Icarus: Daedalus

Daedalus actually means “cunning worker”. He had served King Minos well in the past, before his exile. The story of why Daedalus actually came to Crete was transformed after Homer had told the original tale; later writers claimed that Daedalus had escaped to Crete after murdering his nephew. According to them, Daedalus was flawed by his pride in his own cunning skills. When his sister gave her son, Perdix, to Daedalus to be apprenticed, it was agreed that he would learn the art of engineering and mechanics. However, Perdix showed such great promise as an inventor and engineer, that it angered Daedalus at the thought of having a future rival. So, one day, when Daedalus and Perdix were alone, Daedalus pushed him off a cliff. Athena saw the crime, and transformed Perdix into a bird, –the partridge, which would later be known for its preference to make its nesting place in bushes, and avoid high place. Daedalus was exiled to Crete as punishment for the crime.

Homer called Daedalus the “creator of the wide dancing ground for Ariadne” –meaning the Labyrinth. The labyrinth was commissioned to be built for the Minotaur, which was a child of King Minos’ wife, Pasiphaë. King Minos was given one of Apollo’s beautiful white bulls for sacrifice; instead, however, King Minos kept it, and Apollo punished Minos by making his wife, Pasiphaë, lust for the bull. So that she could mate with it, Minos commissioned Daedalus first to build a wooden bull. Later on, the Minotaur was born, and Minos needed a suitable prison for the monster. So, Daedalus built the Labyrinth, –it was a labyrinth, as opposed to a maze, despite what other writers may have described it as. But Daedalus disobeyed Minos by giving Ariadne a special thread, to make it easier for one to get through the Labyrinth.

Later on, Theseus was charged with the task of killing the Minotaur. It was Ariadne who gave the thread to Theseus, in order for him to get in and out of the structure more quickly and safely. It was for this reason that King Minos imprisoned Daedalus and his son, but also, because he wanted no one else to know of the labyrinth, and the monstrous bastard offspring of his wife within it.

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