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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 16


How Rustam went with the Seven Warriors to the Hunting-ground of Afrasiyab

To strive with death is but a bootless strife,
Such is the moral taught by Rustam's life.
A minstrel whom a lion once surprised -
A man of valiant heart - thus moralised:-
"If thou wouldst have the glory of the brave,
And wouldst imbrue in blood an Indian glave,
Seek not to spare thyself, for destiny
Will not be balked when 'tis the time to die.
If, being wise, thou keepest death in sight
The brave will count thee not a man of might.
Both Faith and wisdom sanction not this course,
But their good teaching is enslaved by force."
A goodly gest of Rustam's next I tell.
Once at Nawand - that place of palaces -
The mighty hero gave a splendid feast
Where tall Barzin now beaconeth the way.
The great men of Iran -  a famous band -
Tus and Gudarz son of Kishwad, Bahram
And Giv - both noble men - Gurgin and Zanga,
Kharrad and Gustaham, that haughty swordsman
Barzin and, crown of all the band, Guraza,
Assembled at the place of banqueting,
Each with his meiny - an illustrious throng.
They spent a while at polo, wine, and hunting,
And, when they all were merry, Giv bemused
Said thus to Rustam: "O illustrious chief
Come let us, if thou hast a mind to hunt,
Hide from the great Afrasiyab's preserves
The sun's resplendent visage with the dust
Of horsemen, cheetahs, hawks, and our long spears.
There let us chase the rapid onager,
O'ercome the lion with the sword, and take
Boars with the spear and pheasants with the hawk
Throughout the livelong day. Come let us go
hunting in yon desert of Tunin
To make ourselves a memory in the world."
Then Rustam answered: "Be it as thou wilt,
And prosper thou. Seek we Turan at dawn
To hunt and harry in the deserts there."
They all agreed and, when they rose next day,
Made ready eagerly, and setting forth
With cheetahs, hawks, and baggage bravely sped
Toward the Shahd across the hunting-ground
Of great Afrasiyab, on one side mountains,
A river on another side, Sarakhs
Upon the third, a wilderness in front.
Both deer and sheep flocked on the plain, which soon
Was occupied by tents and huts. The deer
Were frighted by the company, the lions
No longer ravened there, birds as they flew
knew something of the sport, for bird and beast
Lay everywhere in heaps, some killed, some wounded.
The hunters were light-hearted, full of glee,
With laughter constantly upon their lips,
And having spent a sennight wine in hand
Were jovially bemused. The peerless Rustam
Came as the eighth day dawned with needful warnings :-
"Afrasiyab no doubt hath heard of us
By this. We must not let that Ahriman
Take counsel with his famous officers,
Devise a ruse, come forth to fight, and rob
Our cheetahs of their hunting-grounds. We need
An outpost on the road to bring us news,
However scanty, of our enemies;
We must not let them cut us off."
The chief
Of all the offspring of Givgan - Guraza -
Girt him for that emprise. With such a watchman
The ruses of the foe were nothing worth.
The others hunted in security.
At length Afrasiyab gat news of them
At sleeping-time and called his veteran chiefs,
Discoursed to them at large of Rustam; told them
About the seven warriors - lion-like
And gallant cavaliers - and thus he said:-
"We must not dally, but devise a ruse,
And fall upon them unawares. If we
Can seize these seven warriors we shall straiten
The world for Kai Kaus. We must go forth
As if to hunt and take them by surprise."
He chose him thirty thousand famous swordsmen,
And spake thus: "Go not by the beaten track,
And slumber not but hasten night and day."
They hastened forth along the desert-route.
And raised their necks for strife. Afrasiyab
Dispatched meanwhile to cut those proud chiefs off
A countless host. As they drew near the chace,
Advancing quickly eager for revenge,
The outpost saw them like a darksome cloud,
While dust arose like lapislazuli
Wherein a flag appeared. Like rushing wind
He turned back shouting lustily and found
The matchless Rustam and his mates at wine,
Then cried: "O Rustam, lion-man! away
With these delights, for such a countless host
Appeareth that the plain and heights are one;
The standard of the fell Afrasiyab
Is shining sun-like through the clouds of dust!"
Then Rustam, laughing heartily, replied:-
"fortune is with us, why fear
The Turkman king and dust of Turkman horse?
All told he is not five score thousand strong,
And were I by myself upon this plain,
What with my battle-ax, cuirass, and Rakhsh,
I should not trouble for Afrasiyab
With all his mighty army and his dash;
Nay, any one of us upon the field
Would over-match the whole host of Turan.
A battle-ground like this is all I need;
I want not I the Iranian warriors.
We have a band of seven cavaliers,
Such men of name, such swordsmen, that each one
Will match five hundred, two will match a thousand,
Skilled cavaliers and spearmen though they be.
And now, cup-bearer! fill up to the brim
The goblet with the vintage of Zabul."
They poured the wine, and Rustam's spirits rose;
He took a bowl and toasted Kai Kaus.
"I give the monarch of the age," he said,
"And may he flourish ever soul and body,"
Then kissed the ground. Again he took the cup,
And cried: "This goblet do I drain to Tus."
Thereat those princes of the worldlord rose
And prayed the paladin have them excused.
"We can no more," they said; " Iblis himself
Could not drink fair with thee. Wine, one-blow mace,
And battlefield are thine and thine alone."
Then from a golden cup the hero drank
Zawara's health in red wine of Zabul,
Whereat Zawara took the cup in hand,
And he too gave the health of Kai Kaus,
Then quaffed the wine and kissed the face of earth,
While Rustam fell to praising him and said:-
"The brother doth the brother's cup essay!
A Lion he, the wine-cup is his prey."

