This section is from the book "The American Garden Vol. XI", by L. H. Bailey. Also available from Amazon: American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants.
There is a beautiful legend which accounts for the origin of this beautiful species, if any legend can : "Once upon a time a father left his property to two sons with the understanding that it should be equally divided, but the elder brother seized all the tillable land and left the younger brother nothing but an acre covered with rocks and water. The younger son, unable to obtain justice, sat down at the water's edge, bemoaning his misfortune. A benevolent fairy appeared, and giving him three narcissus bulbs told him to drop them in the water. Shortly after their flowers appeared, and neighbors crowded around to admire the fairy gift. In the course of a few years he accumulated a fortune by the rapid increase and sale of the bulbs. Then the older brother, envious of the younger's prosperity, bought great numbers of the bulbs - hoping to secure a monopoly by obtaining all of them - at so heavy an expense that he was obliged to mortgage his property to procure funds for the purchase. He planted all his land with the bulbs. They soon began to die, as they cannot live long out of water.
He was ruined, while his brother, who had bought the mortgage, foreclosed it and became possessed of the whole estate in time to replant some of the dying bulbs in the watery acre".