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Mida's Ears

There is another story of Midas, which shows that although he freed himself from the desire for gold, he did not rid himself of foolishness. For he became a worshiper of Pan, the god of pastures and wild places, and by taking Pan's side, he offended great Apollo. Now Pan enjoys playing simple country tunes on his wooden pipes, and because everyone had always liked what he played, he began to boast that he was a better musician even than Apollo, the god of music. He went as far as to challenge Apollo to a contest, to be judged by the river god, Timolus.

Timolus dressed himself as a judge, with an oak wreath in his hair and bunches of acorns hanging by his brow, and sat down to listen to the music.  Pan played first, and his merry piping charmed everyone.  But then Apollo took up his lyre, and the notes he plucked rippled on the breeze like waves across the ocean, liquid and delicious.

Timolus had no hesitation in awarding the prize to Apollo, but Midas objected. "I preferred Pan's playing," he said.  "You can't have heard properly," said Timolus.  "There's nothing wrong with my ears," said Midas.

At that, Apollo's anger overflowed,  "You are not fit to have human ears," he said, "if that is the use you make of them." And he gave Midas, instead, a pair of ass' ears: long, gray, and hairy. "Now you look like the donkey you are," he said.

King Midas was ashamed of his new ears, and he tried to hide them from the world by wrapping them up in a turban.  But his barber eventually discovered his embarrassing secret.  The barber did not dare tell anyone about the king's strange deformity, but he could not keep such an extraordinary thing to himself.  So he went out into the country, dug a hole, and whispered the secret into the ground.

Then he buried it underneath the earth. But all secrets will come out.  A clump of reeds grew where the barber had dug his hole , and as the wind whistled through them, they seemed to sigh, "King Midas has ass' ears!"

When he learned that his secret was common knowledge, Midas died of shame.

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