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The Story of Icarus
Icarus is a Greek myth about a boy named Icarus and his father, Daedalus. The sea of Icaria is famous for it is where Icarus supposedly died in his flight with Daedalus. The story of Icarus generally popular and is constantly used as reminders to ourselves not to be cocky and listen to our elders.
There are many versions of the story about Icarus and Daedalus, but I have chosen two to show you.
: Daedalus built the labyrinth for King Minos, but afterwards lost the favor of the king, and was shut up in a tower. He contrived to make his escape from his prison, but could not leave the island by sea, as the king kept strict watch on all the vessels, and permitted none to sail without being carefully searched. “Minos may control the land and sea,” said Daedalus, “but not the regions of the air. I will try that way.” So he set to work to fabricate wings for himself and his young son Icarus. He wrought feathers together, beginning with the smallest and adding larger, so as to form an increasing surface. The larger ones he secured with thread and the smaller with wax, and gave the whole a gentle curvature like the wings of a bird. Icarus, the boy, stood and looked on, sometimes running to gather up the feathers which the wind had blown away, and then handling the wax and working it over with his fingers, by his play impeding his father in his labors. When at last the work was done, the artist, waving his wings, found himself buoyed upward, and hung suspended, poising himself on the beaten air. He next equipped his son in the same manner and taught him how to fly, as a bird tempts her young ones from the lofty nest into the air. When all was prepared for flight he said, “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 too high the heat will melt them. Keep near me and you will be safe.” While he gave him these instructions and fitted the wings to his shoulders, the face of the father was wet with tears, and his hands trembled. He kissed the boy, not knowing that it was for the last time. Then rising on his wings, he flew off, encouraging him to follow, and looked back from his own flight to see how his son managed his wings. As they flew the ploughman stopped his work to gaze, aid the shepherd leaned on his staff and watched them, astonished at the sight, and thinking they were gods who could thus cleave the air. "They passed Samos and Delos on the left and Lebynthos on the right, when the boy, exulting in his career, began to leave the guidance of his companion and soar upward as if to reach heaven. The nearness of the blazing sun softened the wax which held the feathers together, and they came off. He fluttered with his arms, but no feathers remained to hold the air. While his mouth uttered cries to his father it was submerged in the blue waters of the sea which thenceforth was called by his name. His father cried, “Icarus, Icarus, where are you?” At last he saw the feathers floating on the water, and bitterly lamenting his own arts, he buried the body and called the land Icaria in memory of his child. Daedalus arrived safe in Sicily, where he built a temple to Apollo, and hung up his wings, an offering to the god."
The island of Crete was ruled by King Minos, whose reputation for wickedness had spread to every shore. One day he summoned to his country a famous inventor named Daedalus. "Come, Daedalus, and bring your son, Icarus, too. I have a job for you, and I pay well." King Minos wanted Daedalus to build him a palace, with soaring towers and a high, curing roof. In the cellars there was to be a maze of many corridors- so twisting and dark that any man who once ventured in there would never find his way out again. "What it is for?" asked Daedalus. "Is it a treasure vault? Is it a prison to hold criminals?" But Minos only replied, "Build my labyrinth as I told. I pay you to build, not ask questions." So Daedalus held his tongue and set to work. When the palace was finished, he looked at it with pride, for there was nowhere in the world so fine. But when he found out the purpose of the maze in the cellar, he shuddered in horror.
