| Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew|
|by Josephine Preston Peabody|
|A child's first book of Greek tales containing many of the shorter myths retold with exceptional literary skill. Relates the stories of Prometheus, who brought to earth the bright-eyed fire treasured by the gods; of Orpheus, best of harpers; of the cunning Daedalus; the ambitious Phaethon; Apollo and Diana, and other gods and heroes of the olden time. Designed to supplement the myths retold by Nathaniel Hawthorne in A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales. Ages 8-10 |
ICARUS AND DÆDALUS
 AMONG all those mortals who grew so wise that they learned
the secrets of the gods, none was more cunning than
He once built, for King Minos of Crete, a wonderful
Labyrinth of winding ways so cunningly tangled up and
twisted around that, once inside, you could never find your
way out again without a magic clue. But the king's favor
veered with the wind, and one day he had his master
architect imprisoned in a tower. Dædalus managed to escape
from his cell; but it seemed impossible to leave the island,
since every ship that came or went was well guarded by order
of the king.
At length, watching the sea-gulls in the air,—the only
creatures that were sure of liberty,—he thought of a plan for
himself and his young son Icarus, who was captive with him.
Little by little, he gathered a store of feathers great and
small. He fastened these together with thread, moulded them
in with wax, and so fashioned two great wings like those of
When they were done, Dædalus fitted them to his own
shoulders, and after one or two efforts, he found that by
waving his arms he could winnow the air and cleave it, as a
swimmer does the sea. He held himself aloft, wavered this
way and that with the wind, and at last, like a great
fledgling, he learned to fly.
Without delay, he fell to work on a pair of wings
 for the
boy Icarus, and taught him carefully how to use them,
bidding him beware of rash adventures among the stars.
"Remember," said the father, "never to fly very low or very
high, for the fogs about the earth would weigh you down, but
the blaze of the sun will surely melt your feathers
apart if you go too near."
For Icarus, these cautions went in at one ear and out by the
other. Who could remember to be careful when he was to fly
for the first time? Are birds careful? Not they!
And not an idea remained in the boy's head but the one joy
The day came, and the fair wind that was to set them free.
The father bird put on his wings, and, while the light urged
them to be gone, he waited to see that all was well with
Icarus, for the two could not fly hand in hand. Up they
rose, the boy after his father. The hateful
ground of Crete sank beneath them; and the country folk, who
caught a glimpse of them when they were high above the
tree-tops, took it for a vision of the gods,—Apollo, perhaps,
with Cupid after him.
At first there was a terror in the joy. The wide vacancy of
the air dazed them,—a glance downward made their brains reel.
But when a great wind filled their wings, and Icarus felt
himself sustained, like a halcyon-bird in the hollow of a
wave, like a child uplifted by his mother, he forgot
everything in the world but
joy. He forgot Crete and the other islands that he had
passed over: he saw but vaguely that winged thing in the
distance before him that was his father Dædalus. He longed
for one draught of flight to quench the thirst of his
captivity: he stretched out his arms to the sky and made
towards the highest heavens.
 Alas for him! Warmer and warmer grew the air. Those arms,
that had seemed to uphold him, relaxed. His wings wavered,
drooped. He fluttered his young hands vainly,—he was
falling,—and in that terror he remembered. The heat of
the sun had melted the wax from his wings; the feathers were
falling, one by one, like snowflakes; and there was none to
He fell like a leaf tossed down the wind,
down, down, with one cry that overtook Dædalus far away.
When he returned, and sought high and low for the poor boy,
he saw nothing but the bird-like feathers afloat on the
water, and he knew that Icarus was drowned.
The nearest island he named Icaria, in memory of the child;
but he, in heavy grief, went to the temple of Apollo in
Sicily, and there hung up his wings as an offering. Never
again did he attempt to fly.
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