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Zoroastrian Heritage

Author: K. E. Eduljee





The epic

The Poet Ferdowsi


Writing & Books

Oral Tradition

Ferdowsi's Sources

Khvatay-Namak / Khodai-Nama

Achaemenian Era Book of King - Basilikai Difeterai


Other Legends

Ferdowsi's Original Work Lost

Differences in Shahnameh Copies

Reconstruction of an Authoritative Shahnameh

English Translations

Spelling of the Names

Resources-Persian Text


Ferdowsi's Manuscript

Earliest Surviving Manuscript Copies Known

Recent Manuscript Discovery in Beirut

Illuminated Manuscripts

Great Mongol/Demotte Manuscript

Bayasanghori Manuscript

Tahmaspi/Houghton Manuscript

Elation, Regret & Hope

Shahnameh's Characters

The Heroes - Story in Brief

English Translation

W = Warner & Warner
A = James Atkinson
Z = Helen Zimmerman

1. Prologue W

2. Creation W

3. Gaiumart W

3. Kaiumers A

4. Hushang W

5. Tahmuras W

6. Jamshid W

7. Zahak W

3-7. Shahs of Old Z

8. Faridun W

9. Minuchihr, Sam, Zal, Rustam W

10. Naudar W

11. Zav W

12. Kai Kaus 1 W

13. 7 Courses of Rustam W

14. Kai Kaus 2 W

15. Kai Kaus 3 W

16. Warriors W

17. Suhrab W

18. Siyawush W

19. Kai Khusrau 1 W

20. Kai Khusrau 2 W

21. Farud W

22. Kai Khusrau 3 W

23. Rustam W

24. Rustam's Exploits W

25. Bizhan W

26. Gudarz W

27. Great War W

28. Passing of Kai Khusrau W

29. Luhrasp & Gushtasp W

30. Gushtasp & Zardhusht W

31. Asfandiyar's Seven Stages W

32. Asfandiyar W

33. Asfandiyar's Fight with Rustam W

34. Rustam & Shaghad W

35. Bahman W

36. Humai & Darab W

36a. Humai & Darab A

37. Darab & Dara A

38. Sikandar A

Satire on Sultan Mahmud A

The Heroes - Story in Brief


The Characters

Locale - Sistan

Pahlavans & Their Role


Zal Woos Princess Rudabeh

The Birth of Rustam

Rustam's Horse Rakhsh

Rustam Meets Princess Tahmina

The Tragedy of Sohrab

Page 12

Chapter 11


The Prelude

If ever mortal injury befall
A fruitful tree, when it hath waxen tall,
Its leaf will fade, its root become unsound,
Its head begin to bend toward the ground;
And when the stem is snapped off at the root
'Twill yield its station to some fresh young shoot,
Resign thereto the garden's burgeoning
And all the lamp-like lustre of the spring;
But if, my friend! an evil shoot should rise,
Let not the good root suffer in thine eyes.
So when a father leaveth to his son
The world, and showeth him the course to run,
If he shall flout his father's regimen
Call him no longer son but alien.
He that abandoneth his teacher's path
Deserveth every evil that he hath.
This ancient hostelry is fashioned so
That thou canst not distinguish top from toe,
And he that wotteth of its evil way
Doth well to quit it with what speed he may.
Now let the stories which an ancient sage
Of prudent mind once told thy thoughts engage.

