T HERE was once a boy named Icarus who, with his father Daedalus, was imprisoned in a tower on the island of Crete.
From the little window of this lonely tower they could see the blue ocean and watch the gulls and eagles sweep back and forth over the island.
Sometimes a ship sailed out toward other lands, and then Daedalus and Icarus would long for freedom, and wish that they might sail away to Delos and never again see the island of Crete.
Daedalus at last found a way for them to escape from the tower, but they were obliged to hide themselves in the loneliest parts of the island. Minos, the king who had put them in prison, watched the coming and going of all ships, and so Daedalus and Icarus never found courage to go near the harbor where the outgoing galleys lay anchored.
In spite of this, Icarus was almost happy. Besides the blue sea, the ships, and the birds, which he loved to watch, he found shellfish along the shore, crabs among the rocks, and many other curious things.
But Daedalus grew more lonely and miserable and spent all his time watching the gulls as they flew in the air, and planning how he and Icarus might escape from the island.
One day Icarus was throwing stones at the gulls. He killed one of the birds and brought it to his father.
"See how the feathers shine, and how long the wings are!" said the boy.
"See," said Icarus, "how the feathers shine, and how long the wings are!"
Daedalus took the bird in his hands and turned it over slowly, examining the wings.
"Now if we had wings," laughed Icarus, "we could fly away and be free."
For a long time his father sat silent, holding the dead bird. Now and then he looked up and watched other birds as they wheeled in the air over the sea and the island.
At last he thought of a plan and said softly to himself, "We shall have wings, too."
After that, Daedalus was idle no more. He plucked feathers from all the birds that Icarus could kill, and began to make two great wings. He fastened the feathers to a framework with melted wax and threads pulled from his linen mantle.
Daedalus fastened the feathers to a framework.
When these two wings were finished, Daedalus bound them on himself. He rose into the air, waving his arms, now up, now down, and went soaring far out over the water.
Icarus jumped about in delight, and shouted to his father to come back and make another pair of wings so that they might fly away and leave Crete forever.
When Daedalus had finished another pair of wings he bound the smaller pair on his son. Then he warned Icarus not to wander off alone in the air but to follow him closely.
"If you fly too low, the dampness of the sea will make your feathers heavy, and you will sink into the water," said Daedalus. But if you fly too near the sun the heat will melt the wax and you will fall."
Icarus promised to fly just as his father bade him. Leaping from the highest cliff on the island, they flew away toward Delos.
At first Icarus was obedient and followed close behind his father, but soon in the joy of flying he forgot all that his father had told him, and stretching his arms upward he went higher and higher into the heavens.
Icarus went higher and higher into the heavens.
Daedalus called to him to return, but the wind passed so swiftly that it carried all sound away, and Icarus could not hear. His wings bore him higher and still higher into the region of the clouds. As he went up and up the air grew warmer and warmer, but he forgot his father's warning and flew on.
At length he saw feathers floating in the air around him and suddenly he remembered his father's warning. He knew that the heat of the sun had melted the wax that held the feathers to the framework.
Finally Icarus felt himself sinking, and fluttered his wings wildly in an effort to fly, but such a storm of feathers swept around him that he could not see.
With a wild cry, turning and whirling through the sky, poor Icarus fell down into the blue waters of the sea—known ever since as the Icarian.
Daedalus heard his cry and flew to the spot, but nothing could be seen of Icarus or his wings except a handful of white feathers which floated on the water.
Sadly the father went on with his journey, and finally reached the shore of a friendly island. There he built a temple to Apollo and hung up his wings as an offering to the god. But ever after he mourned his son, and never again did he try to fly.