Dinosaur Comics, and The Myth of King Midas

Just wanted to point you towards a great creation from one of my favourite comics, Dinosaur Comics:

comic2-1382Just for reference, here’s a decent summary of how the Midas myth is usually told:

The most famous myth about King Midas is when he received the golden touch from Dionysus, god of the life force. Dionysus was associated with intoxication and was followed by a group of satyrs — half human, half goat individuals with a lust for wine and sexual pleasures. The leader of the satyrs, entrusted with Dionysus’ education, was Silenus. One day, completely in character for a satyr, Silenus became intoxicated and passed out in Midas’ rose garden. The peasants found him and brought him before their king. Luckily, Midas recognized Silenus and treated him well for five days and nights. During this time, Silenus entertained Midas and his court with fantastic tales.

Dionysus came to Midas and was glad to be reunited with Silenus his surrogate father. He decided to reward Midas for his hospitality and granted him one wish. Midas wished that everything he touched be turned to gold. Dionysus warned him about the dangers of such a wish, but Midas was too distracted with the prospect of being surrounded by gold to listen. Dionysus gave him the gift. Initially, King Midas was thrilled with his new gift and turned everything he could to gold, including his beloved roses. His attitude changed, however, when he was unable to eat or drink since his food and wine were also changed to unappetizing gold. He even accidentally killed his daughter when he touched her, and this truly made him realize the depth of his mistake. Desperate, Midas pleaded to Dionysus for help. Dionysus instructed Midas to bathe in the headwaters of the Pactolus River, and the wish would be washed away. Midas went to the river, and as soon as he touched the water, the river carried away the golden touch. The gold settled in the sands of the Pactolus River and was carried downstream to Lydia, one of the richest kingdoms in the ancient world and the source of the earliest coinage.

This myth is ethiological since it explains why the Pactolus River is rich with gold and how Lydia came to be one of the richest kingdoms. It is also carries a common motif in Greek folklore – the “short-sighted wish”. Midas let his greed blind him to the future. Most notably, this myth has aspects characteristic of myths of Dionysus. Child sacrifice is a frequent theme in Dionysian myths. Frequently, Dionysus would punish mortals indirectly by having them kill their own children. King Midas kills his daughter by turning her to gold. He pays for his greed.

Check out those last two lines again: King Midas kills his daughter by turning her to gold. He pays for his greed.

Even though the whole thing is to teach HIM a lesson, SHE is the one who has to die (and, I think, she usually stays dead). Is this the first woman in a refrigerator, motivating a man by her death?

It always bothered me that the daughter was ranked along with all his other posessions that were “lost” because they turned to gold. I mean, she ranks the highest– it’s her death that motivates him to change– but she’s still an object, not a person. In fact, she becomes a literal object, and most tellings of the story don’t even bother to mention whether or not she stayed that way. HE learned his lesson, so the story’s over now.

That’s why I love the Dinosaur Comics version so much– not only is it legitimately a creepier image, and much more effective at portraying the same story– I mean, the fine ash covering his corpse!– but it also keeps the focus, and the punishment, where it belongs: with HIM.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: