Saturday, April 9, 2011


So I was trying to rewrite a myth today, and for some reason I chose the myth of Narcissus. Why on earth I would choose that is beyond me. I guess I thought it was so laughable and ridiculous that it would be ripe for parody.

What I actually realized is that the Greek myths are already about as cracked out as you can possibly get. Take Narcissus. His mom is a naiad (this is already the product of a drug-addled brain and we haven't finished the first sentence yet), and she was impregnated by a god in the form of a river. Yes. You heard me.

So she has a baby, Narcissus, and she is worried for him. She goes to Tiresias, the blind seer (HA!), and asks if there's anything she can do to make sure he has a long life. Tiresias tells her that Narcissus must never know himself.

OK, at this point, we must wonder, what does this mean. To know oneself. Is there really any way that any man can truly know himself? Is this not one of the greatest mysteries and quests of the human condition? To know oneself?

I mean, the only other way I know of knowing something is... well, the Biblical sense. And good luck keeping a young man from knowing himself, if you know what I mean.

But Liriope (Narcissus' mama) decides that this means Narcissus must never see himself in a mirror. WHAT THE FUCK? So knowing yourself is seeing yourself as others see you? Is that the takeaway from this? Or is it a point on the side of complete superficiality? That there is no meaning beyond the surface? Or should we just give up trying to read something into this story, because for real, it is on crack?

So Narcissus can't see himself in a mirror.

Then there is a kind of oddly tragic aside about Echo, and her loving Narcissus in vain (HA!). She can merely follow him, echoing his own perfect voice back to him, until she withers away to nothing but a permanent echo.

Then we get to the meat of the story. Narcissus spurns a lover (who I think is a man in the story, but that is not really important), and the lover goes to Nemesis for retribution. Nemesis lures Narcissus to a pool of water, wherein he catches his own reflection and is smitten. Unable to disturb the pool for fear of chasing the beautiful youth (himself) away, and unable to leave, Narcissus pines to death next to the pool.

Cue the rolling of the eye. So Liriope was right, unlikely as that seems, and "knowing oneself" was actually seeing one's own reflection and falling in love with it.

And I could delve into that, and pick apart the implications of self love and its destructive tendencies, or maybe the ironic twist of "knowing oneself" in the reflection while not knowing oneself well enough to recognize one's own reflection, or of any number of things.

But instead, I am just going to say that the story of Narcissus is crazy enough on its own, and I will look for a revisable myth elsewhere.


  1. I think Liriope was dead wrong on this one. Had Narsy been inured to his own looks through a steady diet of his own reflection since infancy, he would have had no such problem.

    Then a little later he would have picked up a self-help book and read it, and come to Know Thyself or whatever, and then we would have gotten to see the full horrific brunt come due, on whatever the f Tiresias was going on about.

    If I were going to rewrite an epic myth, I would choose as my theme "Tiresias and the Minotaur."

  2. *nods sagely*

    (This makes it look like I'm following, right?)


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