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Icarus Allusion
"But I've never seen the Icarus story as a lesson about the limitations of humans. I see it as a lesson about the limitations of wax as an adhesive."

In the Greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus, a father and son attempted to flee from an island where they were held prisoner. The father, Daedalus, constructed two pairs of wings out of wax and feathers. Attaching the wings to their arms, he and his son Icarus managed to escape, flying over the ocean.

Icarus, however, overcome with the joy of flying, started soaring higher and higher toward the sun. Eventually, the sun melted the wax of his wings and they disintegrated, causing Icarus to fall to his death.

This story has had an influence on modern media, with a number of stories about flying characters going too high and suffering the consequences. (It's particularly common with characters who have only recently gained the ability to fly). The reason behind their trouble may vary; problems will range from extreme temperature changes to oxygen deficiency at high altitudes. Compare and contrast High Up Ice Up.

If a character or aircraft is named Icarus, then it's fairly obvious that this is going to happen.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Parodied in One Piece when the giant squid Daidalos flew too close to the sun and turned into surume (dried squid), traumatizing his friend Ikaros.
  • In Ergo Proxy, one of the characters is a scientist named Dr. Daedalus and one of his creations is given wings and dies from exposure to the sun (not because of wings melting, but because she was a Proxy and sunlight is their Achilles' Heel)
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, a parallel is drawn between Icarus and the Elric brothers, who believed they could successfully perform human transmutation despite the fact that no one ever had before. Of course, they failed.

    Film 
  • The Iron Man film had Tony fly toward the moon, causing a buildup of ice on his suit. He later solves this problem and uses it to his advantage against an enemy.
  • Sunshine has two spaceships named the Icarus flying very close to the sun. Icarus 1 fails in its mission, but Icarus 2 succeeds.
  • The French movie I As In Icarus has this as the name of some criminal operation. At the end of the movie, the protagonist is on a phone conversation with his wife who surmises that it's about offing someone who has come too close to the truth... Right as said operation is carried out on her husband.

    Literature 
  • Beatty in Fahrenheit 451 compares Montag to Icarus.
  • In Eragon, neither Eragon nor his dragon, Saphira, knows that air gets thinner the higher you go. One night, they fly too high. The lack of air makes it impossible for Saphira to concentrate and communicate mentally with Eragon, and she doesn't realize there's a problem until Eragon passes out.
  • Both the original novel and the 1976 film adaptation of The Man Who Fell to Earth reference this myth (the opening section of the novel is called "Icarus Descending") — the protagonist is an alien who comes to Earth in hopes of saving his Dying Race back home, but gradually succumbs to Earthly vices.
  • In Honor Harrington: In Enemy Hands Haven launches a counterattack against Manticore codenamed "Operation Icarus". The admiral in charge hangs a lampshade on it, thinking that if he were in command he wouldn't name an offensive after that particular myth. Strangely it's the single most successful Havenite engagement up to that point, which makes one wonder if David Weber wasn't using Icarus to refer to the Manticorans instead.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Babylon 5, the scientific expedition that reawoke the Shadows by poking into Things Man Was Not Meant to Know was called the "Icarus expedition", after the ship on which it traveled.
  • A two-part episode pf the seires Farscape is titled "Daedalus Demands" and "Icarus Abides". The episodesare about the alien who put the wormhole knowledge in Chrichton's head returning, fearing he had given it to the wrong people. To cut a long story short, they end up in a situation where they need to unlock the wormhole knowledge in his head and give him complete access to it in order to build a wormhole weapon to destroy a massive ship. He goes on to die of radiation from the open power source(the "flying too close to the sun" bit).
  • The second-to-last episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Ripped from the Headlines of the Troubled Production of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, substituted a musical inspired by the Icarus story for the Spidey show; the murder victim of the week was the show's lead, who fell to his death when his flying harness was sabotaged.
  • In Fringe, a scientist trying to find a way for his disabled son to walk, stumbles upon a new element that when injected into the blood can make someone lighter than air. Unfortunately it requires repeated injections to remain effective and the subject will eventually die of toxic shock. Throughout the episode, Walter alludes to the myth and at the end, notes that while the scientist's son didn't die, other parents had sons who weren't so lucky.
  • In Stargate Universe the offworld base trying to reach the nine-chevron gate address is called Icarus Base. The novelization of the series pilot mentions the ever-Genre Savvy Jack O'Neill tearing a strip off whichever idiot named it that and jinxed the expedition.

