The Greek island of Crete was home to a wealthy kingdom of seagoing people. On it lived the great artist Daedalus, with his son Icarus. Daedalus built grand palaces and temples for the king. He also designed a fiendishly difficult maze called the Labyrinth. No one could figure out how to get to the center. And in the center dwelled the king’s pet monster, a man with the head of a bull, called the Minotaur.
In exchange for remaining peaceful, the Minotaur demanded a terrible sacrifice from the human race. Every nine years, the king had to deliver seven youths and seven maidens to feed the Minotaur’s monstrous appetite. But at last a hero named Theseus sneaked in with the captive young people, reached the center of the maze, and killed the Minotaur.
Furious at the loss of his pet, the king blamed Daedalus, claiming that Daedalus had let Theseus into the Labyrinth. (Which wasn’t true.) So he locked Daedalus and Icarus up in prison.
Daedalus used his powerful imagination to figure out how to escape. Watching birds fly one day, he got the idea of making wings for himself and his son. He gathered feathers and glued them together with wax to fashion two pairs of wings.
“We’ll fly through our cell window and escape,” Daedalus told Icarus. “But don’t fly too near the sun, or its heat will melt the wax, and you’ll fall into the sea.”
The wings worked! Father and sun flew into the clear, bright, blue sky and over the sea, far from the island. Icarus was thrilled. Being young, he was eager for risk and adventure. He flew higher and higher, tracing wild loops in the sky.
“Icarus, get down here!” Daedalus cried out, as the youth rose higher and higher, circling out of control.
But it was too late. High above the Earth, Icarus felt the sun’s warmth spread over his arms and back. Soon the wax began to melt from his wings. Icarus flapped frantically to stay aloft, but his wing feathers were falling all about him, drifting lazily down toward the sea. Then Icarus plunged straight down through the wispy cloudlet of white feathers, crying out for his father. But Daedalus, heartbroken, was too far away to help his beloved son. Icarus fell into the water with a loud splash and was gone.