The end of July is here, so it’s time for another Retelling Myths!
Daedalus, Builder of Wings
I gripped the dagger tightly.
Slowly, I started to approach the old man in the bathtub from behind him, doing my best not to alert him to my presence.
There was no mistaking it - that old man was King Minos of Crete.
The same King Minos who had inadvertently caused the death of my son, the same King Minos who had imprisoned me and my son for years before that, and the same King Minos who had chased me all the way from Crete to Sicily.
'Enough is enough,' I thought to myself, as I crept closer, with the dagger in my hand, 'It's time to end this.'
"Father, can we leave yet?" Icarus asked me, as he looked out of the tower that we had been imprisoned in.
"Not yet," I replied, "but, soon, we will."
I pulled hard on the twine holding the feathers together, trying to perfect the wings that I was working on.
It had been several years since I had built the Labyrinth that was used by King Minos to confine Asterion - otherwise known as the Minotaur.
To keep the secrets of the Labyrinth hidden, King Minos had imprisoned my son, Icarus, and me inside a tower that overlooked the Labyrinth.
When Ariadne, King Minos's daughter, had come to me on behalf of Theseus, asking for help with navigating the Labyrinth so that he could slay Asterion, I obliged.
After all, I was the one who built the hollow wooden cow that started this whole mess to begin with.
And, I was also the one who built the Labyrinth that allowed King Minos to sacrifice so many young Athenians to the Minotaur.
Wracked with guilt, I gave Ariadne a map of the Labyrinth and a clew of thread to give to Theseus, along with instructions on how to navigate in and out of the Labyrinth.
The hero Theseus then slew the Minotaur, finally putting poor Asterion to rest, and escaped from Crete along with Ariadne.
I, however, was still imprisoned in the tower.
Unsurprisingly, King Minos had deduced that I was the one to give Theseus guidance, as he had found out that his daughter had visited me from the guards stationed at the tower.
Angered, King Minos decided to continue holding me and my son as prisoners, as well as using my son as a hostage to force me to put my skills as a craftsman and an architect to use for him.
To be honest, though I had hoped otherwise, this outcome was not surprising.
And so, seeing that the king would never let us go willingly, I had spent the last several years working on a project of my own.
I had hidden away various materials from the other projects that the king had me work on - materials including twine and wax.
Then, I plucked the feathers from the various birds that had landed in the tower, saving up quite the stash.
And now, after secretly and slowly working on them for years, they were finally close to completion - two pairs of bird-like wings made from the bird feathers, held together with twine, wax, and various other materials.
I applied a bit more wax to the wings.
As I spread the wax across the feathers and twine, I said to Icarus, "Just be patient for a little while longer, my son. Now, come here and help me with these."
Icarus sighed and gave the outside world another look. Then, he turned around and walked over to where I was, "Yes, father."
Just a few more days, and we would be free.
"Father, will these really let us leave?" Icarus asked, excitedly looking at the wings that I held in my hands.
I smiled and nodded, "Yes, my son - at last, we'll be free!"
I helped my son put on his pair of wings.
Grinning, he gave them a flap.
"Woah!" he exclaimed as he was lifted off his feet, before gently landing.
"Now listen, Icarus," I said, as I attached my own pair of wings to my arms, "be very careful with these wings."
"We cannot fly too high, lest the sun melt the wax holding these wings together," I said, "And when over the sea, we cannot fly too low, lest the waters soak into the feathers and weigh them down."
"Do you understand, Icarus?" I said, as I finished putting on my wings, "Do not fly too high, and do not fly too low."
Icarus nodded, still grinning, "Yes, father - not too high, and not too low!"
"Good," I said.
I walked towards the opened window.
"I'll go first," I said to my son, as I prepared to take flight, "follow closely behind me."
Icarus nodded, excitement tinged his reply, "Yes, father!"
I looked at my son one more time, "Soon, my son, we will be free."
And with that, I jumped out of the tower.
