Home Page   •   Blog   •   Site Contents   •   Contact

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 14

Kai Kaus Continued

How Kaus wrote to the Kind of Mazandaran

A skilled scribe wrote upon white silk a letter
Both kind and harsh, insPirang hope and fear,
First praising God, the Source of every good,
"Who gave man wisdom, made the turning sky,
Revealing hardship, cruelty, and love,
Who gave to us to compass good and ill,
And ruleth o'er the circling sun and moon ....
If thou art upright and thy Faith is pure
All men will praise thee, but the curse of heaven
Will fall on thee if ill-disposed and hurtful.
If God is just why should His laws be broken?
Observe how He in punishment for sin
Is sending dust from div and sorcerer!
So now if news hath reached thee of their fate,
And mind and wisdom are thy monitors,
(quit thou thy throne and from Mazandaran
Come, like our other subjects, to our court,
And, as thou canst not strive with Rustam, pay
Such tag and tribute as we may demand.
Thus haply thou mayst still retain thy throne;
But if thou wilt not pay despair of life,
E'en as the White Div and Arzhang despaired."
The letter done, the Shah affixed his seal
Of musk and spicery, and called Farhad -
Him of the mace of steel, a favourite
Among the nobles of the land, and one
Who had not shared the warfare and the toil -
To whom he said: "Convey to yonder div
Escaped from bonds this letter of advice."
He kissed the ground, bare the Shah's letter forth,
And reached the valiant horsemen, the Narmpai.
The people there with leathern feet appear,
Hence their nickname Narmpai for many a year.
There lived among his chiefs and men of war
The monarch of Mazandaran of yore.
Farhad sent on a man to tell the king
Of his approach and business, who on hearing:-
"A prudent envoy cometh from the Shah,"
Sent forward to receive him a great host,
Selected by the king to show his power,
To whom he said: "We must make known to-day
How great the difference is 'twixt man and div,
So act the pard and get these sages' leader
Within your clutches that he may repent
Himself in terror at the sight of you."
They went forth frowning but their purpose failed.
On coming to Farhad one of the chiefs -
A mighty man - took hold upon his hand,
Wrung it, and pained him, yet he did not blench,
Or flush. They carried him before the king,
Who asked about Kaus and that long journey,
Then set the document before a scribe,
And sprinkled wine and musk upon the silk.
He read the letter to the king who Writhed;
But when he heard of Rustam and the div
Blood filled his eyes, his heart throbbed, and he
thought :-
'"Tis sunset and night cometh, 'tis the time
For rest, but Rustam will not let earth rest,
His name will always be in evidence."
He mourned Arzhang and the White Div, the slaying
Of Bid and of Pulad son of Ghundi,
Then entertained the envoy for three days
Among the warriors and men of name,
And on the fourth said: "Go back to the Shah,
That witless youth, and bear to him this answer:-
'Is wine unmingled in the cup of for tune?
Am I such that thou sayest: "Quit thy land,
Thy throne and country, and attend my court? "
My court is more exalted than thine own,
Mine are a thousand thousand troops and more,
And wheresoe'er they turn them in the fight
They leave not stone or colour or perfume.
Prepare thyself forthwith; I shall be ready;
I will lead forth an army lion-like
And rouse those heads of yours from their sweet
I have twelve hundred elephants of war,
While thou hast none, and I will send dark dust
Up from Iran till hills and vales seem one.'"
Farhad, perceiving his defiance, pride,
And arrogance, was much concerned to get
An answer to the letter, hastened back,
And told the Shah what he had seen and heard:-
"The king is higher than heaven and his purpose
Is not less high. He would not listen to me;
The world is nothing worth in his regard."
Thereat Kaus called Rustam and repeated
Farhad's report. The Elephantine said:-
"I will relieve our nation from disgrace;
Let me bear back this answer: 'I will draw
My trenchant sword.' We need a trenchant letter,
A message like a thundering cloud. Myself
Will go to him as envoy; at my words
The rivers shall run blood."
The Shah replied:-
"The signet and the crown gain light from thee,
Who art at once ambassador, bold Tiger,
And haughty Lion of the battlefield."
With that he called a scribe, whose pen he made
An arrowhead, and wrote: "Such talk is futile
And cometh ill from one of sober sense.
If thou canst purge thy head of arrogance
Do as thou art commanded like a slave.
Thou wilt not wreck thy realm but pay me tribute
Unvexed by war, enjoy Mazandaran,
And 'scape with life from Rustam; but if thou
Refusest I will march upon thee, stretch
My host from sea to sea, and then the soul
Of thy malevolent White Div will bring
The vultures to enjoy thy brains, O king!"

