Narcissus: the eternal story of self-love

While the name Narcissus is mainly associated with self-obsession, its story is far more complex and symbolic than that. In this article, we'll explore the myth of Narcissus, its interpretation in antiquity, its psychological significance and its influence on art and literature. Make yourself comfortable and immerse yourself in the eternal story of self-love.

The myth of Narcissus

The story of the myth of Narcissus may vary from version to version, but the framework always remains the same. Narcissus, a young man of extraordinary beauty, repelled all those who sought to love him. One day, while searching for water in the forest, he caught sight of his reflection in the water of a spring. Amazed by his own beauty, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection and could not turn away. Consumed by his love for himself, Narcissus remained there, staring at his reflection, until his death.

The myth of Narcissus is imbued with many symbolic meanings. Water, which in many religions represents purification and regeneration, is here the reflection of Narcissus' beauty. As for the flower that bears his name, Narcissus, it symbolizes vanity and the danger of excessive self-love.

In ancient times, the Greeks saw the myth of Narcissus as proof of the gods' punishment of mortals who desired beauty and immortality. But the interpretation of the myth has evolved over the centuries.

The psychological significance of the Narcissus story

The Narcissus myth also finds an echo in psychology. Carl Jung, later followed by Erich Fromm, interpreted the myth as a call to self-discovery and awareness of one's inner self.

Freud's psychoanalytical theory sees Narcissus as the embodiment of self-representation and narcissism. According to Freud, excessive self-love is a substitute for love for others, and has its origins in a child's unsatisfied need to receive sufficient love or attention from his parents.

Other psychological theories see Narcissus as an expression of the fear of dying or self-recognition in works of art.

Narcissus in art and literature

The myth of Narcissus has influenced many artists and writers throughout history. One example is the famous painting "Narcissus" by Caravaggio, which depicts the young man gazing at his reflection in astonishment. Similarly, Jean Anouilh's play "Narcisse" is a contemporary adaptation of the myth.

Narcissus is also a recurring literary theme. He can be found in Charles Baudelaire's "Les Fleurs du Mal" and Oscar Wilde's "Le Portrait de Dorian Gray".


The myth of Narcissus is far more complex than a simple obsession with oneself. It is a story rich in symbolism and meaning, and can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. While it has often been used to denounce the dangers of pride and vanity, it can also be seen as a call to self-discovery and acceptance of one's inner self. Either way, the story of Narcissus has left an indelible imprint on our culture, inspiring artists and writers across centuries.