How Rustam fought with the Turanians

"O glory of the monarch and the chiefs!"
Said Giv to Rustam, " I will seize and hold
The bridge against the foe, so that our men
May arm, for mirth is over."
With strung bow
He ran toward the bridge but found the king
Across already leading on his van.
Then matchless Rustam donned his tiger-skin,
Bestrode his huge fell Elephant, and went
With roarings like a bellowing crocodile
Against the Turkman host. Thou wouldst have said
That when Afrasiyab caught sight of Rustam
Mailed, with such hands and breast and arms and neck
And shouldered battle-axe, he swooned away.
Tus and Gudarz, the wielders of the lance,
Gurgin and Giv, the gallant cavaliers,
Bahram, Barzin, Farhad, and Zanga son
Of Shawaran, the warriors, sprang up,
All with their spears and Indian swords in hand,
And ranged themselves like leopards for the combat.
Giv, like a lion that hath lost its prey,
Rushed to the fight and with his whirling mace
Laid many stalwart Turkman chieftains low.
Their fortune was averse, the fighting-men
Of Chin recoiled. Afrasiyab astound
Rushed forth to join the mellay. Rustam saw.
And, shouldering his massive mace and gripping
His charger firmly, came before the host
With lion's roars. Behind him was Gudarz,
Son of Kishwad, in mail with mace of steel.
When the Turanians' eyes were growing dim,
And Rustam's helm touched heaven, Afrasiyab
Spake to Piran the son of Wisa, saying
"O full of wisdom and my loyal chieftain,
Most famous of the Lions of Turin,
Aspiring and redoubted! ply thy reins,
Go forth with speed, and clear the field of foes.
Iran is thine if thou dost conquer; thou
Hast elephantine form and lion's claws."
Piran departed like a rushing wind,
Arrayed ten thousand Turkmans - gallant swordsmen
Of high renown - and came like fire on Rustam,
For victory or defeat both hung on him.
That hero foamed and, as thou wouldst have said,
Eclipsed the sun. He urged his charger on;
A roar arose as of the rising sea.
With shield o'er head and Indian sword in hand
He slew most of those chiefs. Afrasiyab
Saw this from far and said thus to his nobles:-
"If they fight thus till dark there will not be
A single horseman left! Think we no more
Of battle. We came forth to fight the Iranians
And in our own conceit were lions then,
Yet now I seem a fox as I survey
The plain, and feel a skulker from the fray!

