Prompt: An Origin Story

October 2019

Prompt (from Andrea): Write an origin story on a well-known character who does not have an origin story, or has multiple debated origin stories.

The origin story ended with fire and water, but it started with air, and with stone.

Icarus had never touched the ground. This is a fact that cannot be (nor should it be) held against him, as it undoubtedly played a role in his demise. It is easy to get caught up in the act of flying when you’ve been halfway unto it your whole life prior.

You see, Icarus was born in a tower.

No one ever speaks of his mother. The reason being, as it so happens, that his father was an inventor. The creator of the labyrinth that would house the Minotaur, and being the only one to know the way out, was secluded into his own tower within it. As an inventor, Daedalus was quite used to creating something from nothing. It was all he did.

All Icarus would be able to do, in the end, was create nothing from something.

Having counted all the stones in his tower countless times over, Daedalus decided to create something that could speak back to him. He created something that would be able to count with him. He created Icarus.

Daedalus had an abundance of metal and rope from which to fashion the inventions King Minos pushed upon him, but a boy could not be built out of metal – he would rust. A boy could not be made out of rope – he would fray. Instead, a boy would be made out of stone, but the stone would have to be made soft first.

Daedalus had nothing by which to make stone soft. All of his tools were hard, and sharp, and would only fracture the rock. So he prayed to the gods.

“Lord Zeus,” cried Daedalus, “father of all the gods, usurper of the once-mighty Titans, hear my prayer. You know of strength, and so certainly you must know of softness. Please help me turn this stone soft. I have grown lonely, and I wish to have a son. I will pour out to you rivers of wine in your name, and burn daily offerings of fat from what little food I am given, if only you can give me this. Help me become a great father, much as you are to your children.” Thus cried Daedalus.

And though Zeus heard – as indeed, he hears all – he did not answer. He knew of the disaster to come, but it was not his disaster to give.

Daedalus prayed nine days and nine nights thus, until his hope set with the last light of that day. In turn, he prayed to each of the other Olympian gods, calling out their names, offering them the same votives of wine and fat in turn, until he came at last to Apollo.

As Daedalus rose with the sun that morning, he saw that the sky had turned a bright, glowing red among the clouds, and he took this as a sign that his prayer to Apollo would be heard. Opening his arms out to the sky, and tilting his head back, he prayed: “Lord Apollo! Be witness to this most humble prayer. With my breath, I offer you what little I can. The wine in my belly, the fatty meats that fuel my heart and keeps it burning, just like your sun. With your wisdom and ever-presence, I am sure that you have heard me praying already, but I must ask. Phoebus Apollo, I yearn for my own source of light and happiness – a son of my own. I have nothing but stone around me from which to build a boy. Please, help me soften these stones so I might make art in your name.” Thus cried Daedalus.

Apollo smiled upon Daedalus at once, pulling back the clouds and turning the morning’s red glow to one of gold.

“I hear you,” said Apollo. “I can give you what you seek.”

With these words, Apollo turned the stones Daedalus had set aside into clay, and gifted Daedalus a spinner’s wheel with which to work. Daedalus cried at hearing his prayer answered, and at once burned his day’s food in Apollo’s name, and poured out his water in libation too as thanks. And then, Daedalus started to work.

He worked for nine days and nine nights, spinning the potter’s wheel Apollo had sent him, shaping the legs, torso, and finally the head of the son he had always wished for.

Apollo smiled as he looked upon this creation, welcoming what would come.

At last, on the tenth day, Daedalus was done. With a final breath, all his work had culminated into what looked to be a clay statue of a boy. This breath, which was filled with love and longing, was sent into the chest of the boy, which then itself breathed life.

Daedalus cried out in joy at the boy before him, his son, and hugged him tight. “Icarus,” Daedalus cried. “Oh, my Icarus.”

This is the origin story of Icarus. This is also the story of his demise. You must understand that Apollo did not answer Daedalus solely out of his sense of charity. Apollo had the foresight and knowledge that all gods do, and knew that Icarus would be lost in the ability of flight, and that he would fly all the way up to the sun – to Apollo himself. The god had been lonely too, and in gifting Daedalus the simple pieces clay and the wheel, he had Icarus created for him.

In the Aegean Sea, south of Chios, but west of the Cyclades and west of Anatolia, there is a section of water named after Icarus. In these waters lies the shore of Icaria, a small island. These are the waters where Icarus fell, and the clays from which Icarus was born.

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