This story is a retelling of the tale of Echo from Ovid’s Metamorphosis book III.
Not even the withered roses could understand my anguish, not even did the forlorn rain begin to fathom out how unloved I felt, and neither did the forsaken Juno begin to grasp my melancholy. I am of the echoing voice, who cannot be silent when others have spoken, nor learn how to speak first myself. I speak of myself in the past tense, for I am dead. My sleepless thoughts waste my sad form, and my body’s strength vanished into the air.
And the only thing left is my bones and the dismaying sound of my voice.
My voice remains; my bones were changed to shapes of stone. I hide in the woods, no longer seen on the hills but heard by everyone.
It is merely sound that lives in me.
Disarray escaped when the Lord of the Sky came to visit. Back then, I still had a body and was not only a voice – but though I was garrulous, I had no other trick of speech than I have now. Juno made me like that. Jupiter wishes his women to be human, so of course, he would come down to earth to fulfill his needs with a pack of nymphs, including myself, my sisters, and my friends.
They would, of course, never refuse the king of the Gods. So they did as he said – and the hapless nymphs really thought that they would be rewarded; they really thought they would get something in return, and so they would stretch out their chest, look him in the eye, lick their lips and try their very best to please him, in the tiny hopes that they would maybe get something out of this woe.
Nevertheless, their efforts to please him, he did not give them anything back – he only came down here, to use them, just like he did with everyone else – just like he did with countless men and women, he used them. They could not reject him, for they did not want to endure the wrath of the god of sky and thunder. And so he utilized us.
Amid the copulation of Jupiter and the nymphs, I saw Juno. It was as if she took gasoline and poured it onto the spark of fear in my stomach. I knew I had to do something; I knew I needed to save my sisters. I had heard tales of Juno and what she did to other women Jupiter formicated. My friends and sisters were lying beneath her Jupiter; they were behind us, they were on the mountain slopes.
Vacca stulta, I uttered, and I did not know if I directed this to myself or the nymphs behind me.
Juno fretted towards me, face filled with fury. So I devised a plan of how I could distract her, it would only take a short time for Jupiter and the nymphs to flee, I thought.
So I knowingly held her in long conversations while the nymphs fled.
“Greetings, Queen of the Gods, you are looking lovely today,”
She did not answer me.
“The weather sure is looking lovely today, is it not?” I began to sweat.
She did not answer me.
“It is such a pleasure to meet you here; what is the occasion?”
Her face did not lighten up, as I hoped, instead almost darkened; it was as if heavy rocks laid on her eyebrows.
“I know he is here, nymph.” She said this with such hatred in her voice that I found it hard not to despise her.
“Who are you talking about?” I asked, trying to seem oblivious. I wanted least of all to get caught by Juno, the goddess of marriage, ironic really.
Then, like I was a feather, Juno tossed me out of her way with a swing of her hand. I quickly looked back and sighed in relief. So I saved them, now Jupiter was gone, and the nymphs have also fled.
Naïve me really thought that Jupiter would come to me – and say something to his wife, rather than leaving me alone with her. He did, of course, not do that. Then, trembling, I looked up at Juno. Her eyes looked almost like they were falling off; veins popped out on her face, painted with acrimony and antipathy.
I stood up and ran; I ran as fast as I could; I ran in the forest choked by its own branches, a sprawling fortress, barricading the earth from the warmth of the sun and the blue of the sky. I moved branches and leaves out of my way – but of course, she caught up to me. She is faster than me, she is a goddess, and I am only a nymph. And so she stood before me, almost hovering from the ground, dark clouds formed above her, and the weather was not as lovely as it was before.
“I shall give you less power over that tongue by which I have been deluded and the briefest ability to speak,” Juno howled, with a loathsome cry that hurt my ears.
As she said these words, I could feel my heart beating faster, and I felt myself begin to sweat; I thought about running away again but then reminded myself that whatever was going to happen next was absolutely inevitable.
Yet still, I ran, but Juno did not chase after me this time. She knew that she had punished me enough. Nevertheless, I ran into the warmness of the forest, hoping that it would embrace me, but it didn’t. And I understood now that I was utterly useless; I was merely a body now. Tears fell to the carpet of fine evergreen needles beneath me, and I started to run faster; I didn’t know from what, maybe reality.
My depression was soul-sucking and drained every single bit of life left within me, sadness crushed me like a tidal wave, and I drowned in its embrace. I wandered through the remote fields for days, mourning the loss of my voice, and drove frightened dears into their nets.
I was Echo, of the echoing voice. Once, nymph of the forest, I tended to nature, I looked out for my family and friends, I liked to talk with my loved ones, I liked to laugh, but now, I was nothing more than an echoing voice. I tried to scream in between the silent sobs of tears, but I couldn’t; no matter how hard I tried to scream, I couldn’t.
And one day I saw him, a boy so beautiful that I really thought he could fix all my problems. I felt such beauty could cure me. I thought I had found my voice again, my life, my purpose. He was the son of Cephisus, god of rivers. He is the son of the loveliest of nymphs. It was him, the most beautiful man in the world, my saviour.
