Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ancient World History (Greece): The Myth of King Midas and the Golden Touch

There are many versions of the myth of King Midas and his golden touch.  Here are some of the best picture book retellings. 

King Midas and the Golden Touch (ages 5 and up) by Kathryn Hewitt 
In this version of the Midas story, the king has only one love other than his gold—his daughter.  While he sets time aside for her each day, he spends most of his time locked in his treasure chamber polishing and admiring his gold.  When a stranger visits him and offers one wish, Midas is determined not to make a foolish one.  Ironically, it is just what happens.  Like the other retellings, he jovially turns everything to gold.  When his daughter becomes a golden statue, Midas begs to lose his magical touch which is granted.   The ending depicts Midas with his, now, grown daughter and her many children as he tells them the story of a man with a golden touch.  The children laugh in disbelief that anyone could be so foolish.   Midas now hates “the sight of all gold except their [his grandchildren’s] golden curls.”  I chose King Midas and the Golden Touch because it has beautiful illustrations, a strong narrative text, and clear moral lesson.  Unfortunately, it can only be found in a library or at sites like  Charlotte Craft and K.Y. Craft have written and illustrated a similar version with stunning pictures also called King Midas and the Golden Touch which is available for purchase.   

King Midas (ages 5 and up) by Demi 
Long ago, the ancient Greeks worshiped and respected their gods.  They looked to them for wisdom, power, and knowledge.  Unfortunately, King Midas of Phrygia was foolish, weak, and ignorant.  He did not respect or seek the gods.  Demi illustrates through rich pictures and text this more inclusive tale of the mythical man. 

There is a musical contest between the shining god Apollo and the little snub-noised god Pan.  King Midas is chosen to be the judge.  Apollo is clearly far superior in talent, yet Midas foolishly awards the winning title to Pan.  To punish him for his folly, Apollo curses Midas with donkey ears.  The king is so embarrassed that he grows his hair out to cover them.  One summer evening the god Dionysus is having a party nearby.   King Midas finds that the satyr Silenus, one of the god’s guests and companions, had wondered into his field.   The two are fast friends, playing together like children.   As a reward for returning Silenus to Apollo, King Midas is granted one wish.  Demonstrating his foolishness once more, he chooses to have the golden touch.  He quickly realizes the folly of his decision.   Midas seeks out an oracle to be released from this cursed gift.  He obeys the instructions of the gods which induces his healing.  After, the king reverently seeks wisdom, power, and knowledge from the gods 

Variations on the Midas Myth
Max and Ruby’s Midas (ages 3 and up) by Rosemary Wells 
When Ruby catches Max trying to sneak some cupcakes under his pajamas, she informs him that he may become a cupcake himself! At bedtime, she reads to him about Midas, a rabbit who hates fruits and vegetables. One day, Midas decides to try something different.  He looks at his healthy breakfast with his imagined laser-beamed eyes and wishes for a hot fudge sundae.  It works beyond his wildest dreams!  He changes everything into his favorite sweet treats.  Unfortunately, his family accidently gets in the way of his laser-beamed transformations.   There is a satisfying and entertaining conclusion to Midas’ sweet mess, but it does not appear that Max has learned the lesson of the tale. 

Midas Mouse (ages 4 and up) by David and Ruth Ellwand 
Midas Mouse is a creative retelling of the famous myth.  In it, a mouse is the protagonist.  Despite warnings from his mother, Midas ventures out into the bright light of the sun.  He is so enamored by the golden beauty of it that he wishes everything he touched turned to gold.  His wish is magically granted.  At first, he enjoys his new “gift,” especially when a cat sneaks up on him.   He soon learns his golden touch prevents him from enjoying some of the finer things in life---like cheese!   Then, by the light of the moon, Midas wishes to be a normal mouse once more.  His wish is granted.   He misses out on the night feasting with his family because he is so exhausted from his golden adventure.    

Extension Ideas for Teachers and Parents

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