Mythology Summary and Analysis

Otus and Ephialtes; Daedalus

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Otus and Ephialtes are enormous twins, sons of Poseidon. They think they are better than the gods and aggressively challenge them on several occasions. First, they kidnap Ares until the stealthy Hermes sets him free. Next they try to put one mountain on top of another. Just as Zeus is going to strike them down with a thunderbolt, Poseidon begs to save them and Zeus agrees. Finally, they try to capture Artemis, but the clever goddess runs away when she sees the twins. The twins chase her, even as she runs over water, until she disappears. In her place, Otus and Ephialtes see a beautiful white animal. They both throw spears at it, but it disappears as well, and the two spears hit the two giants instead. Artemis thus enacts revenge.

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Daedalus is the brilliant architect who constructed the Labyrinth for the Minotaur in Crete. When King Minos learns that Theseus has escaped from it, he knows that Daedalus must have helped him out. As punishment, Minos puts Daedalus and his son Icarus in the Labyrinth. Even they cannot find a way out along the paths. Daedalus builds himself and his son wings out of wax and feathers. He warns Icarus not to fly too high because the sun will melt the wings. As they are flying in their escape, excitement and power overtake Icarus, and he flies too high. The sun melts his wings, the boy falls to the ocean, and the waters swallow him up.

Analysis

The myth of Otus and Ephialtes is a classic tale of egotism. Otus and Ephialtes lead the gods to reassert their supreme power by showing the surprising amount of power they have themselves. The two powerful giants engage in a rather effective rebellion, one more effective than many others in Greek mythology. Again, though, they fail. What is more, Artemis tricks and punishes them in the end.

As Artemis successfully takes revenge against the twins, she highlights the recurring theme that ingenuity is often more important than brute strength. That theme is made particularly clear through gender in this tale; a female character defeats two enormous, strong male characters. (At the same time, we cannot forget that the power of gods trumps the power of humans regardless of gender.)

The attempt to capture the beautiful goddess recalls the myths of Daphne and Arethusa. In this case, of course, the female character not only escapes the male but actually defeats him in the process.

The famous myth of Daedalus first highlights the recurring theme of human ingenuity. Daedalus knew how to make a Labyrinth and now figures out how to escape it. But the tale also illustrates the dangers of youthful arrogance. Like Phaethon, Icarus disregards his father's advice and flies carelessly to his death.

The father/son relationship also comes to the forefront in the story of Daedalus. Like Apollo, who loves Phaethon but cannot save him from his youthful mistakes, Daedalus is rendered helpless in saving Icarus. For all his ingenuity, Daedalus cannot solve the generational problem that exists between him and his son. The son makes his own mistake, despite his father's advice, and suffers the consequences.