23. Narcissus falls in love with himself

Once upon a time, a beautiful nymph called Liriope, consorted with the river-god Cephissus. She gave birth to a male child named Narcissus, who was unequalled for his beauty. Liriope asked Tiresias the blind soothsayer, whether Narcissus would attain a ripe old age. The blind seer replied that if Narcissus failed to fall in love only with his own self, then he would have a long life under the sun.

Narcissus grew up as a most beautiful youth. He was much sought after by many a damsel, but he spurned them all. Then a damsel rejected by Narcissus, prayed that if Narcissus should love then his love should be denied. The prayer was heard by Nemesis, and she gave her consent.

Meanwhile, Narcissus being weary of his wanderings in the woods and the heated noon, came across an unsullied glassy pool. Animals and birds did not disturb the water, trees shaded it, and the cool water was crystal clear.

The thirsty Narcissus stooped to drink the unpolluted water, and he saw his reflected image, in the mirrored pool. He forgot to quench his thirst, as another thirst grew. He fell in love with his own image, taking it as some living being. Eyes were like two bright stars, fingers shaped according to the desire of Bacchus, glorious and flowing hair like Apollo, youthful cheeks like a blooming flower, neck as if made of ivory, a dreamy mouth, and a fair complexion blushing like a rose in snow-drift white. He lay there, supine on the bank, thirsting for his own image.

As the yellow wax is slowly burned by the flame, similarly, Narcissus slowly wasted away, consumed by his burning love for his own self. Finally, Narcissus gave up his last breath, with open eyes fixed on his own reflection.

His Naiad sisters, the Dryads, and Echo lamented. They would have erected a funeral pyre, but when they turned to look where he lay, his body was not there. A beautiful golden and white flower, with the white around the gold, grew where he lay on the bank.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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