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Sunday, April 04, 2021

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2021: D Is For Daedalus

 The heroes of Greek myth are generally royalty of one kind or another. Daedalus was a member of the Athenian royal family. He was a genius craftsman, and nice to know that in those days members of a royal family were allowed to practise a trade. 

He was not a nice man; it was killing his young nephew Talos that got him into trouble and sent him fleeing fromAthens. Talos, Daedalus’s apprentice, apparently invented the saw. This made Daedalus jealous, so he pushed him off the Acropolis. You can find this story, by the way, dramatised in the Greek Myths section of Jim Henson’s series The Storyteller, told by Michael Gambon. It also tells the story we know best, that of Icarus. I’ve found it on Amazon Prime, if you’re interested.

But Daedalus was a genius. When he fled Athens, he ended up for some time living at the court of Minos of Crete, where he was made welcome for his skills. He must have been there for a while, because that’s where his beloved son Icarus was born. He also had time to design the Labyrinth, where the Minotaur was imprisoned and girls and boys sent to be eaten. (Well, that’s the myth, anyway. In Mary Renault’s novel The King Must Die, the Labyrinth was the name of the palace complex)

Another commission he had, which got him into huge trouble, was from the Queen, Pasiphae, sister of Circe. Greek myths have a lot of dirty stories, not surprising in a religion that had such randy gods. There was a white bull from the sea, sent by sea god Poseidon to Minos, when he promised to sacrifice it. It was such a very pretty bull, though, that Minos kept it. 

Goodness knows why Poseidon supplied his own sacrifice, but a promise was a promise and Poseidon got his revenge by making Pasiphae develop a crazy passion for the bull and... well, she was a goddess, after all, but even a goddess might find it a bit hard to do bestiality with a bull without help. 

That’s where Daedalus came in. He built her a wooden cow that let her climb in and receive the attentions of the bull from the sea. By the time Minos found out that she had almost literally crowned him with horns, the baby was born, a boy with a bull’s head. 

Personally I can’t see any logic in feeding a semi-bull meat, as cattle are herbivores, right? But there are man-eating horses in other myths, so what the heck. 

Daedalus was again in trouble. Being a genius craftsman, he prepared for his escape with his son. This is the best- known story,of course, but I’ll tell it anyway. 

Daedalus built feathered wings for both of them, with the feathers stuck to wax. He warned the boy to follow him and not fly too high, but boys will be boys and like a teenager doing wheelies he just had to fly high, so the sun melted the wax and down he came, drowning. 

Daedalus had several more adventures, even ending up using some of his gadgets to kill Minos, who had followed him. He sort of had a happy ending, settling in Sardinia.

I’m including here a painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, because I love this one. Notice the 16th century landscape and ships at sea, with everybody just getting on with their everyday work while, in the bottom right hand side of the painting, Icarus’s legs are sticking out of the water as he drowns.

Brueghel Landscape With The Fall Of Icarus, public domain 

Here is a link to Auden’s poem, Musee Des Beaux Arts,  partly inspired by this painting.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Daedalus was just too clever by half, wasn't he?

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Debra! He was! It saved his life, several times! 😂

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

The King Must Die is one of my all-time favorite books :)
Also, I didn't know this painting! Wow.

The Multicolored Diary

Melanie Atherton Allen said...

Hello! Well, funnily enough, I knew most of the separate bits of this one, but not that they were all from the one story. For example, I knew the thing about Pasiphae, but not that it resulted in her personally giving birth to the Minotaur (though, I mean, that makes total sense, now that I think about it. Or as much sense as these things generally do, anyway). Or that Daedalus was in the offing during the Pasiphae incident, making sneaky cow sculptures and so on. So, it was especially interesting to read this post, because it made lots of things connect up in my mind. Always neat.
Um. Thank you for juggling the Comments thing! Of course, now that I've put you to all that trouble, I've figured out how to comment with my blogger account (which I apparently had all the time, only I'd forgotten about). Still, it might be helpful for other people... (blush).

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Zalka! One of my favourites too, I’m giving it a mention in my F post on fantasy fiction connected with the myths. My copy of the book was falling apart from reading and rereading, so I had to buy it in ebook!

Hi Melanie! You really don’t want to even try thinking about time lines in the Greek myths, they are all over the place! But yes, this is one story.
I recall you had the same problem with your comments last time and used your old Blogger account. Next time, could you put in a link to your delightful A to Z posts, so we can all just click through? I do get your blog posts by email, but perhaps other readers might like to check out your blog too. 🙂

Iain Kelly said...

The Deadalus I know better is from Joyce's Ulysses. Your posts would be a handy guide to have when trying to figure out all the connections Joyce was making to these myths!

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I do enjoy Greek Myths. I have a Greek Myth-inspired monster coming up on F day, come by and check it out.

Looking forward to seeing what you do all month.
Tim Brannan, The Other Side: 2021: The A to Z of Monsters

TWW said...

So loving these posts.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Stephen Daedalus, as I recall. I haven’t read Ulysses, though I have heard readings on Bloomsday. I did read A Portrait Of The Artist in Year 12, for English. Perhaps time to reread, as I suspect I will understand it better now!

Sue Bursztynski said...

I’ll be there, Tim, looking forward to your monster!

Aw, thanks, TWW!

AJ Blythe said...

That painting is almost horrific really, isn't it. Everyone just doing their thing while the boy drowns in sight.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Anita! It’s rather sad, really. Everyone having a normal day while a child drowns. It happens. I don’t know what the artist had in mind. Irony? Sadness? Or just thought it might be fun to stick a character from Greek myth into his landscape and see who noticed?

Debs Carey said...

I'm delighted that you worked your magic for non-Blogger commenters. It's been something I've long struggled with.

Like Melanie, there were bits & pieces here that I knew before, but never seen brought together into one complete picture. Thanks, I really enjoyed that (although drawing a veil over that rather sad picture at the end).

A-Zing from Fiction Can Be Fun
Normally found at Debs Despatches

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Debs, glad you enjoyed it! I’ve taken down my usual “Google accounts only” for the time of the A to Z. I did get some spam at first, but the last few days it’s been okay, so we’ll see.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

I love the idea that he was a genius inventor and created the Labyrinth.

Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge with an A-Z of Faerie: Dangerous Dryads