Daedalus and Icarus

Last Updated January 9, 2019 by . First Published in 2013.

Daedalus advises his son, Icarus, not to fly too high as the heat may melt the wax keeping his wings together. Icarus ignores his father's advice and flies too high, with disastrous results.

Daedalus and Icarus

Daedalus regretted having to shake his kid so hard, but it was critical that he awoke fast. His and his father's lives were in grave danger. King Minos' guards would be at the door any minute now. Daedalus shook his son once again.

"Come on, Icarus!" he exclaimed. "Get up! Why, oh why, does the boy have to sleep so soundly?" Daedalus mumbled. But everyone in Minos' palace had been sound asleep the night before when the crafty Prince Theseus of Athens penetrated the labyrinth and slew the Minotaur imprisoned there. When Theseus set ship with the fourteen young Athenians who had accompanied him to the island of Crete, everyone was deep sleeping. Also, Theseus had brought Princess Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos, with him.

When the King discovered what had transpired the next morning, the entire palace erupted. The first person the outraged King summoned was Daedalus, the artisan who built the labyrinth in which the Minotaur was imprisoned.

"Where has that filthy Daedalus vanished to? What happened to him?" King Minos was furious. "I'm going to rip him apart! I'm going to burn him with burning coals! I'm going to throw him off the cliff! The scumbag, the liar! He said that no one could ever escape the maze alive! Now that the Minotaur has died, Theseus has fled with my captives and my daughter!"

When Daedalus heard the shouting and raving coming from the King's apartments, he realised it was time to leave Crete - and quickly! Minos' men were on their way to arrest Daedalus and drag him before the King.

"Icarus! Get up! Get up!"

Daedalus shook Icarus' shoulder again, this time more violently. Icarus blinked open his eyes and said sleepily, "What exactly is it, Father? Why do I have to get up right now?"

"We must flee, my son," Daedalus said quickly. "I'll tell later why. But if we don't leave immediately, it could be the end of both of us."

Icarus was now wide awake. His father was clearly concerned, very concerned.

"You've always longed to fly," Daedalus remarked. "All right, now's your chance."

Daedalus walked over to a huge box in the room's corner. Daedalus had always suspected that he and Icarus would have to flee Crete one day. Then he constructed wings out of bird feathers and laid aside four balls of wax to attach them to their bodies.

Daedalus removed the wings from the box and strapped one to Icarus' back. "Poor Icarus," Daedalus lamented. "He thinks it's all a ruse."

This was the second time he and his son had had to flee danger together. Daedalus had to abandon his native city of Athens for the first time after hurling his nephew, Perdix, over a cliff in a jealous rage.

Perdix was a gifted inventor and craftsman even though he was only a small lad. Some thought he was smarter than Daedalus himself. As Perdix fell from the cliff, the goddess Athene saved him by transforming him into a partridge. Yet, Daedalus feared what would happen if his crime was found, so he kidnapped Icarus and escaped to the island of Crete at night. King Minos had granted him refuge there. Now Daedalus and Icarus had to flee.

Daedalus was finally satisfied with Icarus' wings. They were well-maintained and should transport him safely across the water. Daedalus, on the other hand, had a severe warning for Icarus as he attached his own larger Wings onto his own back.

"Remember your wings are waxed on," Daedalus replied. "Wax melts with heat, so avoid flying too close to the sun or your wings will come off! Icarus, you understand, don't you?"

"Of course, Father, I understand," Icarus responded, only half-listening.

Icarus was too preoccupied with the prospect of flying like a bird to consider anything else. His back wings were of gorgeous snow-white feathers, just like the birds he had often seen flying above the island. Icarus was already immensely proud of them. With his huge white wings, he could fly much farther and faster than his cousin Perdix, who had turned into a partridge.

"Partridges are just little grey birds." Icarus mocked himself.

Daedalus glanced at his son's eager, joyful face and prayed that nothing bad would happen to him.

"Just follow me," he instructed Icarus. "Don't fly higher than I do, and you'll be fine!"

