The Greedy King (King Midas)
Kings come in all shapes and sizes. Some are kind, some are cruel, some are tough, some are brave. The king in this story is greedy. His favourite thing in the whole world is gold.
“I love the way it’s so shiny and golden and lovely,” he would say. “And… did I mention it’s shiny? It makes me so happy… and rich!”
The King loved gold so much that every night, by the light of the fire, he would sit in his palace and count his golden coins.
“One, two, three, four, five gold coins…” he counted, gleefully.
The King had one very big dream.
“I dream,” he said. “I dream one day of living in a whole palace made of gold!”
But as with all the wildest of dreams, such a thing was well beyond his reach.
Now, the King had a daughter. She didn’t like gold quite so much.
“Father, are you counting your gold again?” she sighed.
The Princess tried to show the King that the world was made of more than gold.
“Can you smell that father?” she said, opening the window. “The flowers are in bloom.”
“Yes, yes, yes,” the King replied. “But are they golden?”
“Look father,” the Princess said as the sun went down. “A beautiful sunset.”
“Not as beautiful as this pile of gold,” the King replied.
“Listen father,” the Princess said. “I’ll read to you.”
But the King wasn’t interested. “Hush now, child, I’m counting!”
In the end the Princess gave up trying to talk to her father and bought a cat. She named him Mr Jiggles. He didn’t like gold at all. It smelt funny and he couldn’t eat it.
Now, one night, as a storm raged outside, the King was, as usual, counting his gold. The Princess was reading a book by the fire and stroking her beloved cat, who was licking his paws and enjoying the sound of her voice. The Princess had a lovely, soft voice that made Mr Jiggles want to curl up and go to sleep.
All of a sudden, there was a loud BANG, BANG, BANGING at the door. Mr Jiggles almost fell off the Princess’ lap. The King paused in his counting and looked up.
“What was that?” he asked.
The Princess put down her book and smiled. “There’s someone at the door, father.”
Before the King could tell her to leave it locked, the Princess jumped out of her seat, sending poor Mr Jiggles flying across the room.
“It might be family come to visit,” she wondered. “Or a merchant here to sell us his goods. Or a messenger with an important note.”
The King listened with growing horror.
“Or someone come to steal our gold,” he said.
The Princess pulled open the big, oak door of the palace and there, on the doorstep, stood…a battered, bruised and bedraggled beggar man.
“Oh father!” the Princess cried. “He needs our help.”
The King didn’t see why they had to help him. But he had little choice in the matter. The Princess ushered the wretched man in and sat him in her seat by the fire. The beggarman dripped rainwater all over an unhappy Mr Jiggles’ head.
The King was not impressed by his visitor.
“You have to look after him and keep him away from my gold!” he told the Princess.
So that is exactly what the princess did. She tended the beggar man’s wounds. She made the beggar man soup. She read the beggar man her books and slowly, but surely, the beggar man recovered.
“All better?” the King said to him, when the beggar man was fully recovered. “OK. Off you go then. No need to thank us. Bye bye!” And the King kicked him out of the palace.
Much to the King’s relief, after that, things returned to how they had always been. The King counted his money, the Princess read to her cat. Mr Jiggles licked his paws and listened, from the safety of his own seat. And all was well in the palace.
Until, one night, there was a flash and a crack quickly followed by a loud KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCKING on the door.
“What now?” the King asked. Then jumped up quickly. “You stay there, daughter,” he said. This time he would answer the door himself. The King pulled open the big oak door and gasped. Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw.
“A wizard!” he exclaimed.
Wizards didn’t usually make house calls. This could either be very, very bad for the King… or very good.
The King gave the wizard his best smile. “Come in. Come in,” he said, ushering the wizard into the palace. The King pulled out a chair, Mr Jiggles’ chair. Poor Mr Jiggles went flying across the room… for a second time.
“Daughter, daughter,” the King said. “Get the wizard a drink.”
The wizard held up his hand. “No, no, no,” he said. “Don’t bother the girl. It’s you I’m here to see.”
The king gulped.
“Me?” he asked.
“Yeeees. You,” the wizard replied.
The King was confused. “A gift for me?” He hoped it was gold.
The wizard eyed the King. “You did nurse a beggar man back to health this year, did you not?”
The king glanced at his daughter. “Er, yes…” he lied. “That was me.”