How Rustam went on an Embassy to the King of Manzandran

The letter sealed, aspiring Rustam flung
His mace upon the saddle and approached
Mazandaran, whose monarch heard: "Kaus
Hath sent another letter and an envoy -
One like a savage lion - with a lasso
Of sixty coils within the straps. Beneath him
There is a speedy charger; one would say :-
It bulketh like a mighty elephant.'"
On hearing this the king selected chiefs
And bade them go to meet this savage Lion.
As Rustam saw them he beheld beside
The road a spreading tree, seized on two branches,
And twisting round the tree with might and main
Uprooted it, himself unscathed the while,
Then poised it like a dart, while all the troops
Looked on astound. As they came up he hurled
The tree, whose boughs hid many cavaliers.
One of the chiefest of Mazandaran
Seized Rustam's hand and squeezed it to assay
His fortitude in pain, but Rustam laughed
While all the company looked on in wonder,
And as he laughed he crushed the other's hand.
That strength-assayer lost all strength himself,
Paled, and fell off his steed. One went before
And told the monarch of Mazandardn
That which had chanced. There was a cavalier
Hight Kalahur, whose fame rang through the land,
And who, like some fierce pard, loved fighting only.
The king, who mightily esteemed his valour,
Called him and sent him forth to counter Rustam,
Thus saying: "Meet the envoy, give fresh proof's
Of prowess, shame him, make him weep hot tears."
So Kalahur came lion-like to Rustam
With louring looks and with a leopard's greeting,
Then took and squeezed the Elephantine's hand
Till it turned blue with pain, who bore it lightly,
As holding manhood's patent from the sun,
And stoutly wrung the hand of Kalahur,
Whose nails fell off like leaves. He went and showed
The king his mangled hand. "I cannot hide,"
He said, "the anguish that I feel. Enjoy
Thyself in peace; thou canst not fight this hero.
If he is willing let us pay the tribute,
Submitting to preserve Mazandaran,
And portion out the tax to great and small
To make this heavy travail light; 'tis better
Than quaking for our lives."
The matchless Rustam
That moment came like some fierce elephant
Before the king who, seeing him, assigned him
A place of honour, asked about Kaus,
The host, the travail of the longsome road,
Its ups and downs, and then said: "Thou art Rustam;
Thy breast and arm befit a paladin."
He said: "I am a slave if fit to serve.
Where Rustam, that brave paladin, is present
There I am useless. Since God made the world
A chief so eminent hath not appeared.
In fight he is a mountain. What and how
Am I to speak about his mace and Rakhsh?
What army can withstand him when he warreth?
He maketh mountains seas, and seas like mountains.
What lion, elephant, or div will raise
The battle-cry against him when he fighteth?
He is a noble army in himself
And not a messenger; 'twas he that sent me
To say: 'If thou are prudent sow not seed
Of evil. Thou hast sown it in abundance,
And lightly left the path of manliness.
How hast thou used the monarch of Iran,
His troops, and paladins in thy revenge?
Thou hast not heard perchance of Rustam's name,
Who hath the welkin for his meanest thrall;
But if I had permission from the Shah
To come to this thy folk I would not leave
One of thy host alive, and thine own head
Should be upon a spear.'"
He gave the letter -
A message from ambition to self-will -
And said: "The scimitar is bearing fruit,
It beareth on its lap the heads of nobles."
The king when he had heard the embassage,
And read the letter, was displeased and marvelled.
He spake to Rustam, saying: "To what end
Are all these frivolous demands of thine?
Say to Kaus: 'Thou art indeed the Shah,
But, though thou hast the heart and claws of lions,
Still I am monarch of Mazandaran,
Possess a host, sit on the golden throne,
And wear the crown. To summon me absurdly
Before thee thus is neither right nor royal.
Think, and ambition not the thrones of kings,
For in the quest dishonour will befall thee.
Ride thou Iranward or a lance's point
Shall end thy days. If I lead forth my host
Thou'lt know not head from foot. 'Tis thy conceit;
Be wise and cast away thy bow, for when
We meet thy talk and violence will cease:
Say too for me to Rustam : 'Famous chief!
Whatever Kai Kaus may give to thee
I will bestow a hundred to his one,
Will make thee chief of chiefs, rich past desire,
Exalt thy head above the sun and moon,
And give to thee command of all my troops.'"
But Rustam, with his shrewd mind contemplating
Throne, host, and court, esteemed the king's speech
Such insults angered him, and he replied:-
"O witless king! good sooth thy fortunes lour!
Hath Rustam, that exalted paladin,
Need of thy treasury and of thy troops?
The son of Zal is monarch of Nimruz
And hath no peer; so cease to wag thy tongue
Or he will pluck it out. "
The king was wroth;
His evil nature turned his thoughts to bloodshed
He cried: "Arrest the envoy in my presence,
Disseat him and behead him."
An executioner approached the throne
To seize his wrists and hale him from his seat,
But Rustam, roaring like a lion, caught
The executioner's wrists and dragged him close,
Then flung him down and, holding one foot fast,
Set his own foot upon the other one
And rent the man asunder! None e'er saw
A sight like that! Then noble Rustam cried:-
"If I had but permission from the Shah
To war against thine army I would put thee
This instant into pitiable plight."
He spake and went forth from the court, his eyes
Like bowls of blood, while quaking at his words
And might the king made ready royal gifts
Of raiment, steeds, and gold, and proffered them
To Rustam, but he would accept of naught,
Because such presents would involve disgrace,
And left the country of Mazandaran,
Concerned at these grave doings. Full of vengeance,
And in hot blood, he came before the Shah,
Told his experience in Mazandaran,
And said to him: "Be not concerned one whit,
Show courage and prepare to fight the divs.
I do not value them a single grain
Of dust, and I will make this mace their bane."

