Ancient Greek Myths for Kids: Echo (and Narcissus) & Echo (and Pan) Illustration

Three Myths About Echo
A Magical Creature

 
 

Echo
Ancient Greek Myths for Kids

Echo was a magical wood nymph. Echo had the most beautiful voice. She was very musical and possessed a good and loving heart. 

Echo was a wood nymph. The ancient Greeks believed that nymphs were female magical creatures, who lived in the mountains, the rivers, the streams, the lakes, and the forest. Nymphs were not immortal - they could die. If they married a god, however, their children were immortal. Nymphs were believed to look like beautiful young women, and have very kind hearts.

Echo was perhaps the most gentle, the most kind, and possessed a good and loving heart. She was very musical and had a beautiful voice. Echo lived deep in the woods and rejected all suitors, which made her, of course, a favorite of the goddess Artemis (goddess of the hunt.)

Echo appears in many myths. Here are three of them, loosely retold by Lin Donn.

Echo and Hera

One day, Zeus tore into the woods, looking for a place to hide. His wife, Hera, was after him again. Would he never learn to stop flirting with the nymphs who lived deep in the woods? Apparently not. Spotting Echo, he asked her to help him escape the eagle eye of his wife. One did not turn down a request from Zeus, not and live to tell about it.

When Hera tore into the woods after Zeus, Echo sidetracked her with chatter and gossip. After that day, each time Zeus raced into the forest with Hera close on his heels, Echo sidetracked her with chatter and gossip. For some time, this worked well for Zeus.

When Hera finally figured out what was going on, she punished Echo by denying her much of her beautiful voice. All Echo could do forever after was repeat the last few sounds she heard.

Echo & Narcissus

Echo spotted the most beautiful young man. His name was Narcissus. Echo did something she thought she would never do - she fell in love. But Hera had taken most of her voice. All she do was echo sounds made by others. She could howl like a wolf, but only if a wolf had just howled. She could sing like a breeze through reeds, but only if the reeds sang first. How could she tell Narcissus that she loved him?

One day, she spotted Narcissus looking into a stream. He seemed enchanted by what he saw.  He did not know it was only the reflection of himself.

"Come to me," Narcissus begged, looking into the water.

"Come to me," Echo echoed eagerly.

Narcissus swung about. "Who's there?" he angrily demanded to know.

"Who's there," Echo echoed loudly.

"Stop that!" Narcissus snapped.

"Stop that!" Echo echoed.

"Let's meet," Narcissus said in a much softer voice that he had used so far.

"Let's meet!" Echo echoed happily. She stepped out from behind a tree.

"Go away," Narcissus shouted at her.

"Go away," Echo echoed. Echo went sadly away.

Things did not go well for Narcissus after that. Narcissus returned to the stream again and again. He stared at the lovely young man he saw in the water, a young man who was only the reflection of himself.

Hidden from sight, Echo watched Narcissus as he lay by the stream. She repeated everything that Narcissus said. Narcissus ignored her. Day after day he lay by the stream, admiring his own reflection. He stopped eating. He stopped drinking. And finally, he died.

Echo & Pan

The god Pan spotted Echo one day and fell madly in love. But Echo would have nothing to do with him. This made Pan so angry that he used his powers to panic his shepherds. They went mad, and tore Echo to pieces. Pieces of Echo were carried by the wind all over the world.

Gaia, the Earth mother, who had always liked Echo, could not change what Pan had done. She could not change what Hera had done. But she could let the pieces of Echo keep what voice remained to them.

Thanks to Gaia, even today, you can sometimes hear a piece of Echo repeating the sounds around her - the howl of a dog, the toot of a train, or the last few words that people say, echoing softly.