The wizard nodded. That beggar man was his servant. As a thank you he offered the King one wish. The King was very excited. There was something he had been dreaming of having his whole life. The king was about to wish for a palace made of gold… when he, unexpectedly, had a better idea.
“I can wish for anything?” he asked.
“One thing,” the wizard replied. “And not more wishes! That’s cheating.”
The King smiled from ear to ear. He had thought of a wish so good, he would never, ever, want for anything ever again.
“I wish….” he said. “I wish that everything I touch turns to gold!”
The wizard thought it was a terrible wish. “Are you sure?” he asked the King.
The King frowned. “That’s what I want! You said I could have anything. Are you going back on your word?”
The wizard sighed. “On your head be it,” he said. And just - like – that, the wizard disappeared in a puff of smoke.
The next morning the King woke up with a yawn. He reached out to turn on his lamp and… It turned to gold.
The King sat up. He touched the bedside cabinet and… it turned to gold! The King jumped out of bed. He touched the door… it turned to gold. The staircase… it turned to gold. A vase… it turned to gold.
“This is A-mazing!!!” the King cried.
He touched a painting – it turned to gold. A rug – it turned to gold. His slippers – they turned to gold.
“Oh,” the King said. His slippers were too heavy to walk in.
The King went outside. He touched the front door, a rosebush, his car…They all turned to gold.
“Ha! Ha! This is fabulous!” he cried. “Now let’s see…”
The King turned around and looked at his palace. He placed both hands on the outside of wall and the whole palace turned to gold!
The King was beyond excited he jumped for joy. “This is amazing!” he cried.
Now, all this gold-making had made the King hungry. He went into the kitchen and opened the fridge… it turned to gold. He picked up a piece of chicken… it turned to gold.
“Oh no,” the King said. “Well, I wasn’t that hungry anyway.”
The King picked up a jug of water. It turned to gold.
“Huh,” he said. At that moment, Mr Jiggles came by to see what all the excitement was about. Without thinking the King bent down to stroke him and… Mr Jiggles turned to gold.
“Oh dear!” said the King.
The King didn’t have time to hide the golden cat, because at that moment the Princess came into the kitchen. She took one look at her beloved cat and burst into tears. The King felt terrible. He reached out to comfort his daughter and…she… turned.. to… gold.
“Oh no!” the King cried.
What had he done? His beautiful, lovely, precious daughter nothing but a golden statue. The King fell to his knees. “WIZAAAAARRRRDDDD!” he shouted.
The King cried and screamed and promised to change, if the wizard would only come back and help him. This went on for hours and hours and hours until finally there was a flash and a crack and the wizard was back.
“Oh, do pipe down. You’re giving us all an awful headache,” the wizard said.
“Please help me,” the King begged.
The wizard tutted and shook his head. “I did tell you it was a terrible wish, didn’t I? Do you promise to stop your whining?” he asked.
The King nodded.
“Very well,” the Wizard said and told the King what he should do.
The King listened carefully, then grabbed the Wizard’s legs and kissed his feet.
“Oh, thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” he cried.
The Wizard looked down at him. “Get off, man! Honestly. Off you go and fix it, then.”
The King did as he was bid.
He tried to pick up his daughter. But she was made of solid gold and far too heavy for him to carry easily. Then he got an idea. The King went to fetch a wheelbarrow. But, as soon as he touched the handle, the whole wheelbarrow turned to gold.
“Oh no.” He was going to have to move his daughter the hard way.
The King pulled and pushed and dragged his golden daughter (and her golden cat) to the river. It took him all day. By the time he got there, he was covered in sweat. The King laid his daughter in the water and, as her head went under, the Princess gasped and spluttered and choked. Thank goodness, the King was overcome with gratitude. His daughter was flesh and bone once more. But she was not happy. The Princess turned to her father with a terrible scowl.
“What are you going to do about my cat?!” she demanded.
The King placed the cat in the water and (although very put out at being half drowned) Mr Jiggles lived to purr another day.
However, still the Princess scowled.
“Father, it’s time you gave up this terrible obsession with gold. It’s ruining all our lives.”
The King bowed his head. She was right. He placed his hands under the water and let the river wash away his golden touch.
Some say that river, to this day, runs with gold. I don’t know about that. But I do know that if you were to ever visit the golden palace of an evening, you wouldn’t hear the sound of counting, just the lovely, soft voice of the Princess reading to her father and the gentle purring of a cat, who likes to curl up in front of the fire and listen to a good story.