The donkey’s ears are difficult to conceal
The god Pan was once so foolish as to compare his music with the divine music of Apollo. He even went so far as to challenge Apollo to a trial of music.
Apollo accepted at once. So Tmolus, the mountain-god agreed to act as judge and organized the contest in the shade of Mount Olympus. People came from all over Greece to listen and watch.
Pan went first. He played marvelously on his pipes, filling the air with a rustic melody that brought joy to the crowd, and particularly to his faith‐ ful follower, King Midas of Phrygia, who was there. But then Apollo stepped forward. He plucked the magical strings of his lyre and enchanted the air with beautiful sounds that seemed to reach to the sky.
Tmolus awarded the victory to Apollo at once, and all who witnessed the competition agreed with his judgment—all, except for Midas who felt compelled to question the justice of the award to his friends. When Apollo heard about Midas’ unwisely expressed opinion, he said pointedly, “Midas must have the ears of an ass!” And he caused Midas’s ears to be transformed into those of a donkey.
Midas could do nothing but suffer this punishment. So he concealed his ears beneath a turban and made his barber, the only one from whom he could not hide truth, swear under pain of death to tell no living soul about his ears.
The barber promised, but he found the secret very hard to bear. It was always in his mind and he struggled to stay silent. One day, unable to bear it any longer, he went out into the countryside. By a river he dug a hole in the ground and whispered into it, “Midas has ass’s ears.” Then he quickly filled in the hole and returned home.
But the next spring, reeds grew in the place where the barber had hidden his secret and as they grew, their roots reached down into the ground and discovered the truth.
When the wind blew through them, the reeds could be heard saying “Midas has ass’s ears.” The birds that flew near heard these words and they too began to broadcast the truth, “Midas has ass’s ears.”
And the sheep and goats heard these words too, and could not refrain from repeating them – until eventually the secret reached the ears of men. And soon the whole of Phrygia knew of the reward that Midas had received from Apollo.
~ Greek Myth