Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Adolescence

pp 1835-1844



  • Daniel K. LapsleyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Notre Dame Email author 
  • , Paul C. SteyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Notre Dame

Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool

And when he sees his reflection he’s fulfilled

–Bob Dylan (“License to Kill”)


There are several versions in antiquity of the myth of Narcissus. In Ovid’s telling, Narcissus was an exceptionally beautiful boy (born of a nymph and a river god) who was cruel and disdainful of his admirers. By age 15 he was highly desired by youth but by the nymph Echo, in particular, who was herself cursed by the goddess Juno (or Hera) to never speak first but to repeat whatever was said to her. When Echo happened upon Narcissus in the woodlands he haughtily spurned her, a rejection that left her pining till the end of her days until only her voice remained. Echo’s plaintive cries for revenge were heard by Venus (or Nemesis), who cursed Narcissus to fall in love with the beautiful boy whose reflection he saw in the waters of a deep pool. When Narcissus realized it was his own reflection that he loved, he despaired of possessing the watery ...

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