In Greek mythology, Echo was a woodland nymph who was in love with a man named Narcissus. Echo was very fond of talking and would always have the last word. One day Echo made the mistake of engaging the goddess Juno in conversation, in order to allow Juno’s adulterous husband to flee. Juno then cursed Echo by removing her ability to speak, except to repeat what was already spoken to her.
Echo would wait for her love amongst the trees. One day as she hid in the forest he heard her movements and called out “Who's here?” Echo replied “Here!” Narcissus called again "Come"; Echo replied, "Come!” Narcissus called once more “Why do you shun me? Let us join one another.” Echo was overjoyed that Narcissus had asked her to join him. She longed to inform him of the love she had for him within her but she could not articulate her longing. She ran to him and flung herself at him. Narcissus became angry “Hands off! I would rather die than you should have me!” and threw Echo to the ground. This excerpt from The Metamorphoses by Ovid beautifully sums up the rest of the myth:
“So she was turned away to hide her face, her lips,
her guilt among the trees,
even their leaves, to haunt caves of the forest,
to feed her love on melancholy sorrow which, sleepless, turned her body to a shade,
first pale and wrinkled, then a sheet of air,
then bones, which some say turned to thin-worn rocks;
and last her voice remained.
Vanished in forest, far from her usual walks on hills and valleys, she’s heard by all who call; her voice has life.”
I first encountered this excerpt in a book called House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I immediately loved this work and related to the loneliness and isolation that ensues upon Echo. The words create this beautifully melancholy image in my mind, which I hope to convey in my artwork. Its so fascinating how these complex myths, which people in ancient times held so close arouse from something like an echo in the distance. It reminds us that inspiration can come from anything and can be spontaneous.