How Kaus sat upon the Throne and was tempted to invade Mazandaran

Kaus, succeeding to his father's throne
With all the world to serve him, looked upon
Heaped hoards of treasures manifold, and knew
That he had not his peer on earth for wealth
Of necklaces, of earrings, and of thrones,
High-crested Arab steeds, and golden crowns
Inlaid with emeralds.
Now as it chanced
He sat one day and quaffed delicious wine
Within a pleasure-palace arabesqued
With gold, and sat upon the golden throne,
Whose feet were crystal, master of the world,
Discussing many matters great and small
In converse with the Iranian paladins,
And spake on this wise: "Who is Shah but I,
Who worthy of the throne except myself?
I rule the world with none to say me nay."
The Shah was thus conversing in his cups,
What while the captains wondered, when a div
In minstrel's guise addressed the chamberlain.
"A native of Mazandaran am I,"
He said, " a noted bard. If I am worthy
To serve the Shah let me approach his throne."
The chamberlain walked stately to the Shah,
And said: "There is a minstrel at the gate -
A rare musician - and he hath his harp."
The Shah bade fetch the man and set him down
Among the harpers. When his harp was tuned
He sang a ditty of Mazandaran :-
Mazandaran, my native land!
May I forget it never,
And may its fields and fells abide
As populous as ever,
For on its heights the hyacinth
And tulip bloom, while roses
Are ever blossoming anew
Within its garden-closes.
The landscape is fulfilled with charm,
The atmosphere is pleasant,
And there is neither heat nor cold,
But spring is ever present.
While in each garth the nightingale
Discourseth musically,
The deer are pacing daintily
In every mountain valley
Throughout the year without a break
Intent upon their questing,
And evermore the hues are bright,
And scents exhale unresting.
As for the rivers thou wouldst say :-
'They run rose-water surely!'
And at the fragrance breathing thence
The soul rejoiceth purely.
There when the year is young and when
'Tis many a month the older,
A soil all tulips and a-bloom
Saluteth the beholder.
The livelong year the streamlet's lips
Are laughing, and the foray
Of hawk and hunter after game
Will never fail of quarry.
The provinces are gaily dight
Throughout their whole dimensions
With golden coins and with brocade,
And goodliest inventions;
The handmaids there, as idols fair,
Are crowned with crowns all golden,
And there the loins of all the great
With belts of gold are holden.
He that is not in that fair land
Of joy exceeding measure,
Delighting heart and mind alike,
What can he know of pleasure?
The words roused Kai Kaus, he was resolved
To lead a host against Mazandaran,
And thus harangued his warriors: "We have been
Too fond of feast. The brave but indolent
Will never tire of leisure and of home.
In fortune, Grace, and birth I pass Jamshid,
Zahhak, and Kai Kubad, and must surpass them
In prowess too: crowned heads should be ambitious."
The nobles heard and liked it not, turned pale,
And frowned, for no one wished to fight the divs,
Though daring not to say so openly.
They sadly sighed - Tus, Giv, Gudarz, Kishwad,
Kharrad, Gurgin, and brave Bahram - and said:-
"Thy slaves are we and walk earth by thy will."
They met thereafter and spoke out their minds:-
"What is this turn of fortune? If the Shah
Remembereth the words said in his cups
'Twill be the ruin of us and of Iran,
And leave the land not even dust and water.
Jamshid possessed the crown and finger-ring,
With div and fowl and fay to do his will,
Yet spoke he never of Mazandaran,
Or sought to fight against the valiant divs,
While Faridun with all his craft and wisdom
Ne'er guided us to any such desire.
Had it been something fitting to achieve
By dint of manliness, name, gems, and treasure,
Then Minuchihr would have forestalled the matter
And not repressed his wishes. We must find
Some scheme to turn this evil from Iran."
Then Tus addressed the chiefs: "Brave veterans!
One remedy there is, and let us use it,
For 'tis not hard. Send we a cameleer
In haste to Zal the son of Sam to say:-
'If now thy head be soiled stay not to wash it,
But whet thy wits and let us see thy face.'
He may suggest some wise rede to the Shah,
And tell him: 'Ahriman hath prompted this
The portal of the divs must ne'er be opened.'
Unless Zal can divert him from such talk
An end will come to all our ups and downs."
They talked it o'er, then sent a cameleer,
Who went apace toward Nimruz, and when
He came to Zal - the lustre of the world -
Gave thus the nobles' message: "High-born son
Of Sam! a parlous case confronteth us,
And one that knowledge cannot estimate!
Bestir thyself or else we shall not have
Folk, field, or fell. A fancy hath arisen
Within the Shah's heart. Ahriman hath turned him
From what is right, he is not satisfied
With travail such as his forefathers had,
But would have treasure where he hath not toiled,
And so must throne it in Mazandanin!
If thou delayest but to scratch thy head
He will have gone and given to the winds
Thy travail at the first with Kai Kubad,
When thou with Rustam - that insatiate Lion -
Didst like a valiant lion gird thy loins;
All which is now as wind to Kai Kaus,
Whose evil purposes distract his mind."
Zal when he heard grieved sorely that the leaves
Upon the royal tree were growing sere,
And said: "Kaus, that man of headstrong will,
And not approved in this world's heat and cold,
Will hearken not to what the experienced say,
And sleepeth not upon his own designs.
If one who is the monarch of the world,
Whom years and sun and moon still circle o'er,
One at the thought of whose sword everywhere
Alike the nobles and the people tremble,
Will not obey me 'tis not wonderful;
Still it would grieve me if he hearkened not.
If I think of myself, not of the Shah,
Then God, the Shah, and all the warriors
Throughout Iran, will be displeased at me.
I will set out and offer mine advice;
If he accepteth it so much is gained
If he is headstrong then our course is clear,
And Rustam now will be among the troops."
He mused all night, and when the sun displayed
Its crown on high begirt himself and journeyed,
Escorted by the chiefs, toward the Shah.
Intelligence reached Tus, Gudarz, and Giv,
Bahram, Gurgin, and others: "Zal approacheth;
E'en now his royal standard is in sight."
The army-leaders, helmed as paladins,
Went forth to meet him and, when he was near,
Dismounted, went to him afoot, and blessed him.
Now, as they fared together to the Shah,
Tus said to Zal: "So then, O noble chief!
Thou hast endured a journey of much toil,
And for the sake of us Iranian nobles
Hast chosen travail rather than repose
We are devoted to thee: all of us
Feel honoured by thy crown and Grace."
Zal answered
"The maxims of the men of old recur
To one whom years have worn, and later on
The course of heaven will justify his conduct.
We must not keep our counsel from the Shah,
For he hath need thereof. If he rejecteth•
The words of wisdom he will rue it sorely."
They cried: "We are agreed and will not hear
Another's words," then sought with one accord
The crown and throne and presence of their lord.