I had never seen such beauty anywhere before. Walking there through the fields like it was nothing, I could not imagine what he was doing there – he looked like a nobleman. However, he was more perfect on closer inspection. His skin was clear, smooth like porcelain. Yet, far from delicate, I could clearly make out his toned muscles. He ran his hand through his silky, brown locks, which shone gold in the sunlight, before falling back in place perfectly.
He was absolutely divine.
So, of course, I followed him. You might call this love unrealistic, you might say that this did not happen, you might not believe me, say that no one can fall in love that fast, and to that, I will tell you to look Narcissus in the face – the prettiest of them all. Neither man nor woman could ever, as long as the sun shone, resist him.
Oh, Narcissus, you were the light in my obscurity, the fire in my heart. My soulmate. Narcissus, oh how I wished to speak his name, Narcissus I tried to say, but nothing happened, no words escaped my mouth, oh sacred Narcissus, fix my senseless life, stabilize me and save me, set me free from my endless sorrow. Oh, Narcissus, I said, I even screamed, but nothing happens. Oh, Narcissus, not even death himself could do us part. Oh Narcissus, I will forever follow you secretly, i swore, and the more I followed, the more I burned with fire, no different than inflammable sulphur, pasted around the tops of torches, catches fire when a flame is brought near it.
Oh, how I wanted to get close to him with seductive words and call him with soft entreaties, but nature denies it, it will not let me begin, but I was ready for what it will allow me to do, to wait for sounds, to which I can return words.
It was like fate heard me, for I fell.
“Is anyone here?” he yelled, a bit scared; I loved to see the frightened look in his eyes. Then, I realized that this was my chance.
“Here!” I replied, jumping up from where I fell.
He looked astonished and glanced everywhere around him.
“Come to me!” he shouted in a loud voice.
“Come to me!” I yelled back, my body getting warmer as I said the words.
He looked back, but no one appeared behind him.
“Why do you run away from me?” He asked
“Why do you run away from me?” I replied.
He stood still and deceived by the likeness to an answering voice.
“Here, let us meet together!” He screamed again, looking around himself.
I was ecstatic; I knew what I could answer him now.
“Together!” I screamed back, never having answered to another sound as gladly.
To assist my words, I jumped through the woods and surprised him. “Surprise!” I wanted to scream, but I could not – so I threw my hands around his neck in longing. I felt the stiffness of his body, I felt his pulse as my hands touched his neck, I felt his breath on my face, and I smelled him.
“I love you; you are the solution to my disparity.” I wanted to cry.
He threw me off him, and on the ground, I laid. I quickly looked up to him, so very confused – there I was greeted by a face filled with repulsion. I can’t explain how my heart felt now; I did not believe in heartbreaking but trust me when I say that it was like I felt my heart explode within me, I felt the blood running in streams from it throughout my body, and I felt how I could not breathe.
“Away with these encircling hands! May I die before what’s mine is yours.” He barked, and for a second, I thought that he was about to spit on my face. But he did not; instead, he just walked away.
I just wanted to thank him for saving my life.
I just wanted to thank him for being my light.
The light has now faded, and the only thing that stood left was the darkness.
“What’s mine is yours!” I said back, crying this time, as I laid there on the ground.
I was Echo, of the echoing voice, once a beautiful nymph, but now merely a scorned body, wandering in the suffocating woods, hiding my face in shame among the leaves, and from that time forward only living in caves.
Then Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection, oh how insensate he was, falling for the same thing I did. He could never have himself, no matter how much he wanted it. I still often observed him; I swore, of course, that I would follow him endlessly. I stood in the woods, watching my beloved, who was so utterly in love with himself.
And when he saw himself reflected in the dissolving waves, he could bear it no longer, but as yellow wax melts in a light flame, as morning frost thaws in the sun, so he is weakened and melted by love, and worn away little by little by the hidden fire.
Still, when I saw this, though angered and remembering, I pitied him, and as often as my poor beloved said, “Alas!” I repeated with my echoing voice, “Alas!” and when his hands struck at his shoulders, I returned the exact sound of pain. His last words as he looked into the familiar pool were “Alas, in vain, beloved boy!” and the place echoed every word, and when he said “Goodbye!” I also said, “Goodbye!”
And so the River-god clasped him in his winding streams and took him by force under the waves. A heavy blanket silenced his screams, dulled his senses, and tightly wrapped him in a suffocating embrace. He no longer retained his color, the white mingled with red, no longer has life and strength, and that form so pleasing to look at, nor has he that body I loved.
But as a maniac, he struggled to regain control, thrashing until his limbs gave out, and the light above the surface drifted away, leaving him in the numb of darkness. Oh, how stupid my love was, did he not know that it is impossible to flee the wrath of the gods?
But my love endures, increased by the sadness of rejection. My sleepless thoughts waste my sad form, and my body’s strength vanished into the air. Only my bones and the sound of my voice are left. My voice remained; my bones were changed to shapes of stone. I hide in the woods, no longer to be seen on the hills but to be heard by everyone.
I was Echo, once a nymph, but now a miserable voice, madly in love with a dead man, I was Echo, unable to express my love, my thanks – it is funny that the thing I was most thankful for ended up destroying me. I was Echo, of the Echoing voice, once a nymph, but now, nothing.
It is only the sound that lives in me now.