Listen to this story:
Fiction by Kenny Curtis and Jillian Hughes
Illustrations by J. Espila
King Midas was a ruler who wasn’t just rich — he was filthy rich. Midas was the king of a wealthy country called Phrygia.
Besides the fact that he was rolling in dough, the king was blessed beyond measure in other ways. He had a beautiful palace, plenty of food and drink, and a lovely daughter. But King Midas always wanted more.
He was obsessed with gold. His favorite thing to do was to sit in his palace and count his gold coins over and over again. The rumor was that King Midas even filled up his bathtub with gold coins so that he could bathe in them.
One afternoon, King Midas was sitting in his room counting his gold when he heard a noise coming from outside his bedroom window. Someone was snoring just outside of his chambers!
At first, Midas was annoyed. Which one of his lousy servants had fallen asleep on the job? But when he peered out the window, Midas was shocked to find a satyr sleeping soundly in a bed of flowers directly below his bedroom window.
A satyr is a woodland spirit that is part man, part goat. But instead of being freaked out at the discovery of a goat-man in his garden, King Midas was delighted. That’s because he knew that satyrs are associated with the gods, specifically Dionysus.
Dionysus was known for having a good time and throwing a fun party. And he truly loved his satyrs. They traveled with him everywhere he went and were his biggest supporters.
Midas knew that if he returned the missing creature to Dionysus, he would likely be rewarded. He started to daydream about all the gold Dionysus would give him as a way to thank him for returning his beloved satyr.
Midas pulled out all the stops. He gave the satyr a beautiful room with a comfortable bed to sleep in and let him live in luxury for 10 days. On the 11th day, Midas decided it was time to return the satyr to Dionysus.
“Dionysus!” he cried. “I have something that belongs to you!”
And just like that, Dionysus appeared. He smiled wide when he saw that his satyr was safe and well cared for.
“I fell asleep and King Midas found me,” the satyr explained. “He gave me a comfortable room and fed me delicious food. It was wonderful!”
Dionysus looked at Midas closely. Not many men would show so much hospitality to a satyr.
“Thank you, King Midas. I appreciate your service. I will not forget it.”
Dionysus was turning to leave when Midas yelled out: “W-w-wait! Aren’t you forgetting something? Maybe a reward?” Midas squeaked.
There it is, thought Dionysus. The real reason for his hospitality.
“What is it you seek?” Dionysus asked. “I will grant you one wish.”
Midas was thrilled. He thought about asking for a large boat to sail across the seas. Or maybe a horse that could run at lightning speed. Perhaps true love for his darling daughter. But no, for Midas it always came back to one thing: gold.
“I wish for everything I touch to be turned to gold!” he proclaimed.
Dionysus paused. “You want everything you touch to be turned to gold? Everything you touch?” he repeated.
“Yes!” Midas exclaimed, already imagining his golden bed and golden floors and golden chairs.
“As you wish,” Dionysus replied. And with that he vanished, disappearing into the hillside along with the satyr.
Midas sprinted back to his palace, eager to test out his new powers.
On the way, he stopped to pick a flower in his garden. He watched with amazement as the flower turned to gold. Giddy with glee, Midas ran inside and pulled out a chair to sit in. It also turned to gold.
“This is the best!” King Midas yelled. “I am RICH! Richer than rich! I am the KING OF GOLD!”
He ran around his palace touching random objects. A candlestick: POOF, gold! A rug: POOF, gold! His pillow: POOF, gold! Then Midas went to his favorite place of all: his bathtub. When he touched the sides, he watched in amazement as the marble slowly began to turn to gold. He now had a golden bathtub that he quickly filled up with golden coins. For Midas, life simply could not get any better than this.
After all the excitement, King Midas was hungry.
He went to grab a grape from the fruit bowl on the counter.
Midas screamed in pain. He had cracked his tooth! What was this grape made of? He spit it out into his hand: It was a golden grape.
“Oh yes.” Midas chuckled. “It turned into gold because I touched it!”
And although Midas was amused at first, the more time passed, the more frustrated he became.
Eventually, hungry Midas was in despair. Upon hearing her father crying, his daughter rushed into the room and embraced him.
Suddenly, she tensed. When Midas pulled away to see what was wrong, he was horrified to see that she had turned into a golden statue!
Midas ran out of his palace as fast as he could, heading to the place where he last saw Dionysus.
“DIONYSUS!” he screamed to the sky. “DIONYSUS!”
King Midas had finally realized that there was more to life than gold. He had all the gold he could ever hope for, and he had never been so unhappy. He would rather live on the street with his daughter than live in a golden palace without her.
“I know what’s important now. And it’s not gold. Please help me,” Midas cried.
Dionysus appeared and looked at him carefully. He supposed Midas had learned his lesson after all.
“Go to the River Pactolus and wash your hands. When you do, the curse will be lifted.”
Midas ran to the river and immersed both of his arms in the water. He scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed until he could see the gold flowing from his hands.
When Midas was convinced that the curse was lifted, he rushed home and grabbed the golden statue of his daughter. He sobbed in gratitude when she came to life in his hands. He ran around the palace touching all of the golden items, restoring everything to its original form.
King Midas was true to his word. From that day forward, his greed and gluttony came to an end. He was no longer obsessed with gold. He was a loving father and a faithful king. Despite the incident with his golden touch, King Midas became a great ruler who served his people and country well for the rest of his days.
Excerpt from Greeking Out: Epic Retellings of Classic Greek Myths, an official podcast tie-in from National Geographic. go.scoutlife.org/greekingout