The Shahnameh

The Shahnameh meaning ‘The Epic of Kings’ in Persian or Farsi  is one of the definite classics of the world. It tells hero tales of ancient Persia. The contents and the poet’s style in describing the events takes the readers back to the ancient times and makes he/she sense and feel the events. The Shahnameh was written by the famous poet, Ferdowsi who worked for over thirty years to finish his masterpiece.

Ferdowsi is considered to be one the greatest of all Persian poets and the Shahnameh is regarded as the Persian national epic. For a millennium, people of greater Persia have continued to read and listen to recitations from this masterwork.

The Shahnameh was written approximately 1,000 years ago, and is a record of pre-Islamic Iran. It is the history of Iran’s past, preserved in a majestic verse.

The Shahnameh has 62 stories, 990 chapters, and some 55,000 rhyming couplets, making it more than seven times the length of Homer’s Illiad, and more than twelve times the length of the German Nibelungenlied.

The Shahnameh took Ferdowsi some 30 years to complete, and is based mainly on a prose work of the same name compiled in the poet’s early manhood in his native Tus, a region in modern day Iran. This prose was for the most part the translation of a Pahlavi (Middle Persian) work, the Khvatay-namak, a history of the kings of Persia from mythical times down to the reign of Khosrow II (590-628 CE), but it also contained additional material continuing the story to the overthrow of the Sassanians by the Arabs in the middle 7th century A.D.

The first to undertake the versification of this chronicle of pre-Islamic and legendary Persia was Daqiqi, a poet at the court of the Samanids, who came to a violent end after completing only 1,000 verses. These verses, which deal with the rise of the prophet Zoroaster, were afterward incorporated by Ferdowsi, with due acknowledgments, in his own poem.

The Shahnameh is divided into 3 successive parts: The Mythical, Heroic & Historic Ages.

I was lucky to get a copy of this authentic literature from a very good friend of mine.A story that really interests me in The Shahnameh is Rostum and Sohrab, although sad -Sohrab was the illegitimate son of the war hero Rustam. He was an exceptional young man and soon became a respected warrior himself.  The first time father and son met in battle, they both agreed to walk away peacefully. The second time they met, Sohrab defeated Rustam, but did not kill him, even though he didn’t know that Rustam was his father. However, on their third meeting, Rustam was victorious and  killed Sohrab. Neither man knew their relationship to each other.  While dying, Sohrab ironically warned his killer to beware of his father Rustam’s vengeance. On hearing these words, Rustam realized what he had done and fell into a sad, death-like trance. When he awoke, he demanded proof of their relationship. Sohrab showed Rustam the man’s own seal; Sohrab’s mother had placed it on his arm when Sohrab began asking questions about his birth. Rustam then went into a rage;  he cursed his own existence and tried to kill himself. Sohrab stopped him.  After Sohrab’s death, Rustum burnt his tents and all his goods, and carried his son’s body to Seistan, where it was buried.

Every literature reader must at least have a look at this ancient gold. Numerous films , serials and cartoon have been produce in many languages based on these tales.The Shahnameh is available in all prominent book shops as well as downloadable in pdf from the internet.

rostam                   Shahnameh-The-Persian-Book-Of-Kings                  ferdowsi21


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