How Narcissus fell in love with himself (055)

Narcissuses are popular. Almost every garden and park is full of them. In February and March we often buy a lot of narcisses in our longing for the spring. Have you ever taken a close look at a narcissus and realized how beautifully it glows in the the spirng sunshine? The narcissus is named after a vain reclusive Greek prince. This well-known Greek myth has been told now for more than 2,500 years:

A long time ago there lived a handsome reclusive prince by the name of Narcissus. He always wandered around with his head in the clouds, fantasizing about his successes and becoming king. Narcissus loved himself above all others and had no interest in the many girls and women who desired him.

One nymph fell helplessly in love with him, but Narcissus clearly considered her beneath his consideration. She was so insulted by this, that she complained to the gods: “O gods of love, please listen to my grief, all of you, I beg. Let that handsome Narcissus feel for once how much it hurts to love someone who ignores you completely.” A goddess of divine vengeance listened and the nymph was granted one wish.

Very quietly she went and sat in Prince Narcisuss’ field of vision. He was sitting on the banks of a clear spring contemplating his future successes. The nymph made her request: ” Let Narcissus fall in love with the first face he sees.”  At precisely that moment Narcissus bent over and saw himself in the water. He fell in love with his own reflection and wanted to embrace it. Narcissus then fell into the water and sadly drowned.

That was not the nymph’s intention. The goddess of vengeance felt sorry for him and Narcissus was allowed to return to the world of the living, not as a prince, but as a plant: the narcissus.

We see this beautiful proud and stately yellow plant named after the drowned Prince Narcissus flowering everywhere in the early spring. He still prefers to grow as close as possible to water, so that he can enjoy his handsome reflection.

The wild narcissus (narcissus pseudonarcissus) is a native bulb originating from Western Europe and is now rare. In The Netherlands it is mainly found in the south and the east, with its preferred habitat being meadows, river valleys or areas where the soil changes from sand to clay and bogs. This wild narcissus flowers earlier and is smaller than the now dominant cultivated narcissus species. Probably the wild narcisus was removed from meadows because it is poisonous for cattle. It’s quite likely that as a result the bulb was commonly transplanted to strips of land edging the roads leading to houses, fronting them and in orchards with it being such an attractive early spring flower.

Psychologists keep the memory of Prince Narcissus alive to this day: “A narcistic personality is characterized by a constant pattern of meglomania with fantasies about power and success; a limited ability to empathize with other people; using them: an exaggerated demand for attention: and overly sensitive to other people’s judgement”‘. (From: Zakwoordenboek der geneeskunde, Coëlho.)


© Els Baars,
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Els Baars