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Echo and Narcissus

In a Nutshell

The story of Echo and Narcissus is kind of like Romeo and Juliet on a triple shot of caffeine. Everyone falls in love, no one gets to be with the person they love, and everyone dies in the end. Oops. We probably should have warned you with a spoiler alert. Ahem. Spoiler alert: everyone dies in the end.

That said, the heartbreaking tragedy is only half of what makes this a must-read myth. You might also be interested to know that psychologists have named a mental disorder after the story's main character, Narcissus. Yes, we said a mental disorder: Narcissistic Personality Disorder, to be specific. You may not be interested in the lovey-dovey parts, but surely you want to know how this ancient guy made his way into modern psychology.

Humor aside, there's one more semi-serious thing sets the myth of Echo and Narcissus apart. This story is all about physical beauty and the power that it can have. When Echo falls for Narcissus, it's because she thinks he's hot. Inner beauty has nothing to do with it. The story screams: "JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER. Go ahead. Do it. See what happens." And well, what does happen? This attitude kills her. We're just sayin'.


Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this myth connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop

Don't believe us? Read it for yourself. The story of Echo and Narcissus is included in book three of Ovid's The Metamorphoses.

The prophet Tiresias—who gets some screen time at the beginning of the myth—shows up in Sophocles' Oedipus the King and Homer's Odyssey.

Narcissus really gets around: he's even considered partial inspiration for the character of Dorian Gray in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.

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