How Kaus fought with the King of Mazandaran

When Rustam left, the king of sorcerers
Prepared for war, brought out his tent-enclosure,
And led the whole host forth upon the waste;
Their dust hid sun and desert, plain and mountain,
While earth reeled 'neath the tramp of elephants.
He marched like rushing wind. Kaus on hearing,
"The divs' host is in sight," first ordered Rustam
To arm for fight and then to Tus, Gudarz,
Son of Kishwad, and to Gurgin and Giv,
Those men of noble lineage, he gave
The arraying of the host, the ordering
Of spear and shield. They pitched the camp-enclosures
Upon the deserts of Mazandaran.
Upon the right was Tus, son of Naudar,
Whose clarion-blasts thrilled to the mountains' hearts;
Gudarz was on the left wing with Kishwad,
And clad the heights in iron; Kai Kaus,
In chief command, was posted at the centre.
The troops drew up while elephantine Rustam,
Who never saw disaster, led them on.
Juya, a noble of Mazandaran,
A fame-ensuer, a mace-brandisher,
And bragger likewise, by his monarch's leave
Confronted Kai Kaus. The warrior's mail
Shone brilliantly, his falchion seared the ground;
He passed along the Iranian line with shouts
That plain and mountain echoed: "He must send
Dust up from water who would fight with me."
Not one came out against him, thou wouldst say:-
"Their veins pulsed not with blood." Then cried
Kaus :-
"Why hath this div's voice, valiant warriors!
Thus dazed your hearts and made your faces dark?"
They answered not a word, and thou hadst said:-
"The host is withered up before Juya."
Then Rustam took the reins and shouldering
His shining spear said: "Will the Shah permit me
To face this caitiff div? "
Kaus replied :-
"Be thine the task, for none will seek it else.
Go! May the Maker aid thee, be all divs
And sorcerers thy quarry."
Rustam urged
His gallant Rakhsh and grasped his weighty spear,
Came on the scene like some mad elephant,
A Pard beneath him and in hand a Dragon,
Sent dust-clouds flying as he wheeled about,
And shouting shook the battle-field. " O knave!"
He cried, " thy name is cancelled 'mong the great.
This is no time of peace and ease for thee,
But pity; she shall weep who bare thee, nurtured,
And chastened thee."
"Be not too sure," he answered
"About Juya and his head-reaping sword;
Thy mother's liver shall be split anon,
And she shall wash thy mail and casque with tears."
When Rustam heard he raised his battle-cry,
Proclaimed his name, and as he charged appeared
A moving mountain, while his foe dismayed
Wheeled round unwilling to contend with him,
But Rustam following, swift as dust, and aiming
The spearpoint straight against the girdlestead,
So speared the mail that straps and buckles burst,
Unseated him, raised him aloft, and turned him
Like bird on spit,' then flung him down dust-choked,
With shivered mail. The warriors of the foe
Looked on astound, faint-hearted, pale of face,
And babble filled the field. Their king commanded
The whole host, saying: "Lift your heads and fight
Like leopards in this strife."
The warriors heard
His warlike words, and of that countless host
A vengeful throng advanced. The Shah perceived it
And came on too in orderly array.
Both armies drew their swords and closed amid
The din of trump and drum, the sky was ebon,
Earth indigo, while swords and maces gleamed
Like lightning flashing from a murky cloud.
The air was crimson, black, and violet,
With spears and flags. The shouting of the divs,
The clouds of dust, the roar of kettledrums,
And neigh of steeds, rent earth and shook the mountains;
None e'er saw such a fight. Arose the din
Of arrow, mace, and sword, the plain became
A pool of heroes' blood, earth like a sea
Of pitch whose waves were maces, swords, and arrows.
Swift steeds sped on like ships upon the deep,
And thou hadst said of them: "They founder fast!"
While maces rained upon the casques and helms
As autumn-blasts shower leaves from willow-trees.
Thus for a week those glory-seeking hosts
Encountered, on the eighth day Shah Kaus
Took from his head the royal casque and stood
Before the Judge and Guide of this world, weeping,
Then falling prostrate he exclaimed: "O Judge
Whose word is truth, who madest sea and land!
Give me to quell these divs who fear not Thee,
And grace for me the throne of king of kings."
He donned his helm and joined his famous troop.
There rose a shout and trumpet-blare, the host
Moved like a mountain. He commanded Giv
And Tus to bring the tymbals to the front.
Gudarz with Zanga son of Shawaran,