Just then, Daedalus heard a noise outside in the corridor. That was the tramp, tramp, tramp of soldiers' feet hurrying towards his quarters.

"Icarus, hurry!" As he took his son up to the balcony, Daedalus talked urgently. "When I tell you, jump up into the air and don't look down!"

Daedalus kissed Icarus quickly and anxiously before saying, "Icarus, now! Jump!"

Icarus did as he was taught and rose slowly into the air with his father. Icarus and Daedalus were soon soaring high over the palace grounds, over the golden sandy beaches along the shore, and out to sea, thanks to the wings attached to his back. As they flew along, the sun shined warm and brilliant around them, the sea below glittered, and the air felt fresh and clean on their faces.

Daedalus turned around nervously every now and then, checking to see if Icarus was behind him. Icarus joyfully waved to his papa each time. He was having a good time.

An hour has passed. Nothing could be seen below save the sea and the occasional fishing boat. The island of Crete had long vanished behind the horizon. Icarus had become tired of following his father around by this point. He intended to swoop downwards, turn, and fly upwards, and even glide sideways in the wind currents that were blowing around him.

Icarus decided to take a risk. He looked ahead to be sure his father wasn't looking, then extended his wings straight out. He waggled them at the tips a little and found himself flying sideways.

"It's works!" Icarus screamed out in delight.

Icarus then bent down and swooped for a few seconds before zooming back up to fly behind Daedalus once more. Icarus could almost think that he had always been a winged creature.

Just then, a flock of birds swooped down in front of Icarus. They were ascending to greater heights before descending again. Icarus followed them. Up, up he went, oblivious to the fact that it was getting hotter and hotter as he got higher and higher. The sun was beaming brighter and brighter, but Icarus did not stop.

"I can fly as high as birds," he boasted. "I'm confident I can."

Daedalus abruptly turned around, far below. He discovered that the sky behind him was devoid of clouds. Daedalus, worried, glanced up and realised, to his horror, that Icarus was nothing more than a minuscule dot high in the sky.

"Icarus! Icarus!" Daedalus screamed in terror. "Icarus, return!"

Icarus was way too high in the sky to hear him. Besides, the heat of the sun was making him dizzy. He became increasingly terrified as the wind currents engulfed him and propelled him skyward at breakneck speed.

Icarus now felt two searing patches on his back. The candle wax! It was evaporating! Icarus was suddenly falling instead of flying. As he dropped, he noticed his two wings being tossed about by the wind. They were gone.

Down, down, down Icarus swooped down, faster and faster. Daedalus was turning this way and that, looking for his kid.

The boy slid past him, arms flailing madly, hands clutching at the air. Fear and grief turned Daedalus cold. He was powerless. All he could do was watch Icarus slide away from him, shrinking and shrinking until a splash of foam in the sea below indicated the location where he fell into the water.

"Icarus, Icarus, Icarus!" Daedalus sighed. He felt a terrible pang in his chest as he realised Icarus could not have survived such a lengthy fall into the water.

Daedalus' eyes welled up with tears. He knew he had to seek out Icarus. Daedalus could tell Icarus was dead as he fell into the sea. He discovered Icarus' limp body lying on the water's surface. His face was pale and his eyes were closed. The wings that had fallen from his back were floating nearby.

Daedalus, crying, tenderly raised Icarus from the ocean. A little, rocky island was not far distant. Daedalus flew there and landed on a little sandbar on the beach. Daedalus was helpless to do anything but hold Icarus close to him and cry for a few moments. Daedalus eventually realised that Icarus would have to be buried. With a broken heart, he proceeded to cover his son with seashore rocks and stones.

There were many birds on the island, and a small group of them sat on a nearby rock, as though observing Daedalus. When one of them chirruped, Daedalus looked up and discovered it was a partridge.

"A partridge!" exclaimed Daedalus. He took a closer look at the grey bird and remembered how Athene had transformed his nephew Perdix into a partridge. Perhaps this partridge, who was now staring at him, was Perdix.

"If you are," Daedalus sobbed, "you will see how my crime against you has been atoned for."


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