I flapped my wings, and began to feel the air lift me up.
Soon, I was able to glide in the air.
Joyously, I laughed - finally, I was out of that damn tower!
I turned around, and saw my son preparing to leap out as well.
"Come, Icarus!" I said.
My son jumped and began to flap his wings.
It took him a moment, but, soon, he began to fly as well.
"Father!" Icarus said, "We're flying!"
I laughed, "Yes, we are!"
I looked down at the tower, and saw the guards stationed there, still oblivious to our escape for now.
"There is no time to waste," I said, "follow me, Icarus!"
The both of us flew off, finally escaping the tower that we had been imprisoned in for years.
After a few hours, we had left Crete behind.
We were now flying above the sea.
"How are you feeling, my son?" I said, as I turned my head back to look at Icarus.
Behind me, Icarus was laughing, "Just fine, father!"
"Good," I said, as I turned my head to face forward again.
"Oh, the sun! The sea!" I heard Icarus say, "It's so beautiful, father!"
I smiled - it had been a long time since I had heard Icarus so delighted.
From behind me, I heard the flapping of wings.
"Now, Icarus," I said, as I turned my head again, "Be ca-"
But my son was no longer behind me.
Panicking, I stopped and held my position in the sky, my eyes frantically searching all around me, "Icarus, where are you?!"
"Up here, father!" I heard my son yell from above me, "The sun is so warm!"
I looked up, and yelled, "Come back down, Icarus!"
"But, father, the-"
It happened quickly.
Icarus's wings began to fall apart - the wax, melting from the sun's heat, was unable to hold the feathers together anymore.
Suddenly, Icarus began to plummet.
"Father!" he yelled as he fell.
"Icarus!" I yelled, as I frantically flew towards him.
But, before I could get anywhere close to him, he had crashed into the sea.
Quickly, I flew to where I had seen him splash into the waters.
"Icarus!" I yelled, "Where are you?!"
I flew and searched for what seemed like an eternity.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone floating on the waves.
Hurriedly, I flew over.
The figure was face down in the water and unresponsive.
I quickly tried to wrap my legs around them, to pull them out of the waters.
As I lifted them up a little, I could see that it was indeed Icarus.
"Icarus!" I yelled, "Wake up!"
A wave threatened to crash down on us.
Seeing no other choice, I let go of my son and flew up, barely managing to avoid the wave.
In the sky, I could see a shore nearby.
I spotted Icarus, and tried to lift him out of the sea again.
"My son," I yelled, "Get up!"
This time, I could not avoid the waves.
The waters hit me, and sent me crashing into the sea as well.
Panicking, I searched for the surface of the water, and kicked towards it.
As my head jumped out of the water, I took a deep breath.
Gasping for air, I looked around for Icarus.
Seeing my son's inanimate body again, I rushed towards him.
Grabbing my son, I began to swim towards the shore that I had seen, as fast as I could.
I pushed against the waters as hard as I could, while holding my son's head above the sea as best as I could.
"Icarus, my son, please!" I pleaded.
After what seemed like forever, we made it to the shore.
I dragged my son onto land, and tried to wake him up.
But, I was too late - he had already drowned, long before we had made it.
I had buried my son on that shore.
After grieving for a long time, I picked up my wings again.
By some miracle, they had remained intact, and I was able to fly with them again, once they were dried.
As I took to the skies again, I saw that I had landed on a small island, and that it had only one village on it.
With nothing else left, I decided to stay on the island where I had buried my son.
I landed in the village, and the villagers kindly took me in.
Over time, I began to use my skills to build new architecture and crafts to help the village grow and expand, as well as to make life easier for the villagers.
After a few years, the village had expanded all across the island, and the villagers wanted to name the island after me.
As honoured as I was, I politely declined, and asked if we could name the island after my son instead.
And so, the island was named Icaria.
Unfortunately, my time at the island would soon come to an end.
