the same after this experience, now even just the thought of anything gold would make him shudder. He retired from running the kingdom and was often seen walking through the forest admiring the simple pleasures of nature. But his favorite thing to do by far was even more simple: to sit and have a nice dinner …while enjoying every delicious bite of food and sip of wine, with no gold to be seen anywhere.

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04/23/2014