How Pilsam fought with, the Iranians

There was a warrior, by name Pilsam,
Of royal race and eager for renown,
His sire was glorious Wisa and his brother
Victorious Piran. Both in Iran
And in Turan he had no peer save Rustam.
On hearing what Afrasiyab had said
He frowned with rage and, hasting to the king,
Cried in his eager longing for the fray: -
"A youthful warrior of this host am I.
What dust before me are the valiant Tus
And gallant Giv - that Lion known to fame -
Bahram and Zanga son of Shawaran,
And brave Guraza! At the king's command
I will go lion-like, smite off their heads,
O'ercloud their moon, and bring their crowns to dust."
The king replied: "O famous warrior
May victory be thine. Thou must prevail
And come back conquering and glorious."
Thereat Pilsam roared like a brazen trumpet,
Charged the Iranian centre swift as dust,
And struck to right and left with sword and ax,
With lion-roars assailed Gurgin like wind,
And smote upon the head his foeman's charger,
Which came down headlong in its agony.
This Gustaham, the well approved in war,
Beheld and, swiftly rushing from his post,
Made like a raging lion for Pilsam,
And closing with that fiercely blazing Fire
Thrust at his foeman's belt; the buckles held;
The spear was shivered in his grasp; he flung
The haft away. Pilsam drew his keen sword,
Struck Gustaham with fury on the crest,
And sent his helmet rolling, leaving him
Stunned and disarmed. When Zanga on the right
Saw that fierce struggle he advanced to help,
And marked the evil plight of Gustaham.
Pilsam the Crocodile opposed the charge,
And, coming with an Indian sword in hand,
Struck at and clave the mail of Zanga's steed,
Which tumbled prone. The gallant warrior fell,
Took up, and knit his mail-skirt round his waist
To strive afoot against the great Pilsam
Amid the dust - the prey against the lion.
Dark clouds of dust rose from the scene of strife.
Giv, looking from the centre of the host
And seeing earth dark in the heroes' eyes,
Roared like the thunder on the mountain-top,
Or like the savage lion in the fight.
He went to aid his comrades, and all four
Attacked Pilsam. That hero blenched no jot,
But rushed upon them plying sword and mace
The four chiefs' hands were paralysed with wonder.
Piran, beholding from the centre, saw
His brother's desperate case, rushed forth to help him,
And shouted furiously to Giv: "O noble!
It is no glory for you four to fight
One lion-like and famous warrior."
He spake and charged amid a cloud of dust,
While Rustam too rushed bravely to the mellay
And smote with sword and axe and massive mace
The captains of the army of Turan.
Then fled Pilsam, well knowing that that Dragon
Would have his life. The Iranian chiefs and warriors
Slew with the massive mace so many Turkmans
That corpses were piled up to reach the moon.
Afrasiyab looked on and sighing cried:-
"Where is Alkus the warrior who wished
So oft to fight with Lions, in his cups
Would challenge Giv and plan a fight with Rustam?
Iran was all that he would talk of then,
Where are his ardour and his bluster now?"
Alkus was told, urged on his night-hued steed,
And with his hands no doubt already bathed
In blood came to the centre to the king,
And cried aloud: "A man of war am I,
A Lion waiting. At the king's command
I will go forth to battle single-handed."
The monarch. said: "Choose captains from the host."
More than a thousand valiant cavaliers
Went with him, carrying head-strewing lances,
And glittering like Jupiter and Venus.
Alkus as he approached the Ininians
Obscured the sun and moon in clouds of dust,
And when Zawara showed and challenged fight
Soon countered him and thought: "This should be Rustam,"
Because he knew the seed of Nariman.
Zawara charged in lion-wise, but when
His lance snapped, he was frayed and drew his sword.
They veiled the world with dust. Both falchions shivered.
They seized their maces. Quick as wind Alkus
Dealt such a blow as left Zawara senseless,
Who swooned and tumbled speechless from his saddle.
Alkus leaped down to take his foernan's head,
But Rustam seeing how his brother fared
Rushed like a fire toward him with a shout
Which shook Alkus' hand and dulled his sword.
At hearing Rustam's voice thou wouldst have said:-
"His heart showed through his skin." Swift as the wind
He mounted, all forgetful of his manhood,
And Rustam said: "Thou hadst not measured then
The Lion's claws and therefore wast so brave."
Then while Zawara, blood-stained, sorely wounded,
And battered by the mace, regained his saddle,
Alkus encountered Rustam and thereby
Robed his bark-saddle with a winding-sheet,
For thrusting with a spear at Rustam's girdle
He failed to pierce the mail, while Rustam thrust
A spear at his foe's head and dashed him down
As 'twere a mountain-crag to earth, his helmet
Drowned in his heart's blood, while both armies wondered.
Then fear came on the soldiers of Turan,
While lion-like the seven warriors
Drew, and their gallant captains followed them
With massive maces laid upon their shoulders.
Afrasiyab beheld them with amaze,
Turned, gazed upon his mighty men, and said :-
"The foe hath overcome you. Strive and battle
Like valiant pards."
The soldiers heard his voice,
And fell on Rustam in a mass, while he
Charged them in fury with the seven warriors.
They Brave and routed all the Turkman host,
Incarnadined the land with brave men's blood,
And laid so many low that hvhat with corpses
And trunklessheads no vacant space was seen
For troops to fight on, wheel, or pass between.

How Afrasiyab fled from the Battlefield

Afrasiyab turned rein on seeing this,
And fled, like some dark cloud, pursued by Rustam,
Who thus exhorted Rakhsh: "My clever steed!
Lag not in battle-time, for I will slay
The monarch by thine aid and make the plain
Like coral with his blood:'
The fiery charger
Sped on so rapidly that thou hadst said :-
"His flanks have put forth wings!" Then Rustam loosed
The lasso from the straps and aimed to catch
His foeman round the waist. The leathern noose
Fell on his helm;the Turkmans' leader snatched
His neck away; again the wind-foot steed
Beneath him sped like fire. Afrasiyab
Escaped, but with wet cheeks and drouthy mouth,
While all his horsemen hurried after him
With spirits broken and with shattered arms.
He sped like wind and overpassed the stream
With stricken heart, his soldiers mostly slain
He searched the world for honey and found poison.
Of treasures and of thrones, of crowns and girdles,
Of swords and jerkins, jewelry and helms,
Of noble steeds caparisoned with gold,
Of casques and scimitars with golden scabbards,
And other gear, great store fell to the Iranians.
They gathered all and left the field, rejoicing,
They did not strip the slain or seek the fallen,
But went back to the hunting-ground and took
All kinds of steeds and equipage. They wrote
'To Shah Kaus to tell of hunt and fight,
And how they had not lost a warrior;
Zawara had been thrown and that was all.
The paladin remained two weeks with mirth
Upon the scene of triumph, on the third
They sought the Shah and saw his glorious crown.
The custom of our Wayside Inn is so,
One man hath quiet and another woe.
In this wise or in that time passeth by;
Why should a wise man feel anxiety?
The legends of this matter now are told,
Such as have reached us from the days of old.

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