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"Wings cast toward the sun..."

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The Legend of Daedalus and Icarus

King Minos of Crete sacrificed a fake bull in place of his favorite snow white bull, to fool Poseidon, god of the sea. Poseidon became angry and cast a spell on Minos' wife, Pasiphae, the queen, that made her fall in love with the white bull. Daedalus built a hollow wooden cow, into which Pasiphe lowered herself. The bull, seeing a new cow, mounted it and unknowingly Pasiphae, who was inside. Pasiphae became pregnant and bore the dreaded minotaur, a creature with a man's body and a bull's head. Daedalus, King Minos' architect, built a labyrinth in which King Minos was able to hide the hideous bull-man. Afterwards, Theseus, an Athenian king, killed the Minotaur and escaped with the king's daughter, Ariadne. At the failure of the labyrinth, Daedalus lost the favor of the king and was imprisoned in a high tower. Daedalus wanted to escape from his prison, but all sea-going vessels were searched carefully.

"Minos may control the land and sea," thought Daedalus, "but he does not control the air. I will escape that way."

Daedalus set to work fabricating wings for himself and his young son, Icarus. Daedalus put many feathers together over a frame of his design, beginning with the smallest feathers and adding larger feathers, to form an ever-increasing surface area with which to harness the power of the wind. The larger feathers Daedalus secured with strong thread, but the smaller ones he secured only with wax. To his final creation, he gave a curvature like that of birds' wings.

When the work was done, Daedalus, waving his newly constructed wings, found himself buoyed upward on the currents and hung suspended, poised on the beaten air beneath his constructed wings.

But he could not leave without his son, so he had to build another pair of wings, smaller in size. Daedalus equipped his son with the smaller set but cautioned him, saying, "Icarus, my son, I charge you to keep at a moderate height, for if you fly too low the damp will clog your wings, and if you fly too high the heat of the sun will surely melt these wings of yours that I have created for you."

Daedalus kissed the boy, not knowing that it was for the last time ever. Then, rising on their wings, father and son flew off, escaping from the prison that King Minos had put them in. The boy, exulted at his new-found freedom, began to soar upward as if to reach heaven. The nearness of the blazing sun softened the wax, which held the smaller feathers together, and they came off in bundles. He fluttered frantically with his arms, but no feathers remained to hold the air beneath the wings. He cried to his father but fell to the ocean and was submerged in the blue waters of the sea in which he drowned.

His father cried, "Icarus, Icarus, where are you?"

Daedalus flew far and wide, searching for his son. At last he saw the all-too- familar feathers floating on top of the water and, bitterly lamenting his own arts, Daedalus scooped up his son's body and buried it on shore, calling the land Icaria in memory of his dead child.

Daedalus arrived safe in Sicily, where he built a temple to Apollo, and hung up his wings as an offering to the god.


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