There lived in those days among the hills of Crete a terrible monster called the Minotaur, the like of which has never been seen from that time until now. This creature, it was said, had the body of a man, but the face and head of a wild bull and the fierce nature of a mountain lion. The people of Crete would not have killed him if they could; for they thought that the Mighty Folk who lived with Jupiter on the mountain top had sent him among them, and that these beings would be angry if any one should take his life. He was the pest and terror of all the land. Where he was least expected, there he was sure to be; and almost every day some man, woman, or child was caught and devoured by him.
“You have done so many wonderful things,” said the king to Daedalus, “can you not do something to rid the land of this Minotaur?”
“Shall I kill him?” asked Daedalus.
“Ah, no!” said the king. “That would only bring greater misfortunes upon us.”
“I will build a house for him then,” said Daedalus, “and you can keep him in it as a prisoner.”
“But he may pine away and die if he is penned up in prison,” said the king.
“He shall have plenty of room to roam about,” said Daedalus; “and if you will only now and then feed one of your enemies to him, I promise you that he shall live and thrive.”
So the wonderful artisan brought together his workmen, and they built a marvelous house with so many rooms in it and so many winding ways that no one who went far into it could ever find his way out again; and Daedalus called it the Labyrinth, and cunningly persuaded the Minotaur to go inside of it. The monster soon lost his way among the winding passages, but the sound of his terrible bellowings could be heard day and night as he wandered back and forth vainly trying to find some place to escape.
Not long after this it happened that Daedalus was guilty of a deed which angered the king very greatly; and had not Minos wished him to build other buildings for him, he would have put him to death and no doubt have served him right.
“Hitherto,” said the king, “I have honored you for your skill and rewarded you for your labor. But now you shall be my slave and shall serve me without hire and without any word of praise.”
Then he gave orders to the guards at the city gates that they should not let Daedalus pass out at any time, and he set soldiers to watch the ships that were in port so that he could not escape by sea. But although the wonderful artisan was thus held as a prisoner, he did not build any more buildings for King Minos; he spent his time in planning how he might regain his freedom.
“All my inventions,” he said to his son Icarus, “have hitherto been made to please other people; now I will invent something to please myself.”