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