Daedalus is a favored mortal of Athena, who is a craftsman of amazing oddities, tools, and structures. He is best known for crafting the Labyrinth and wings for him and his son Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and died.
Daedalus was Athena’s favorite mortal. He had an amazing talent and skill and could craft anything, from tools, to large structures, to mystical trinkets. However, his nephew and apprentice Talus began to surpass his uncle in talent, and Daedalus grew very jealous. After Talus figured out that a fish bone spine was sharper than a knife and would make a great new tool, Daedalus pushed him off of the roof of Athena’s temple. Athena turned the boy into a partridge in mid-fall, and turned her fury to Daedalus. She withdrew her favor from him and chased him out of Athens, so he went to Crete where King Minos and Queen Pasiphae ruled.
Daedalus impressed the royal family with his talents and was asked to stay on the island to work for them. Queen Pasiphae, in a conversation with Daedalus, expressed that she didn’t believe in the gods and goddesses—especially Aphrodite, which angered Aphrodite. Meanwhile, King Minos sought out a white bull for his own amusement, as he had a particular fascination with white bulls. Aphrodite sent a white bull that was the most splendid in all of the land, and Queen Pasiphae fell in love with it.
In some versions of the myth, King Minos requested a white bull from Poseidon to show his support of his quest to rule Crete over his brothers. Rather than sacrifice the bull to Poseidon, as he was supposed to, he chose to keep it instead. To punish him for his disobedience, Poseidon made the Queen fall madly in love with the bull, and the Minotaur was the result of this affair.
She asked Daedalus for help, so he constructed a cow suit for her to wear. The result of this was that the Queen soon gave birth to the Minotaur, which literally means “Minos’ bull.” The Minotaur was a fearsome half-man, half-bull creature that loved to eat human flesh. His head was the head of a bull, the body that of a man's, with hooves and giant black horns that stuck out from the top of his head. Minos quickly realized what happened and instructed Daedalus to build a Labyrinth, which was an intricate maze of shrubs that was nearly impossible to navigate. It had 999 entrances in and only one exit. Minos locked Pasiphae, the Minotaur, Daedalus, and Daedalus’ son Icarus in the Labyrinth to hide his wife’s shameful secret.
Icarus suggested that his father make them wings so that they could escape from Crete. Daedalus crafted the wings and sealed them to their bodies with wax, warning his son not to fly too close to the sun or the wax would melt. Unfortunately, an over-excited Icarus found himself flying higher and higher before the wax melted and he plummeted to his death in the ocean.
From Icarus’ experience, we get the warning not to be too over-zealous or ambitious or we may fail terribly. This is usually encompassed in the saying, “Don’t fly too close to the sun.”
Wife unknown, but father of Icarus and Iapyx
Check out the rest of our Teacher Guides and Lesson Plans!