Ruhham, Gurgin, all eager for the fray,
Guraza like a wild boar, with a flag
Eight cubits high, Farhad, Kharrad, Barzin,
Rushed on the field to seek revenge anew.
First, matchless Rustam charging on the centre
Bathed earth with warriors' blood. Upon the right
Gudarz fetched with Kishwad arms, drums, troops, baggage,
While from the right wing to the left Giv fared -
A wolf among the sheep. From dawn till sunset
Blood ran in streams, all looks were fierce and grim,
And thou hadst said: "The sky is raining maces."
The slain were heaped on every side, the grass
Was smirched with human brains. The drums and trumpets
Were like a thunder-clap, an ebon veil
Concealed the sun. Then elephantine Rustam
Charged with a mighty power against the quarter
Where stood the monarch of Mazandaran,
Who with his divs and elephants of war
Awhile maintained his ground. Then Rustam gave
His pointed lance to one to hold, invoked
The name of God, raised high his mace, and raged;
His voice filled all the air, the divs became
Dispirited, the elephants confounded;
Their trunks were scattered over all the plain,
And naught but corpses could be seen for miles.
Then calling for a spear he charged the king;
Both roared like thunder. When the king beheld
The spear of Rustam wrath and courage failed,
While Rustam, seething with revenge, sent up
A mighty lion's roar, struck the king's girdle,
And pierced him through the mail. The sorcerer
Turned to a boulder by his magic arts
Before the Iranian host, while matchless Rustam
Stood in amaze, then shouldered his sharp lance.
The Shah came up with drums and elephants,
With standards and with troops, and said to Rustam
"Why tarry here so long, exalted chief!"
He answered: "When victorious fortune showed
Amid the stress the monarch seeing me
Took up his massive mace, I gave to Rakhsh
The rein and speared the monarch through the mail.
Methought : 'Now will he tumble from his saddle.'
He turned to stone before me, as thou seest,
And recketh not of aught that I can do,
But I will carry him to camp, perchance
He will resume his shape."
The Shah bade some
To bear and set the stone before his tent.
Then all the strongest of the host essayed
In vain to move the mass, howbeit Rustam
Raised it unaided to the troops' amaze,
Then shouldering the rock walked off therewith
With all the people shouting at his back.
They praised the Almighty, scattering gems and gold
O'er Rustam as he bare the stone and threw it
Before the tent-enclosure of the Shah.
He set a guard and said: "Q it these black arts
And sorceries to take thy proper shape,
Or else with this sharp steel and battle-ax
Will I break up the stone."
The sorcerer heard,
The stone dissolved like mist, the king was seen
In helmet and cuirass, and Rustam seizing
His hand turned laughing to the Shah and said:-
"Permit me to present this piece of rock,
Which feared mine ax and quaketh in my grasp."
The Shah on looking saw him not the man
For crown and throne; he had a loathly face,
A lanky shape and boar's head, neck, and tushes.
Kaus recalled the past with pain and sighs,
Then bade a headsman hew the div in pieces,
Whom matchless Rustam taking by the beard
Haled from the presence of Kaus. They hewed
The div to pieces as the great king bade.
They gathered all the booty from the camp,
And put together thrones and crowns and girdles,
Steeds, jewelry, and arms. The troops attended,
And each received according to his weed.
The impious divs, whom all beheld with horror,
Were then beheaded by the Shah's command
And flung beside the way. He said in prayer:-
"O righteous Judge! Thou hast not left a wish
Of mine unsatisfied, hast made me conquer
These sorcerers, and revived my hoary fortune."
He spent a week before the Lord in prayer,
Upon the eighth day oped the treasury-door,
And gave to all that lacked; another week
So passed while every man received his meed.
The third week still within Mazandaran
He called for amber cups and ruby cups,
And spent a night in revel. Thus rethroned
He said to Rustam: "Chief of paladins!
Thou hast displayed thy prowess everywhere,
And now I have received my throne from thee.
Bright be thy heart, thy Faith, and thine allegiance."
Then Rustam answered: "All men have their uses.
Whate'sr I did was owing to Ulad,
My faithful guide, who hopeth now to rule
Mazandaran, for so I promised him
If he did well. Perchance the king of kings,
Who tendereth lieges, will exalt him thus?
First let the Shah grant him investiture
By solemn covenant and under seal