For at the heart of that maze, King Minos put a creature that was half man, half beast-a thing almost too horrible to describe. He callled in the Minotaur, and he fed it on men and women! Then Daedalus wanted to leave Crete at once, and forget both maze and Minotaur. So he went to King Minos to ask for his money. "I regret," said King Minos, " I cannot let you leave Crete, Daedalus. You are the only man who knows the secret of the maze and how to escape from it. The secret must never leave this island. So I'm afraid I must keep you and Icarus here a while longer." "How much longer?" gasped Daedalus. "Oh, just until you die," replied Minos cheerfully. "But never mind. I have plenty of work for a man as clever as you." Daedalus and Icarus lived in great comfort in King Minos's palace. But they lived the life of prisoners. Their rooms were in the tallest palace tower, with beautiful views across the island. They ate delectable food and wore expensive clothes. But at night the door of their fine apartment was locked, and a guard stood outside. It was a comfortable prison, but it was a prison, even so. Daedalus was deeply unhappy. Every day he put seed out on the windowsill for the birds. He like to study their brilliant colors, the clever overlapping of their feathers, the way they soared on the sea wind. It comforted him to think that they at least were free to come and go. The birds had only to spread their wings and they coould leave Crete behind them, whereas Daedalus and Icarus must stay forever in their luxurious cage. Young Icarus could not understand his father's unhappiness. "But I like it here," he said. "The King gives us gold and this tall tower to live in." Daedalus groaned. "But to work for suck a wicked man, Icarus! And to be prisoners all our days!...We shan't stay. We shan't!" "But we can't get away, can we?" said Icarus. " How can anybody escape from an island? Fly?" He snorted with laughter. Daedalus did not answer. He scratched his head and stared out of the window at the birds pecking seed on the sill. From that day onward, he got up early each morning and stood at the open window. When a bird came for seed, Daedalus begged it to spare him one feather. Then each night, when everyone else had gone to be, Daedalus worked by candlelight on his greatest invention of all. Early mornings. Late nights. A whole year went by. Then one morning, Icarus was awakened by his father shaking his shoulder. "Get up, Icarus, and don't make a sound. We are leaving Crete." "But how? It's impossible!" Daedalus pulled out a bundle from under his bed. " I've been making something, Icarus." Inside were four great folded fans of feathers. He stretched them out on the bed. They were wings! "I sewed the feathers together with strands of wool from my blanket. Now hold still." Daedalus melted down a candle and daubed his son's shoulders with sticky wax. " Yes, I know it's hot, but it will soon cool." While the wax was still soft, he stuck two of the wing to Icarus's shoulder blades. "Now you must help me put on my wings, Son. When the wax sets hard, you and I will fly away from here, as free as birds!" "I'm scared!" whispered Icarus as he stood on the narrow window ledge, his knees knocking and his huge wings drooping down below. The royal guards looked as small as ants. "This won't work!" "Courage, Son!" said Daedalus. " Keep your arms out wide and fly close to me. Above all- are you listening, Icarus?" "Y-y-yes, Father." "Above all, don't fly too hight! Don't fly too close to the sun!" "Don't fly too close to the sun," Icarus repeated, with his eyes tight shut. Then he gave a cry as his father nudged him off the windowsill. He plunged downward. With a crack, the feathers behind him filled with wind, and Icarus found himself flying. Flying! "I'm flying!" he crowed. The guards looked up in astonishment, and wagged their swords, and pointed and shouted, " Tell the king! Daedalus and Icarus are...are...flying away!" By dipping first one wing, then another, Icarus found that he could turn to the left and the right. The wind tugged at his hair. His legs trailed out behind him. He saw the fields and streams as he had never seen them before! Then they were out over the sea. The sea gulls pecked at him angrily, so Icarus flew higher, where they could not reach him. He copied their shrill cry and taunted him: "You can't catch me!" "Now remember, don't fly too high!" called Daedalus, but his words were drowned by the screaming of the gulls. I'm the first boy ever to fly! I'm making history! i shall be famous! thought Icarus, as he flew up and up higher and higher. At last Icarus was looking the sun itselft in the face. "Think you're the highest thing in the sky, do you?" he jeered. "I can gly just as high as you! Higher, even!" He did not notice the drops of sweat on his forehead: He was so determined to out fly the sun. Soon its vast heat beat on his face and on his back and on the great wings stuck on with wax. The wax softened. The wax trickled. The wax dripped. Once feather came unstuck. Then a plume of feathers fluttered slowly down. Icarus stopped flapping his wings. His father's words came back to him clearly now: "Don't fly too close to the sun!" With a great sucking noise, the wax on his shoulders came unstuck. Icarus tried to catch hold of the wings, but they just folded up in his hands. He plunged down, his two fists full of feathers-down and down and down. The clouds did not stop his fall. The sea gulls did not catch him in their beacks. His own father could only watch as Icarus hurtled head first in the glittering sea and sank deep down among the sharks and eels and squid. And all that was left of proud Icarus was a litter of waxy feathers floating on the sea.
Retold by Geraldine McCaughrean and Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark
Retold by Geraldine McCaughrean and illustated by Emma Chichester Clard
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