How Zal gave Counsel to Kaus

Attended by the lords with golden girdles
Zal led the way and, when he saw Kaus
Rejoicing on the throne, approached the state
With downcast eyes and folded arms, then said:-
"O worldlord, who art mightiest of the mighty!
Throne hath not heard of, nor crown seen, thy peer,
Revolving heaven hath heard not of such fortune,
As thine. Be victor all thy years and glad
With heart all wisdom and with head all justice."
'The famous Shah received Zal graciously,
And, giving him a seat upon the throne,
Asked him about the toil of that long journey,
About the chieftains and exalted Rustam.
He answered: "Ever live and conquer, Shah
We all are blithe and brightened by thy fortune,
And have our heads exalted by thy throne."
He then began his well considered speech:-
"O monarch of the world! thou well deservest
To have the throne and crown of mighty men.
Thou art the memory of Shah Faridun,
And may this age ne'er rob thee of its love.
Now I have heard grave tidings that the Shah
Hath some design upon Mazandaran.
None of thy mighty predecessors thought
Of such a journey. Minuchihr in dying
Left here much wealth and many palaces;
So too did Zav, Naudar, and Kai Kubad
(How many a chief our memories recall
With massive maces and with mighty hosts!)
Yet they attempted not Mazandaran -
The home of warlock-divs and under spells
Which none hath power to loose; so give not thou
Men, wealth, and money to the winds. That land
Can not be conquered by the scimitar,
Nor will it come to hand through wit and treasure.
To go or e'en to think of going thither
Is held unlucky! Thou must not invade
Those parts because no Shah hath thought it good,
Who if less great than thou was still God's slave
Then do not for the sake of covetise
Plant with the blood of such a famous head
A tree whose growth and fruit will prove a curse,
And break the precedents of former Shahs."
Kaus replied: "I need thy views hereon,
But nathless I in courage, Grace, and treasure
Surpass Jamshid and Faridun as well
As Minuchihr and Kai Kubad, who never
Made mention of Mazandaran; my heart
And host are greater, and the world is 'neath
My trenchant scimitar. The world was won
When thou didst brandish thine; let it see ours.
I shall go thither, snare them all, maintaining
The credit of myself and scimitar,
Then tax them heavily or leave all dead,
So vile and wretched do I hold that crew
Of divs and sorcerers, and thou wilt hear
That earth is void of them. Do thou and Rustam
Be regents of Iran and slumber not.
God is my Helper and the prince of divs
My quarry. Since thou wilt not go with me
Bid me not dally on my throne."
Zal heard,
And baffled answered: "Thou art Shah, and we
Are slaves who speak in love and, right or wrong,
Must move and breathe according to thy will.
I have relieved my heart as knowledge prompted.
No one can root out death, sew up the eyes
Of destiny with needles, or escape
From want by abstinence; in this regard
E'en princes must submit. May this bright world
Prove prosperous to thee, and mayst thou never
Have reason to recall these words of mine;
May thine own doings cause thee no remorse,
And be thy heart and Faith and rule resplendent."
Grieved that the Shah would go Zal took his leave
In haste, and as he left the monarch's presence
Both sun and moon were darkened in his eyes.
The gallant nobles - Tus, Gudarz, Bahram,
And Giv - went with him, and Giv said to Zal :-
"May God direct us! Were Kaus, not Shah
I should esteem him naught. May greed, death, want,
Be far from thee, foes' hands too short to reach thee.
Where'er we be or go we hear thy praises,
And next to God trust thee who hith so toiled
For us."
Thus Giv, Zal, clasping to his heart
The warriors, made ready to depart.

