The Golden Touch of King Midas: The 8th-Century BC Legend of the Midas Touch

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

Gold is a precious element with that shiny, sleek look, and everyone wants to have it. It has excellent value and is used for making valuable objects like jewellery, money, and even Olympic medals. According to great legends, all kings own expensive materials and can have everything that is gold, except for King Midas. He turned everything into gold just by touching it.

Midas is one of the notable kings in Greek mythology who has this uncanny power. It is an excellent story with a great moral that loudly says that everything is not what it seems. In other words, not everything we wish for is actually something that would bless our lives, but, in some cases, it could be a curse in disguise. We clearly witness this fact in the tragedy of King Midas. 

King Midas for Kids
King Midas Golden Crown

Here’s everything you need to know about this enthralling story:

Who was King Midas?

King Midas wasn’t real. He was a famous fictional character in Greek mythology and folktales, aiming to teach people about the dangerous consequences of greed. He was the king of Phrygia, an ancient region that was located in West Central Asia. Later on, this story became associated with more mythical stories. 

The story of King Midas has more than a few several parts, starting from the wish he desired and how it was granted to him. We will walk you through the details of King Midas’ story, so you are aware of it.

Meeting Dionysus

Like every king was great fortune and possessing all sorts of valuable materials, Midas had everything he could ever wish for. However, he remained restless and unsettled, for there was always this one thing that he wanted so badly. He thought his happiness was complete when he had more gold. And one way to do that is to be able to create gold himself.

Midas was meant to have his wish come true by Dionysus, the God of wine. One day, one of Dionysus’ companions, Silenus, got lost and napped in the rose gardens around the palace. King Midas found Silenus and invited him to stay in his castle. Silenus was grateful for the king’s kindness and generosity. Thus, he took him to his leader, Dionysus.

Temple in Athens
Temple in Athens

A Wish Come True

Dionysus wanted to reward Midas for his good deeds, so he promised to grant him any wish. That was the moment Midas was living for. He finally could ask for the one thing he thought he wouldn’t be without. Since he had a lot of gold material, he wanted more. Thus, he wished to turn everything he touched into gold. 

Dionysus warned him of the consequences of his wish, but Midas didn’t listen. Thus, he granted him his wish and Midas was the happiest king ever. The next day, Midas woke up and touched the nightstand next to his bed, turning it into gold.

Gold Everything!

Turning his nightstand into gold wasn’t enough for King Midas. He was thrilled by his powerful ability. So, he started touching everything he saw. He turned his bathtub, carpets, doors, chairs, tables, and everything in sight into shiny gold. His palace became a huge golden piece, but that made Midas even happier.

Midas saw a beautiful rose in his garden, so he reached out to smell its lovely scent. However, the rose turned into gold, becoming a hard object, and its fragrance was gone. That was the moment when King Midas started to realise that he had to be careful with the things he touched. 

Midas Touch Gold Coins
Gold coins treasure

The Curse

After a while, King Midas forgot about the rose incident and didn’t pay it much attention. So, he reached out for a grape to eat, forgetting that it would turn into a hard ball of gold. He started to become hasty, trying to eat or drink before the food became gold, but it didn’t work. The slice of bread, the grapes, and even the glass of water turned into gold, leaving Midas petrified.

At that very moment, his beloved daughter appeared and went to hug her father. Unaware that his golden touch was dangerous for humans, he hugged her and turned her into a golden statue. He broke down and cried, begging for his wish just to fade away.

Midas Crying for Help

At this point of living with his wish, Midas was in terror and afraid he might lose his daughter due to his greed. He ran back to Dionysus, begging him to take this power away. God Dionysus heard his cry for help and advised him to go to river Pactolus, where he could wash his hands, and the power would fade away along with his greed. 

Midas headed to the river and started washing his hands in haste; gold started flowing from his hands and fell into the river. He went back home and started touching everything that turned into gold, and they started going back to normal. His daughter came back to life, and he cried in utter happiness. 

Legends have it that the Greeks found gold thrown on the banks of the river after this incident. Midas became grateful for the life he had had before, wishing for all the gold in the world. He decided to become a better person and enjoy his wealth with his beloved daughter. 

Depiction of the Midas Story in Animated Movies

Animated movies have narrated many classic stories and adopted plentiful folktales and mythological legends. We ought to give Disney this credit for always being a classical platform, bringing old tales of mythical monsters and mystical creatures to life. Disney was also the animation company that adopted the Midas story in a couple of its classic films. 

The Golden Touch (1935)

This film is quite archaic if you ask us. The Golden Touch is a silly symphony that Disney produced back in 1935, narrating the old myth of King Midas. One interesting fact about this classic film is that it is the very last cartoon that Walt Disney directed himself.

The Golden Touch is a short film retelling the old legend of King Midas. The character is portrayed as having a foolish nature and wishing to turn everything into gold. His wish was granted by “Goldie,” an impish short wizard. This king was known to love eating so much, but his desire deprived him of indulging in any of his favourite foods.

When he realised that his wish was instead a curse, he started becoming furious and angry. Becoming aware that he cannot eat gold, he returns to Goldie, begging him to take away his wish in exchange for everything he owns. King Midas was then left homeless and poor, but he could finally enjoy a hamburger sandwich that didn’t turn into gold.

Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996)

Aladdin is a famous classic legend that everyone knows. It is not even Greek to be associated with King Midas. In fact, the origins of Aladdin have always been debated, some believing it to be Turkish, others thinking it’s Indian or Persian, and some convinced it’s Arabian. At least all of these cultures are somehow interrelated, yet the Arabian one makes more sense when it comes to the Disney version, hence the song, Arabian Nights.

Disney managed to adopt the legend of Midas once again in 1996, but this time it was incorporated in the third part of Aladdin movies, known as Aladdin and the King of Thieves. In this movie, we get to see Aladdin reuniting with his long-lost father, Cassim, after his wedding with Jasmine was destroyed by a group of thieves. 

This time, Disney had not portrayed the actual character of King Midas. However, it involved the myth of the form of a Golden Hand that turns everything into gold, and all 40 thieves were chasing after it, including Aladdin’s father. He believed that this hand was going to help his family. The key was never to touch the middle section of the golden hand, or else the victim will turn into solid gold.

By the movie’s end, the leader of the forty thieves mistakenly touches the hand, immediately turns into a gold statue, and falls into the waters. The hand also turns their ship into gold and, becoming quite heavy, sinks into the sea. At that point, Aladdin’s father realised that this hand was rather destructive, and he ended up throwing it into the sea.

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