128. Midas’ ears become donkey-ears

Once upon a time, King Midas of Phyrgia, after being relieved of his golden touch, now disliked riches. He stayed in forests and followed the shepherd-god Pan. On the mount Tmolus, Pan was playing on his reed pipe and arrogantly boasting to the mountain nymphs, about his musical skill. So conceited was Pan that he challenged the great Apollo, to a musical contest to be judged by the mountain-god Tmolus. Apollo accepted the challenge.

On his own mountain, Tmolus sat with a wreath of oak leaves adoring his azure hair, and from his temples hung ripe acorns. As a judge, Tmolus gave the first chance to Pan, who played some pastoral sounds on his coarse reeds. After Pan had finished playing, Tmolus turned to Apollo, and all the mountain trees turned to look at Apollo.

A fresh Parnassian laurel wreathed the golden locks of Apollo, and his Tyrian purple robe swept the earth. With his left hand holding his lyre adorned with gemstones and Indian ivory, and his right hand holding the plectrum, the divine Apollo stood as an artist before Tmolus. His skillful fingers artfully touched the rightly tuned strings, and an enchanting melody emanated. The revered mountain-god Tmolus was delighted, and he judged in favor of Apollo. The verdict pleased all present except Midas. Apollo changed the ears of Midas to ears of a donkey.

Thereafter, Midas wore a purple turban so that his humiliation was hidden from ridicule. However, a servant while cutting his hair, saw the shame. Eager to reveal the secret that his master had donkey-ears, but not having the courage to expose, the servant dug a small hole in the earth. Then, in a low voice revealed to the hole his secret, which he buried by filling the hole with loosed earth. After sometime, a shaky reed sprang up from that spot and in a year, there grew a thick grove. Moved by the soft southern wind, the grove betrayed its planter, by repeating all the whispered words, and the secret was disclosed.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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