| Gods and Heroes|
|by Robert Edward Francillon|
|One of the best introductions to Greek mythology for children. Includes the stories of all the prominent gods and heroes, woven together into a continuous narrative, ending with a full treatment of the twelve labors of Hercules. Ages 8-12 |
TOO MUCH GOLD; OR, THE FIRST STORY OF MIDAS
HERE were other beings besides men upon the
earth in those days. You ought to know something
about them now, because Apollo, while he was
banished from the sky, had a great deal to do with
them. These beings were called Nymphs, Fauns, and
The Nymphs were a kind of beautiful she-fairies.
Dryads were nymphs who lived in forests.
Hamadryads were nymphs who lived in trees. Every
tree has a Hamadryad, who lives in it, who is born
when it first grows, and who dies when it dies. So
that a Hamadryad is killed whenever a tree is cut
Naiads were nymphs belonging to brooks and rivers.
Every stream has its Naiad.
Ŏreads were nymphs who lived upon hills and
mountains. They used to attend upon Apollo's sister
Diana, who went hunting every moonlight night among
 The Fauns and Satyrs were he-creatures, like men,
with the hind-legs of goats, short horns on their foreheads,
and long pointed ears. But there was a difference
between the Fauns and Satyrs. The Fauns were
handsome, gentle, innocent, and rather foolish. The
Satyrs were hideous, clumsy, hairy monsters, with flat
faces, little eyes, and huge mouths, great gluttons,
often drunk, and sometimes mischievous: most of
them were dull and stupid, but many of them had
plenty of sense and knowledge. The Fauns and
Satyrs lived among the woods and hills like the
Dryads and Oreads.
The king of all these Nymphs, Fauns, and Satyrs
was a god named Pan, who was himself a very hideous satyr.
He had nothing to do with the gods of
Olympus, but lived on the earth, chiefly in a part of
Greece called Arcādia. "Pan" is the Greek for "all"—you
remember the same word in the name of
"Pan-dora." He was called "Pan" because he was
the god of "all" nature—all the hills and mountains,
all the woods and forests, all the fields, rivers, and
The ugliest, fattest, greediest, tipsiest, cleverest,
and wisest of all the satyrs was named Silēnus. He
was hardly ever sober, but he knew so much and
understood the world so well, that one of the gods,
named Bacchus, made Silenus his chief adviser and
 counselor. You will hear more of Bacchus later on.
I will only tell you now that he was not one of the
great gods of Olympus, but lived on the earth, like
Pan. Only, while Pan was the god of all wild, savage
nature, Bacchus was the god of nature as men make
it: Bacchus taught men to turn Pan's wild woods
into corn-fields and gardens, to put bees into hives,
and to make wine. I think Silenus had an especially
great deal to do with the wine-making. You will
often hear Bacchus called the god of wine, and so he
was; but he was a great deal more and better.
This has been a long beginning to my story; but if
you will get it well into your head, you will find it
easy to remember, and will make a great step in understanding
Now once upon a time Silenus got very drunk
indeed—more drunk even than usual. He was traveling
about with Bacchus, but had strayed away by
himself, and, when night came on, could not find his
way back into the road. He could do nothing but
blunder and stagger about in the middle of the thick,
dark forest, stumbling and sprawling over the roots of
the trees, and knocking his head against the branches.
At last he gave a tremendous tumble into a bush, and
lay there, too drunk and too fat to pick himself up
again. So he went to sleep and snored terribly.
 Presently some huntsmen passed by, and thought
they heard some wild beast roaring. You may guess
their surprise when they found this hideous old satyr
helplessly drunk and unable to move. But they did
not catch a satyr every day: so they took him by the
head and shoulders, and brought him as a prize to the
This king was King Midas of Phrygia, which is a
country in Asia Minor. As soon as King Midas saw
the satyr, he guessed him to be Silenus, the friend of
Bacchus: so he did everything to make him comfortable
till his drunkenness should pass away. It
passed away at last; and then King Midas sent all
round about to find where Bacchus was, so that Silenus
might go back to him. While the search was being
made, the king and the satyr became great friends,
and Silenus, keeping fairly sober, gave Midas a great
deal of good advice, and taught him science and
At last Bacchus was found; and Midas himself
brought Silenus back to him. Bacchus was exceedingly
glad to see Silenus again, for he was beginning
to be afraid that he had lost him forever. "Ask any
gift you please," he said to King Midas, "and it shall
"Grant me," said Midas, "that everything I touch
shall turn into gold."
 Bacchus looked vexed and disappointed. But he
was bound by his promise, and said:—
"It is a fool's wish. But so be it. Everything
you touch shall turn to gold."
Midas thanked Bacchus, said good-bye to Silenus and
went home. How rich he was going to be—the
richest king in the whole world! He opened his
palace door, and lo! the door became pure, solid gold.
He went from room to room, touching all the furniture,
till everything, bedsteads, tables, chairs, all became gold.
He got a ladder (which turned into gold
in his hands) and touched every brick and stone in his
palace, till his whole palace was gold. His horses had
golden saddles and golden bridles. His cooks boiled
water in golden kettles: his servants swept away
golden dust with golden brooms.
When he sat down to dinner, his plate turned to
gold. He had become the richest man in the world,
thought he with joy and pride, as he helped himself
from the golden dish before him. But suddenly his
teeth jarred against something hard—harder than
bone. Had the cook put a flint into the dish? Alas!
it was nothing of the kind. His very food, as soon as
it touched his lips, turned to solid gold!
His heart sank within him, while the meat before
him mocked his hunger. Was the richest man in the
 world to starve? A horrible fear came upon him.
He poured out wine into a golden cup, and tried to
drink, and the wine turned into gold! He sat in
What was he to do? What was the use of all
this gold if he could not buy with it a crust of bread
or a draught of water? The poorest ploughman was
now a richer man than the king. He could only
wander about his golden palace till his hunger became
starvation, and his thirst a fever. At last, in his
despair, he set out and followed after Bacchus again,
to implore the god to take back the gift of gold.
At last, when nearly starved to death, he found him.
"What!" said Bacchus, "are you not content yet?
Do you want more gold still?"
"Gold!" cried Midas, "I hate the horrible word!
I am starving. Make me the poorest man in the
whole world. Silenus taught me much; but I have
learned for myself that a mountain of gold is not the
worth of a single drop of dew."
"I will take back my gift, then," said Bacchus.
"But I will not give you another instead of it, because
all the gods of Olympus could not give you anything
better than this lesson. You may wash away your folly
in the first river you come to. Good-bye—and only
don't think that gold is not a good thing because too
much of it is a bad one."
 Midas ran to the banks of the river Pactōlus, which
ran hard by. He threw off his golden clothes, and
hurried barefoot over the sands of the river—and the
sand, wherever his naked feet touched it, turned to
gold. He plunged into the water, and swam through
to the other side. The Curse of the Golden Touch
left him, and he ate and drank, and never hungered
after gold again. He had learned that the best thing
one can do with too much gold is to give it away as
fast as one can.
The sand of the river Pactolus is said to have gold
in it to this day.
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