December 27, 2022

#08-269: Daedalus and Icarus

Icarus falling, a print by Hendrick Goltzius (ca. 1588) (Wikipedia)

Note: The famous fall of Icarus may be an allegory for the dangers of pride, or simply a warning for what happens when a boy disobeys his dad.

Get Ready: Is there such a thing as too much ambition? Can we go to far in our desire to excel?

We met Daedalus and Icarus in the story about the Minotaur (see Lesson #08-171). Daedalus, the superb architect and craftsman, built the labyrinth which held that monster.

But before that story took place, Daedalus lived at Athens, where he was the first to cause statues to "live, move, and see." Before Daedalus, statues had been fashioned with their eyes closed, and their hands molded against their bodies. Daedalus created statues with opened eyes, extended arms, and feet seemingly in motion. This secured his fame.

He took as an apprentice his nephew, Talos, who unfortunately (for the boy) was more skillful than the Master himself. One day, Daedalus grew so jealous that he hurled the boy from the citadel of Athens, killing him.

Having been charged with murder, Daedalus fled to Crete, where he befriended King Minos and designed the labyrinth. But Minos too grew jealous, and came to believe that Daedalus might reveal the labyrinth's secret, so he locked the craftsman in a tower, along with his son, Icarus.

Daedalus knew that, even if he were free of the tower, escape was impossible: Minos controlled the land and sea routes. But one day, watching the seagulls, he realized that Minos could not stop him from escaping by air. He designed--and began gathering the materials to make--a great pair of wings: feathers dropped by birds, thread from his clothing, and wax from the candles provided him.

At last, threading together the feathers and binding them with wax, he was ready to try them out. At first, as he leapt from the tower, he plummeted toward the earth! But adjusting the angle of his arms, Daedalus was able to swoop upward and begin flapping.

He returned to the tower and made a smaller pair of wings for Icarus. When they were ready, he warned the boy: "Follow me. Do not fly too low, where the sea air will dampen your wings and bear you down, nor too high, where the heat of the sun may melt the wax."

Assuring Daedalus that he understood, Icarus set out behind his father and off they went. But in the exuberance of youth, he soared too high, where the wax melted, and he plunged into the sea.

Turning to check on his son, Daedalus could not find him--until he noticed a gathering of feathers floating on the water. He searched the shore until he found his son's body, buried him, and went on to further adventures. But never again could he shake the grief caused by the memory of his child. Perhaps this was his punishment for killing Talos.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. apprentice
  2. citadel
  3. dampen
  4. exuberance
  5. flapping
  6. hurled
  7. plummeted
  8. plunged
  9. soared
  10. swoop

  1. the fortress above a city
  2. excitement; enthusiasm
  3. a helper; an assistant
  4. dropped downward rapidly
  5. waving one's arms up and down
  6. fell violently into water
  7. sweep through the air
  8. flew high
  9. make something wet
  10. threw forcefully

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 27, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. a; 3. i; 4. b; 5. e; 6. j; 7. d; 8. f; 9. h; 10. g