Athens was still only
a small city there lived within its walls a man named Daedalus who was
the most skillful worker in wood and stone and metal that had ever been
known. It was he who taught the people how to build better houses and
to hang their doors on hinges and how to support the roofs with pillars
and posts. He was the first to fasten things together with glue; he
the plumb-line and the auger; and he showed seamen how to put up masts
in their ships and how to rig the sails to them with ropes. He built a
stone palace for Aegeus, the young king of Athens, and beautified the
of Athena which stood on the great rocky hill in the middle of the city.
had a nephew named
Perdix whom he had taken when a boy to teach the trade of builder. But
Perdix was a very apt learner, and soon surpassed his master in the
of many things. His eyes were ever open to see what was going on about
him, and he learned the lore of the fields and the woods. Walking one
by the sea, he picked up the backbone of a great fish, and from it he
the saw. Seeing how a certain bird carved holes in the trunks of trees,
he learned how to make and use the chisel. Then he invented the wheel
potters use in molding clay; and he made of a forked stick the first
of compasses for drawing circles; and he studied out many other curious
and useful things.
was not pleased
when he saw that the lad was so apt and wise, so ready to learn, and so
eager to do.
keeps on in this way,"
he murmured, "he will be a greater man than I; his name will be
and mine will be forgotten."
day, while at his
work, Daedalus pondered over this matter, and soon his heart was filled
with hatred towards young Perdix. One morning when the two were putting
up an ornament on the outer wall of Athena's temple, Daedalus bade his
nephew go out on a narrow scaffold which hung high over the edge of the
rocky cliff whereon the temple stood. Then, when the lad obeyed, it was
easy enough, with a blow of a hammer, to knock the scaffold from its
through the air, and he would have been dashed in pieces upon the
at the foot of the cliff had not kind Athena seen him and taken pity
him. While he was yet whirling through mid-air she changed him into a
and he flitted away to the hills to live forever in the woods and
which he loved so well. And to this day, when summer breezes blow and
wild flowers bloom in meadow and glade, the voice of Perdix may still
be heard, calling to his mate from among the grass and reeds or amid
Daedalus, when the
people of Athens heard of his dastardly deed, they were filled with
and rage-grief for young Perdix, whom all had learned to love; rage
the wicked uncle, who loved only himself. At first they were for
Daedalus with the death which he so richly deserved, but when they
what he had done to make their homes pleasanter and their lives easier,
they allowed him to live; and yet they drove him out of Athens and bade
him never return.
There was a
ship in the harbor
just ready to start on a voyage across the sea, and in it Daedalus
with all his precious tools and his young son Icarus. Day after day the
little vessel sailed slowly southward, keeping the shore of the
always upon the right. It passed Troezen and the rocky coast of Argos,
and then struck boldly out across the sea.
At last the
of Crete was reached, and there Daedalus landed and made himself known;
and the King of Crete, who had already heard of his wondrous skill,
him to his kingdom, and gave him a home in his palace, and promised
he should be rewarded with great riches and honor if he would but stay
and practice his craft there as he had done in Athens.
name of the King
of Crete was Minos. His grandfather, whose name was also Minos, was the
son of Europa, a young princess whom a white bull, it was said, had
on his back across the sea from distant Asia. This elder Minos had been
accounted the wisest of men-so wise, indeed, that Jupiter chose him to
be one of the judges of the Lower World. The younger Minos was almost
wise as his grandfather; and he was brave and far-seeing and skilled as
a ruler of men. He had made all the islands subject to his kingdom, and
his ships sailed into every part of the world and brought back to Crete
the riches of foreign lands. So it was not hard for him to persuade
to make his home with him and be the chief of his artisans.
Daedalus built for King
Minos a most wonderful palace with floors of marble and pillars of
and in the palace he set up golden statues which had tongues and could
talk; and for splendor and beauty there was no other building in all
wide earth that could be compared with it.
in those days
among the hills of Crete a terrible monster called the Minotaur, the
of which has never been seen from that time until now. This creature,
was said, had the body of a man, but the face and head of a wild bull
the fierce nature of a mountain lion. The people of Crete would not
killed him if they could; for they thought that the Mighty Folk who
with Jupiter on the mountain top had sent him among them, and that
beings would be angry if any one should take his life. He was the pest
and terror of all the land. Where he was least expected, there he was
to be; and almost every day some man, woman, or child was caught and
done so many wonderful
things," said the king to Daedalus, "can you not do something to rid
land of this Minotaur?"
kill him?" asked
said the king.
