The Alchemist, Narcissus & ‘ujjub

The following is an interesting story of Narcissus, on narcissism: ‘ujjub in Arabic, or excessive self-love…

I have my own theory on the end of this version of the story – as it appears as the prologue to The Alchemist, an allegorical novel by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho –


Translated by Clifford E. Landers

The alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had bought.  Leafing through the pages, he found a story about Narcissus.

The alchemist knew that legend of Narcissus, a youth who knelt daily beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty.  He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned.  At the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the narcissus.

But this was not how the author of the book ended the story.

He said that when Narcissus died, the goddesses of the forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.

“Why do you weep?” the goddesses asked.

“I weep for Narcissus,” the lake replied.

“Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus,” they said, “for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand.”

“But … was Narcissus beautiful?” the lake asked.

“Who better than you to know that?” the goddesses said in wonder.  “After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!”

The lake was silent for some time.  Finally, it said:

“I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful.  I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.”

“What a lovely story,” the alchemist thought.

[End of Prologue to The Alchemist]

> I have my own theory of Narcissus, that perhaps – just as the lake who would revel in the Divinely-gifted beauty of it’s reflection – perhaps Narcissus was only doing the same…

Perchance he learned well from his teacher and was taught him to pray the Prophetic prayer when he looked in a mirror, of:

“Oh Lord, just as you have beautified my external appearance – khalq – please dear Lord, beautiful my internal character – akhlaaq.”

Concurrently, perhaps the second learned lesson that he was practicing may be what his teacher taught him when looking at the creation of The Creator:

“Learn to look not at the creation, and thus be limited by it.  But learn to look through the creation, and thus to it’s Unlimited Creator – Allah.”


2 Responses

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