As monarch of Mazandaran, and then
Let all the other chieftains do him homage.
He will approve himself thy faithful liege
And send to thee the tribute that is due."
The Shah, on hearing what his servant said,
Assented, summoned from Mazandaran
The chiefs, and said in speaking of Ulad :-
"Do as he counselleth and bear no grudge."
He gave Ulad a special robe of honour,
And said: "Good worketh constantly unseen,"
Bestowed on him the royal crown, and then
Set his own face to go to Pars again.

How Kaus returned to the Land of Iran and farewelled Rustam

Now when Kaus was entering Iran,
And when the army's dust concealed the world,
The excitement reached the sun, and men and women
Met him with loud acclaim; they decked the land
And called for wine and harp and minstrelsy.
The world grew young through him, and there arose
A New Moon from Iran. Glad and triumphant
He sat enthroned, unlocked his ancient hoards,
And summoned almoners. A shout went up
Before the gate of elephantine Rustam,
And all the captains of the host assembled
Rejoicing in the presence of the Shah.
Then matchless Rustam, casque on head, drew near
And seated by the Shah asked leave to go
To Zal. The worldlord gave him costly gifts,
Such as he merited - a throne with rams' heads
All jewelled in turquoise, a royal crown
Of gems, a robe of gold worn by the Shah,
A splendid torque and armlet, and withal
A hundred moon-faced boys with golden girdles,
A hundred lovely damsels musky-haired,
A hundred noble steeds in golden harness,
A hundred black-haired mules with golden bridles
All laden with brocade of royal fashion
From Rum, Pahlav, and Chin, a hundred purses
Filled with dinars, bright stuff's, perfumes, and trinkets,.
A ruby goblet full of purest musk,
Another of turquoise filled with rose-water,
And therewithal a patent writ on silk
With ink of musk, wine, ambergris, and aloes.
Upon that chief - the Light of earth - the Shah
Bestowed anew the whole realm of Nimruz,
So that thenceforth none else should have the throne,
And blessed him, saying: "May none see sun and moon
Without thee, be the chiefs' hearts warm to thee,
And be thy soul fulfilled with love and kindness."
Then Rustam leaped down, kissed the throne, made ready
For his departure, and bound on the baggage.
The din of kettledrums rose from the city,
And all partook his joy. They put up garlands
While bells and clarions sounded. Rustam went,
The Shah remained, illumining the world
With laws and usages. When thus returned
He portioned out the earth among his chieftains,
Appointing Tus the captain of the host.
"Avert," he said, "disaster from Iran,"
While Ispahan bestowed he on Gudarz,
Gave him the throne and lordship of that march,
And then disposed himself for mirth and wine, .
Displayed his majesty and smote the neck
Of sorrow with the scimitar of justice.
None thought of death, the earth grew full of verdure -
A garden of Iram - with streams and dew,
And rich by justice and security;
The hand of Ahriman was stayed from ill,
And day and night the fruits and foliage
Invoked a blessing on the crown and throne :-
"A hundred thousand blessings every hour
From the Creator be upon the Shah,
Who by his justice civilizeth earth
And in his justice mindeth bounteousness."
'Twas noised abroad: "Kaus the Shah hath taken
The crown and throne out of Mazandaran."
All wondered that he should achieve such greatness,
The loyal with their gifts and offerings
Drew up in rank before the monarch's door,
And all the world was decked like Paradise,
Fulfilled with wealth and justice.
Thou hast heard
About the warfare with Mazandaran,
Now hear the contest with Hamavaran.

Go to Top

» Site Contents

Search Our Site: