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Asking Icarus


 The myth of Daedalus and Icarus is one I have never really understood.

The synopsis of the fable as far as I know it is that Daedalus and his son Icarus were imprisoned by a  suspicious king and escaped their incarceration by gluing feathers to their arms with wax and flying away. Before their escape Daedalus warns his son Icarus not to fly too close to the sun as the heat will melt the wax with dire consequences. Icarus duly ignores his father and falls to his doom.

Teachers and grandmothers then warn you of the perils of hubris and sum up with the cliché “Pride comes before a fall” and sit back with a ludicrous sense of achievement.

I have always thought the conclusions drawn from the fable preposterous. With even the most childish scrutiny the tale falls apart. Why were father and son in prison? Where they on remand? Had they been sentenced? What was the crime or crimes committed? The story as I know it is silent about causes. Then while in prison they create wings with wax and feathers. Where did they get so many pigeons and so much wax? With a prison cell so full of birds cooing and fluttering about why didn’t the guards notice? Were they deaf? As for the wax that is an awful lot of candles. After making the wings Daedalus warns his son not to fly too close to the sun and explains the danger. It implies that Daedalus has done this before. In any event how did they get out of the cell?

The tale is clearly nonsense on face value. I think the myth makes sense if you think of it as allegory. There are two men differing not only by age but that one is a father the other a son. They escape confinement by flying which is a clear metaphor as is the sun. The fable explains that the father is an intelligent man – he designed and built a labyrinth that imprisoned a supernatural being. It implies that his son will also be smart. That is where I think the point of the storey lies.

I think the tale is about the male psyche and how it changes with age and about choices. Has time taught Daedalus wisdom presumably through ordeal which he tries to pass on to his son? What if Icarus accepts and understands the warning given by his father but wishes to exult in the glory of the apogee fully accepting the consequence of his actions?


Asking Icarus
Asking Icarus
Soft Textured Fine Art Paper 310gsm

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