How Kaus went to Mazandran

Next day arose the tymbals' din, Gudarz
And Tus led on the troops. Kaus, their lustre,
Went with them, and upon a shaded spot
Set up his throne before Mount Ispuruz
For rest and sleep, while terror everywhere
Fell on the brutish divs. Upon the heights
The Shah spread cloth of gold; the air was fragrant
With luscious wine; the favoured paladins
Sat by his throne and spent the night together.
At dawn they woke and entered helmed and armed
The presence of the Shah, who ordered Giv :-
"Choose from the warriors two thousand men -
Mace-wielders - to prepare for us a path
Mazandaran-ward, slaughter young and old,
Fire all the settlements, turn day to night,
And slay the warlocks ere they are aware."
Giv girt him, left the portal of the Shah,
Chose valiant warriors, and when he reached
Mazandaran showered scimitars and maces.
The women, children, and old men with staves,
Received no quarter from his sword; he sacked
And burned the cities, scattering bane instead
Of antidote. He lighted on a spot
Like Paradise, replete with all delights,
And in each street and quarter countless slaves
With necklaces and earrings, and still more
With casques and faces like the shining moon.
In every place were treasures stored away,
Here gold, there gems. The cattle were past count.
Thou wouldst have said: '"Tis Paradise itself!"
They told Kaus the news, who cried: "Live happy
The man who said: 'Mazandaran may match
With Paradise, and thou wouldst say that all
The country is an Idols' temple decked
With wreaths of roses and brocade of Chin;
Its Idols come from Paradise with faces
Bathed in pomegranate-blossoms by Rizwan.' "
The Iranians plundered for one week, then ceased.
The monarch of Mazandaran received
The news; his heart was sad, his head was heavy.
There was a div named Sanja at the court,
Who also grieved. The monarch said to him
"Go swift as Sol in yonder circling heaven
And tell the White Div : 'There hath come a host
Out of Iran to spoil Mazandaran;
They have burnt up our cities and inflamed
Our vengeance by the outrage. Kai Kaus,
With many young and brave, is in command
Without thy help we shall be all destroyed.'"
When Sanja heard the message he sped forth
And carried to the div the king's appeal.
The White Div answered: "Be not in despair,
For I am coming with a mighty host
To cut the Shah's foot from Mazandaran."
He spake and like a mountain rose erect;
His head was level with the turning sky.
Night came, a cloud involved the Iranian host,
The world grew like a negro's face for blackness,
And thou hadst said: "'Tis like a sea of pitch,
And all its light is lost."
The White Div spread
Above their heads a tent of pitchy smoke,
Air dusked and eyes were darkened. From the sky
He showered stones and darts, the Iranian troops
Dispersed abroad, and many sought Iran,
Heart-broken at the doings of Kaus.
When day had come the ambitious Shah and most
Among his warriors were blind. The nobles
Were wroth with him, his troops were prisoners,
His treasures pillaged, and his fortunes old.
It is a ne'er to be forgotten tale,
For at such wonders wonder's self must fail
Now when the Shah perceived his plight he said:-
A "prudent minister is more than treasure;
Alas that I accepted not the counsel
Of Zal the worldlord but misdoubted it."
When he had passed seven days in misery
And looked on no Iranian, on the eighth
The White Div thundered at him: "O thou Shah,
As fruitless as a willow! thou wouldst have
Complete supremacy and seize our pastures.
Like to a maddened elephant's appeared
Thy strength to thee, thou wouldst not yield to any
Content not with the crown above thy throne
Thou hast perverted wisdom and hast wrought
Ill in Mazandaran, and slaughtered many
With massive mace. The news of mine achievements
Perchance ne'er reached thee, such a dullard thou
On thine imperial throne! Now thou hast gained
The fitting outcome of thy heart's desire."
Then of the valiant divs that drew the sword
He chose twelve thousand. setting them to guard
The Iranians, and afflicted grievously
Those headstrong men. He gave them food enough
To keep them living on from day to day,
While all the treasures of the Shah and host,
The jewelled diadems and turquoise thrones,
All that he saw, he gave o'er to Arzhang,
The general of Mazandaran, and said:-
"Convey these to the king and say to him:-
'Blame not thou Ahriman, for I have done
All that was needed, and have brought yon folk
To dust. The Shah and paladins will never
Behold the bright sun or the moon again.
I have not threatened him with death, but taught him
The ups and downs of fortune. He will grow
Wise through his troubles, and hereafter none
Will listen to such schemes.'"
Thereat Arzhang
Went to the monarch of Mazandaran,
And took with him the treasure and the troops,
The captives and the steeds caparisoned.
This done the White Div went back to his home
As glorious as the sun, while Kai Kaus
Remained within Mazandaran to moan:-
"I was to blame for this and I alone."

