Echo: A case study

Eco and Narcissus

[stextbox id=”info”]ZUBAIR LONE[/stextbox]

In Greek and Roman mythologies, gods are the superior most divinities. Gods are followed by Nymphs. They are lesser divinities represented as young and beautiful maidens, fond of pleasures including music and dancing. Echo is one such mountain nymph. Echo, though beautiful, had one flaw; she was excessively fond of talking. She, whether in talk or argument, was always obsessed to have the last word.

Zeus is the most powerful god in Greek Mythology. Even he has not been immune to his wife’s suspicion and mistrust. His wife, Hera would spy on him and so made the god’s life a difficult one. Zeus, therefore, persuaded the mountain nymph, Echo, to distract Hera with her incessant talks. When Hera came to know about it, she deprived Echo of the full power of speech, leaving her only with the faculty to repeat the final syllable of every word she heard.

One day while walking through the deep forests, Echo saw a beauty youth, Narcissus. She fell in love with Narcissus and followed his footsteps. The cursed nymph longed to address him in her beautiful voice and win his heart! But being robbed of her full power of speech she was unable to express her love. Patiently, she kept waiting for him to speak first, and had her answer ready. Once Narcissus, while walking in the forest, was separated from his companions. So he shouted aloud, ‘Who’s here?’ Echo happily answered, “Here!” Narcissus looked around, but seeing no one, called out, ‘Come.’ Again Echo answered, ‘Come.’ As no one came, Narcissus called again, ‘Where are you? Let us join one another,’ said Narcissus. Echo hurried to the spot, ready to throw her arms about his neck. Narcissus shouted ‘Hands off! I would rather die than love u!’ ‘Love u,’ Echo replied. It was all in vain and he left her.

From that time onwards, grieved Echo lived in mountains and caves until nothing was left of her but her voice. This was not the only instance of Narcissus’ cruelty. He had done the same thing to the rest of the nymphs, as he did to Echo. So, to punish Narcissus, the avenging goddess made Narcissus fall hopelessly in love with his own beautiful face. Once he stooped down to drink from a pool and saw his image in its waters. He thought it was some beautiful water-spirit and stood gazing at it with admiration. He fell in love with the supposed water spirit. He would frequently plunge his arms in to hug his reflection and it would distort at his touch. But it returned again shortly. He could not leave the pool, even for a moment. He lost all thought of food and sleep and talked for hours altogether with the supposed water spirit. “Why are you so indifferent to me? All nymphs so dearly admired my beauty! Then why do you shun my beautiful being?” As his tears fell into the water or with his slight touch the image would get disturbed and he would say, “Stay my love! Let me at least gaze upon you if I may not touch you!” As he kept gazing helplessly in love, he gradually wasted away!

The fable of Echo has been considered allegorical and it has continued to convey symbolic meanings and interpretations parallel to but distinct from its mythological and literary interpretations throughout ages. No wonder if any of such symbolic interpretations are strikingly relevant and applicable to the time and place we all have been living in. Echo – a divinity lesser than the gods, incessantly fond of talking, used as a tool of distraction by the supreme god, robbed of her full power of speech, cursed to repeat only whatever she hears and above all, hopelessly in love with Narcissus (a self obsessed son of a god) who has desperately fallen in love with his own image!

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