Today’s story is one that you are probably quite familiar with, considering that it’s the source of a popular idiom that means “to overreach.” So, yeah, we’re going to talk about Icarus, and how he would have been fine if he’d just, you know, listened to some very good advice.
To start this tale, we need to talk about Icarus’s dad, Daedalus. Now, Daedalus was mentioned on the blog before. He’s the guy who built a contraption to help the Queen of Crete have sex with a bull, which resulted in her giving birth to the Minotaur.
So, after the Minotaur is born, King Minos realizes that there’s a lot of potential here, mostly related to having a flesh-eating monster to take care of criminals or people who just piss him off, but they need somewhere to store the Minotaur. Minos then has Daedalus construct a giant maze called the Labyrinth, with the Minotaur in the center.
That’s all well and good for a while, until Daedalus indirectly helps Theseus kill the Minotaur (which is another story I’ll elaborate on later). This pisses off the king and, since he no longer has an abomination to throw him to, he imprisons Daedalus and his son Icarus in a tower overlooking the sea. Though, honestly, I think the whole incidident with the bull-fucking might have had something to do with it and this was the last straw.
Not sure why he imprisoned Icarus, since the kid had nothing to do with what happened, but I think that we’ve already established that Minos is kind of a huge dick.
But not to fear! Daedalus has a plan. And that plan involves him making two sets of wings out of wax and a bunch of feathers. Now, we all know why this wouldn’t work today, but I don’t think that the Ancient Greeks had the same understanding of aerodynamics. So, yeah, to them wings=flight. Also, it’s mythology, so some suspension of disbelief is required.
Anyway, Daedalus hands Icarus a pair of wings and the two strap in. Before they head out, though, Daedalus says, “Now, I don’t care how cool this looks or how much fun it is. Whatever you do, don’t fly towards the sun. It’ll melt the wings and you’ll drown.”
Icarus is like, “OK, Dad, cool. I got you.”
The two then fly off, and Icarus, because he’s a teenager, does the exact same thing his dad told him not to do. And what happens is exactly what Daedalus said would happen: the wings melt, he falls into the ocean, and then he drowns.
This makes Daedalus very sad, but he keeps going and eventually makes it to Sicily. Here he builds this giant temple to Apollo, and hangs the wings he made inside as an offering.
And that, friends, is where the phrase “flying too close to the sun” comes from.