4. King Midas and the golden touch

The story begins with Dionysus - the god of wine - someone who likes to 'let himself go'. One day Dionysus and his band of revellers are enjoying themselves at the foot of Mount Tmolus when they realise that Silenus isn't with them. Silenus - a satyr - is a special friend of Dionysus and was once his tutor.

The scene changes to the spot where earlier that day Silenus drunkenly fell off his donkey and lay snoring at the side of the road. He's woken when a king - King Midas - and his soldiers come riding up. Midas has a special longing to see Dionysus and Silenus agrees to take him to see the god in exchange for the loan of a horse. Dionysus is relieved to have Silenus safely returned and as a reward offers Midas a wish - he may have whatever he desires.

Midas asks that everything he touches should turn to gold. Then he returns to his palace and is initially delighted with his gift. But he soon realises the foolishness of his choice when even the food he wants to eat turns to gold.

Dionysus comes to Midas's rescue and the king now reacts against his former wealth and gives up his palace and his position to live with Dionysus, Silenus and their band of revellers.

Midas has a particular liking for the music played by Silenus on the 'bladder'. But one day Apollo - god of music - hears Silenus's band and sets up a competition with Midas as the judge: Apollo on his lyre against Silenus on his bladder.

When Midas sides with Silenus Apollo says that only an ass could have made such a foolish choice - and so he gives Midas the ears of a donkey. Midas has a special hat made to hide his ears...but how will he ever keep his new ears secret from everyone?

King Midas and the golden touch - transcript to print/download (pdf)



Play next

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6. Odysseus and the Trojan Horse