"That would only bring greater misfortunes upon us."
build a house for
him then," said Daedalus, "and you can keep him in it as a prisoner."
"But he may
pine away and
die if he is penned up in prison," said the king.
have plenty of
room to roam about," said Daedalus; "and if you will only now and then
feed one of your enemies to him, I promise you that he shall live and
brought together his workmen, and they built a marvelous house with so
many rooms in it and so many winding ways that no one who went far into
it could ever find his way out again; and Daedalus called it the
and cunningly persuaded the Minotaur to go inside of it. The monster
lost his way among the winding passages, but the sound of his terrible
bellowings could be heard day and night as he wandered back and forth
trying to find some place to escape.
after this it happened
that Daedalus was guilty of a deed which angered the king very greatly;
and had not Minos wished him to build other buildings for him, he would
have put him to death and no doubt have served him right.
said the king,
"I have honored you for your skill and rewarded you for your labor. But
now you shall be my slave and shall serve me without hire and without
word of praise."
gave orders to the
guards at the city gates that they should not let Daedalus pass out at
any time, and he set soldiers to watch the ships that were in port so
he could not escape by sea. But although the wonderful artisan was thus
held as a prisoner, he did not build any more buildings for King Minos;
he spent his time in planning how he might regain his freedom.
inventions," he said
to his son Icarus, "have hitherto been made to please other people; now
I will invent something to please myself."
through the day he
pretended to be planning some great work for the king, but every night
he locked himself up in his chamber and wrought secretly by candle
By and by he had made for himself a pair of strong wings, and for
another pair of smaller ones; and then, one midnight, when everybody
asleep, the two went out to see if they could fly. They fastened the
to their shoulders with wax, and then sprang up into the air. They
not fly very far at first, but they did so well that they felt sure of
doing much better in time.
night Daedalus made
some changes in the wings. He put on an extra strap or two; he took out
a feather from one wing, and put a new feather into another; and then
and Icarus went out in the moonlight to try them again. They did finely
this time. They flew up to the top of the king's palace, and then they
sailed away over the walls of the city and alighted on the top of a
But they were not ready to undertake a long journey yet; and so, just
daybreak, they flew back home. Every fair night after that they
with their wings, and at the end of a month they felt as safe in the
as on the ground, and could skim over the hilltops like birds.
King Minos had risen from his bed, they fastened on their wings, sprang
into the air, and flew out of the city. Once fairly away from the
they turned towards the west, for Daedalus had heard of an island named
Sicily, which lay hundreds of miles away, and he had made up his mind
seek a new home there.
HE FELT HIMSELF SINKING
well for a time,
and the two bold flyers sped swiftly over the sea, skimming along only
a little above the waves, and helped on their way by the brisk east
Towards noon the sun shone very warm, and Daedalus called out to the
who was a little behind and told him to keep his wings cool and not fly
too high. But the boy was proud of his skill in flying, and as he
up at the sun he thought how nice it would be to soar like it high
the clouds in the blue depths of the sky.
rate," said he to
himself, "I will go up a little higher. Perhaps I can see the horses
draw the sun car, and perhaps I shall catch sight of their driver, the
mighty sun master himself."
So he flew
up higher and
higher, but his father who was in front did not see him. Pretty soon,
the heat of the sun began to melt the wax with which the boy's wings
fastened. He felt himself sinking through the air; the wings had become
loosened from his shoulders. He screamed to his father, but it was too
late. Daedalus turned just in time to see Icarus fall headlong into the
waves. The water was very deep there, and the skill of the wonderful
could not save his child. He could only look with sorrowing eyes at the
unpitying sea, and fly on alone to distant Sicily. There, men say, he
for many years, but he never did any great work, nor built anything
so marvelous as the Labyrinth of Crete. And the sea in which poor
was drowned was called forever afterward by his name, the Icarian Sea.