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Story summary: Echo and Narcissus 

A woman gives birth to a beautiful boy, called Narcissus, and is told by the prophet, Teiresias, that he will have a long life unless he learns to know himself. Meanwhile Echo, a talkative wood nymph, falls foul of the goddess Hera. The chatterbox is punished and left only able to repeat the last words of others.

One day Echo sees Narcissus by chance and falls desperately in love with him. He, however, makes it clear that her love will never be reciprocated. Constantly pining for him Echo wastes away until all that remains of her is her voice.

Beautiful Narcissus, so loved and yet unloving, sees no one worthy of his love until he catches sight of an exquisite being in a pool of water as he bends down to take a drink. Filled with longing for the figure, he tries in vain to reach the person in the water. Eventually he recognises it is himself and just as Echo suffered so does he: he too wastes away and his body is transformed into a delicate flower leaning over the edge of a pool.

Suggested teaching time: 1 hour.

Key themes

Pride
Vanity
Love
Beauty
Danger of knowledge
Artifice vs. reality

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