Word got to me that King Minos had apparently been looking for me, and he was getting quite close.
After saying goodbye to the villagers, I took up my wings once more.
Then, sadly, I flew away from my son.
I had flown all the way to Sicily.
There, King Cocalus had welcomed me into his court, after he had heard of my work.
Trying to put my past behind me again, I put my skills to good use for the king and the island that I had now found myself on.
Over time, I had even gotten close to the king and his family, with his daughters even calling me "uncle".
Then, one day, King Cocalus came to me with a curious riddle - how would one run a string through a spiral seashell?
After giving it some thought, I had come up with an answer.
I tied some string to an ant, and had set it at one end of the seashell.
Then, I placed some food at the other end of the seashell.
This lured the ant into one end of the seashell, and out through the other end, taking the string along with it into the shell.
And thus, the string had been ran through the spiral seashell.
The king laughed as he watched.
"Brilliant!" the king had said, "Once again, you have proven your great wisdom, Daedalus."
"Thank you, my king," I said.
However, it turned out that this was a trap.
The riddle had been given to King Cocalus by King Minos, who had chased me all the way here.
Somehow, the mad king Minos had decided that I was the only one who could ever solve the riddle, and was adamant that King Cocalus handed me over to him.
As illogical as that was, I was indeed on the island, unfortunately.
Fearing the repercussions, King Cocalus could not deny Minos his request.
Instead, King Cocalus had decided to buy me time to escape, under the guise that I had been sent away for some other business and that I would be back shortly, at which point I would be handed over to Minos.
However, enough was enough.
I had been running away from Minos for years now, and I was tired of it all.
Instead, I decided that I was going to kill Minos.
King Cocalus's daughters had told me that Minos was currently enjoying a relaxing bath.
They had planned to kill him themselves, by pouring scalding hot water on him, so that I wouldn't have to leave.
I had thanked them, and had convinced them to leave - to allow me to handle this matter myself.
And that was how I found myself slowly approaching Minos from behind him, as he relaxed in the bathtub.
As I approached him, gripping the dagger, I remembered all the things that he had done to me - imprisoning me and my son for years, forcing me to work for him, chasing me for years, and forcing me to leave my newfound homes again and again.
I remembered watching helplessly, as my son plummeted from the sky and into the sea.
Tears began to well up in my eyes.
"Die!" I yelled, as I reached around and stabbed my dagger into the front of Minos's chest.
Minos yelled in pain.
Frightened, I staggered back.
Managing to turn around, Minos looked at me in the eyes, "You..."
I grabbed his head and shoved it into the water.
The mad king thrashed about, trying to get air into his lungs.
His hands reached out, trying to grab at me.
Unwilling to let go, I kept Minos's head under the water.
And then, finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, the mad king finally stopped struggling.
Still, I held his head in place, unable to move.
When I was finally convinced that he had died, I let go.
Breathing heavily, I backed away until I felt the wall.
I slumped down to the ground.
"Free..." I managed to say, to no one but myself.
Was I finally free?
The last part of the Daedalus trilogy.
After burying his son, some versions have Athena give Daedulus new wings, and then he flies away immediately afterwards - however, for my version, I decided to have him stay on the island for a little while, to explain why the people on the island would name the island after Icarus.
In most versions of the story, King Minos is killed by someone pouring boiling hot water into his bath. Who pours that water in varies with different retellings - some versions have King Cocalus doing it, some have King Cocalus's daughters doing it, others have Daedulus doing it himself, while others still have a mix of participants.
For my version, I decided that having Daedulus stab and then drown King Minos would work better, since it better reflected Icarus's death by drowning as well.
The Sun Aegis - Continuing work on Part 7.
Audrey, The Unicorn Girl - I’ve found an illustrator for the comic - @Tobatoons! Some initial character sketches have been done, and I’m very excited!
Thank you for reading!
As always, please consider:
More Retelling Myths can be found here!
See you all next month!
From E. H. Lau