Why does Coelho open with the modified myth of Narcissus?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As the Alchemist is reading the Myth of Narcissus, the notion of transformation is evident.  Originally told in its Greek form, the Narcissus myth is extremely sad and depressing.  Narcissus falls in love with his reflection, falls into the lake, and drowns.  Essentially, beauty becomes self- love and represents self- destruction.  However, the alchemist is reading a different version of the myth.  In the version that the alchemist is reading, the lake begins to weep because it sees itself in Narcissus' eyes.  

In the Alechmist's version of the myth, transformation is evident.  There is a transformation from the bleak and painful version of the myth to something more beautiful and redemptive.  In the version that the Alchemist reads, beauty is everywhere.  The same beauty that Narcissus sees, the lake sees in Narcissus' reflection.  In this version, essentially, nature is a mirror and we reflect the beauty in it.  The more beauty we seek to inject into the world, the more beauty there is to see.  It is for this reason that the Alchemist declares this version of the myth "a lovely story."  Coelho starts off with this modified version of the myth to establish that the essence of consciousness as being transformational, to see what is and transform it into what can be.  The other purpose in starting off with this myth is to establish the idea of beauty in the world and the courage to look for it wherever it might exist.  This is something that Santiago takes to heart in his quest for his Personal Legend.