Narcissus (mythology)  

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Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection.

In Greek mythology, Narcissus or Narkissos (Greek: Νάρκισσος), was a hero of the territory of Thespiae in Boeotia who was renowned for his beauty. Several versions of his myth have survived: Ovid's, from his Metamorphoses; Pausanias', from his Guide to Greece, (9.31.7); and one found among the Oxyrhynchus papyri.

Pausanias locates the spring of Narcissus at Donacon 'Reed-bed' in the territory of the Thespians. Pausanias finds it incredible that someone could not distinguish a reflection from a real person, and cites a less known variant in which Narcissus had a twin sister. Both dressed similarly and hunted together. Narcissus fell in love with her. When she died, Narcissus pined after her and pretended that the reflection he saw in the water was his sister. Some Greek tales suggest that he was sexually attracted towards his sister, and when she was alive made love to her.(See genetic sexual attraction for an explanation and examples of the phenomenon of relatives falling in love.)

As Pausanias also notes, yet another tale is that the Narcissus flower was created to entice Demeter's daughter Persephone away from her companions to enable Hades to abduct her.


The myth of Narcissus has been a rich vein for artists to mine for at least two thousand years, beginning with the Roman poet Ovid (book III of Metamorphoses). This was followed in more recent centuries by other poets (e.g. Keats) and painters (Caravaggio, Poussin, Turner, Dalí, and Waterhouse). Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky used lonely Narcissus-type characters in his poems and novels, such as Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin in "The Double" (1846).In Stendhal's novel Le Rouge et le Noir(1830), there is a classic narcissist in the character of Mathilde. Says Prince Korasoff to Julien Sorel, the protagonist, with respect to his beloved:

She looks at herself instead of looking at you, and so doesn't know you. During the two or three little outbursts of passion she has allowed herself in your favor, she has, by a great effort of imagination, seen in you the hero of her dreams, and not yourself as you really are. (Page 401, 1953 Penguin Edition, trans. Margaret R.B. Shaw).

The myth had a decided influence on English Victorian homoerotic culture, via the influence of Andre Gide's study of the myth, Traite du Narcisse ('The Treatise of the Narcissus', 1891), and the influence of Oscar Wilde.

In 20th century pop culture, Bob Dylan's song "License to Kill" refers indirectly to Narcissus: "Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool /And when he sees his reflection, he's fulfilled."!

"Supper's Ready" by Genesis (ca. 1972), a near-23-minute epic song laden with religious and mythological imagery, refers to the myth of Narcissus as follows: "A young figure sits still by a pool / He's been stamped "Human Bacon" by some butchery tool / (He is you) / Social Security took care of this lad. / We watch in reverence, as Narcissus is turned to a flower. / A flower?" The movement is titled "How Dare I Be So Beautiful."

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Narcissus (mythology)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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