The Message of Kai Kaus to Zal and Rustam

Kaus with stricken heart sent to Zabul
To Zal a warrior, like a bird that flew
As swift as smoke, to say: "What hap is mine
My crown and throne have tumbled to the dust,
And heaven hath given to the divs my treasures
And troops arrayed like roses in the spring;
The wind, thou wouldst say, rose and bore them off.
Mine eyes are blinded and my fortunes sheet,
My crown and throne are both o'erturned, and I
Lie stricken in the hand of Ahriman,
Who rendeth me asunder, soul from body.
I often sigh to think on thine advice,
Which I rejected foolishly, thus causing
The present trouble. If thou dost not act
Both capital and interest will be lost."
He went as 'twere a bird as swift as smoke
And told what he had seen and heard to Zal,
Whose skin burst at the tidings, but he kept
The news from friend and foe. His shrewd heart
showed him
The ills that fate would bring upon Kaus.
"The scimitar is all but out," he said
To Rustam. " We must not thus feed at ease,
But make provision for the crown itself,
Because the Shah is in the Dragon's breath
How great a bale is on the Iranians
Thy part is now to saddle Rakhsh and seek
For vengeance with the world-allotting sword.
God surely made thee for a time like this,
And thou art fitted for such labours now,
While I, I have outlived two centuries!
Thou wilt gain high renown and save the Shah.
Thou must not in this Ahriman's own business
Take matters leisurely or stop to breathe,
But don the tiger-skin and purge thy head
Of sleep and thought. When one hath seen thy spear
Will any say: 'His soul will rest?' If thou
Shouldst fight the sea 'twould turn to blood, thy voice
Will level mountains. Thou must make Arzhang,
And the White Div no less, despair of life.
As for the monarch of Mazandaran
Go smash him, neck and spine, with thy great mace."
He answered thus: "The way is long, and I
How shall I go to take revenge?"
Said Zal:
"There are two routes both hard and dangerous;
One, which is long, was taken by Kids;
The other is a journey of two weeks,
The haunt of div and lion, and all gloom;
Its murk will maze thine eyes. Choose thou the short,
And see its wonders; God will be thine aid.
What though the way be hard? An end will come,
The feet of glorious Rakhsh will traverse it,
And I will pray all night to see again
Thy limbs and iron mace; while if the Worldlord
Shall let the divs' grip close upon thy life,
Who can resist His word? 'Tis said and done.
None can abide here though he tarry long,
And one whose fame embraceth all the world
Is not cast down at going."
Rustam answered :-
"I gird me to obey although the great
Of yore walked not to Hell advisedly,
And only one grown sick of life will counter
The rending lion. Think of me as girt
And gone. I ask no help but God's, will give
Both soul and body for the Shah, and break
The talismans that guard those sorcerers.
All that survive among the Iranians there
Will I bring back and gird their loins again;
I will not spare the White Div nor Arzhang,
Nor Sanja nor Pulad son of Ghundi,
Nor Bid. I swear by God, the only God,
Not to quit Rakhsh till I have bound Arzhang
With yoke on neck and hands as firm as rocks,
Have trod the brains and headpiece of Pulad,
And shaken earth beneath the feet of Rakhsh."
He donned the tiger-skin and stretched himself,
While Zal called many blessings down on him,
Then mounted on his elephantine steed
With steadfast heart and mien. Rudaba came
With tearful cheeks while Zal too wept. She said:-
"So thou wilt go and leave me here to grieve
How canst thou hope in God?"
He said: "Good mother
I did not choose my course; 'tis destiny.
Do thou commit to God my soul and body."
The people came to him to say farewell;
Who knew if he should look on Rustam more?
Uncounted by the wise the moments fly,
And, when an evil day hath passed thee, try
To reckon that the world hath gained thereby.

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