    Music 
  • Referenced in Kansas' song "Carry On Wayward Son":
    "Once I rose above the noise and confusion
    Just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion
    I was soaring ever higher
    But I flew too high"
  • Iron Maiden's song "Flight Of Icarus".
  • Bastille does this rather bluntly in their song "Icarus".
  • The Moody Blues' song "Departure" (the intro piece that segues into "Ride My See-Saw") has the line:
    "Or to fly to the sun without burning a wing"
  • Phish's "The Squirming Coil":
    "'I'd like to lick the coil some day
    Like Icarus, who had to pay
    with melting wax and feathers brown
    He tasted it on his way down'"

     Professional Wrestling 
  • One of CHIKARA's all-time Heels is "The Winged Warrior" Icarus.

     Radio 
  • In Cabin Pressure, Captain Martin Crieff makes a living driving a van for his company Icarus Removals. When he finds out, Douglas points out that this is not a good name for an inexperienced pilot to give to anything.
    • Word of God states that the original name for MJN Air was meant to be Icarus Airlines, but as the character of Carolyn (the airline's owner) got fleshed out more he soon realised that she would never be daft enough to give it such a name. It was given to Martin's delivery company as a Mythology Gag.

    Video Games 
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution is fueled entirely by allusions to the Icarus myth and the colour yellow. Both Sarif and Darrow claim to be the Daedalus to Jensen's Icarus (Sarif Industries' logo is a wing and Sarif often calls Jensen "son"), the Tie-In Novel is named Deus Ex: The Icarus Effect, and there are more allusions after that. Also, to prevent fall damage, Jensen can unlock the "Icarus Landing System." On top of that, the opposing sides interpret the myth in mutually exclusive ways;
    • Members of the Illuminati such as Hugh Darrow reference the common knowledge of the myth; the father feeling regret for his son's death due to pride. The Illuminati are thus justified in bringing the chaotic and proud under control for their own good.
    • La Résistance believes that they're twisting the myth to suit their goals; "Daedalus was an arrogant bastard. The man built a maze of death, and killed his nephew when he thought he might be smarter than him." The Illuminati are simply justifying the murder of innocent people to maintain control of the world - it's hard to bully people stronger than you.
  • In the Kid Icarus games, the main character is an angel who cannot fly. In Kid Icarus: Uprising, his goddess grants him the Power Of Flight, but warns that if he flies for too long, his wings will burn up. That winds up happening.
  • In Mirrors Edge, the story of Icarus is recalled by Merc when Faith first finds evidence of the Project Icarus, an ambitious project by The Government to bring the runners and their clients under control, which ends with Faith demolishing its main total surveillance center.

    Web Original 
  • The What If? entry "Interplanetary Cessna" provides the page quote and concludes that the myth is not a morality tale about human limitations, but rather one of engineering limitations.

    Web Comics 
  • Sinfest mini-arc "Catch" — it even ends in a postscriptum to Icarus story.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle makes some magical wings for Rarity, warning her that they are very delicate. Ignoring this, Rarity enters a flying competition, deciding to fly as high as possible so that the sun would shine through her wings and cover Cloudsdale in colorful light. The sun burns her wings up, and Rarity plummets nearly to her death, being saved only at the last moment by Rainbow Dash.
  • Icarus also shows up in the Hercules animated series. Naturally, he has a permanent tan and lightning bolt-shaped hair. The opening even shows him flying up against the sun, burning his wings, and falling.
  • In the South Park episode "Cartman's Incredible Gift" Cartman tries to fly from his roof with cardboard wings and ends up in the hospital recovering from head trauma. The cops believe that he now has psychic abilities because they have heard of similar cases; they take his advice and dismiss Kyle's. Kyle concludes he has to be as stupid as Cartman to be acknowledged. Before he does so, Butters tells him not to fly too close to the sun.

    Real Life 

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