Daedalus and Icarus
Extract from the book Daedalus and Icarus:
(…) In the innermost part of the labyrinth was imprisoned the Minotaur, a man-eating monster with a human body and the head of a bull. This hideous beast was killed by Theseus, the great hero of Athens. By this action he saved his people from the terrible blood-toll they had long paid to the hardhearted Minos: seven young men and seven maidens who were brought from Athens every year to be devoured by the Minotaur. Daedalus helped Theseus to overcome the mon-ster, and when the king learned of it his anger was terrible. Overnight, Daedalus found himself a prisoner in the very laby-rinth he had created, along with Icarus, his son. Now, the two of them had but one thought in their heads: how to find their way out of the maze and flee from Crete.
“Slavery is hard to bear,”
“but ten times harder for an artist. Yet how can we leave Crete if we can’t even find our way out of the labyrinth?”
“Only the birds are free,”
replied his son.
“If we could fly like them, we could escape from here. But, alas, the gods did not give men wings.”
“They gave them brains, though, Icarus,” replied his fa-ther, then suddenly fell silent, wrapped in thought.
“Yes, we have brains,” continued Icarus,
“but if we had wings, too, how wonderful it would be! We would soar high into the sky, as high as the sun; we would travel like the birds, like the clouds, like the gods themselves!”
But Daedalus was no longer paying any attention to his son’s words. He was looking fixedly up into the sky and thinking hard, for a bold idea had come into his head.
He was still sitting, wrapped in thought, when Minos’ wife, Pasiphae, came to visit the two prisoners.
Pasiphae was not cast in the same cruel mould as her hus-band, and it grieved her greatly to see the great artist and his son locked up like common criminals. Knowing the lone-liness of imprisonment, she would often come to the labyrinth to console them with her company and her conversation.
As soon as he saw the queen, Daedalus burst out:
“There are many things I can bear, but to see these hands lying idle, bound in slavery, that is more than I can endure!”
“Even if I could get you out of here,” replied the queen, “you would be recaptured at once.” And then she added:
“Today, news came from Athens that Theseus has been crowned king, and your banishment has been lifted.”
“At last!” cried Daedalus in joy. “Now I can return to my homeland.”
“No, Daedalus,” replied the queen. “I told you escape was no easy matter, and from now on it will be even more diffi-cult. When Minos learned that the people of Athens wish you to return he was overcome with rage. He ordered guards to be posted all over Crete, even though you are still safely locked up in the labyrinth. He is so afraid that you will get away that he is having the whole coastline watched, and the ports are being checked with such thoroughness that not even a needle could be slipped out undetected. I still want to help you, but I simply don’t know how.”