Did Icarus listen to his father’s advice? Of course not. He did it all so we could have a cool allegory to point to when people attempt feats beyond their means and fail. That’s dedication, holmes.

The story of Icarus and Daedalus is probably one of the most well known tales from Greek culture. It has spawned numerous stories and even a video game (though that was pretty loosely based on the story). This is one of those stories from myth and legend that you know isn’t true, couldn’t possibly have been true, and which you can be pretty sure most people probably didn’t actually believe. One of the interesting things about myth is that it wasn’t all a part of some dogmatic religion. Looking at stories from the past through the prism of modern religion can be a dangerous thing and awfully misleading. What the tale illustrates remarkably well is the foolishness of youth and the failure that comes from trying to push too far beyond your limitations. That’s sort of depressing to us now, especially in the US where we tell our children “Anyone can grow up to be president!” but it is helpful in teaching us that we all have limitations and we should be aware of them.

Icarus is such a passing figure in myth, it’s a bit sad. You’d think the child of a brilliant inventor who crops up with a fair degree of consistency would be a bit more intelligent and cautious. I guess the story also shows us that not everyone takes after their parents.

Daedalus, on the other hand, is incredibly interesting for a variety of reasons. You’ve got this genius figure who is very nearly the embodiment of scientific thought for his time. He’s making mazes to cage horrifying monsters, he’s building wings for flight and inadvertently burning his son, and he’s crafting some of the simple tools we now take for granted today (the saw, for example). Yet, despite his intelligence and ingenuity, he’s a bit of a confused figure. Some of his work does incredible good for mankind and some of it does accidental evil. The character himself is still very representative of science as a whole. The act of discovery and invention can have unintended consequences.

But in the end, it seems the work of Daedalus and those like him is simply too important. Without risk there is no reward and if one learns from one’s mistakes then progress can be made and that’s important to recognize.