CONTEXT A. BACKGROUND ON THE AUTHOR Firdausi Tousi, (935–1020) is considered to be one of the greatest Persian poets to have ever lived. Among the national heroes and literary greats of all time, Firdausi has a very special place. His life-long endeavor, dedication and personal sacrifices to preserve the national identity, language and heritage of his homeland put him in great hardship during his lifetime, but won him fame and honor for one of the greatest poetic masterpieces of all time: the Shahnameh.
Firdausi was born in the province of Tus, some 12 miles northeast of present-day Meshed. A land that had been controlled by the Islamic religion and the Arabs for about 300 years. It was with the writing of the Shahnameh (Book of Kings) by Firdausi that Persian literary influence began to grow in a nonpolitical way in the Arab world. Firdausi was just the pen name of the poet, his personal name and that of his father, according to al-Bundari, was ‘Mansur ben Hasan’. Firdausi’s family was rich enough to be independent. That made him able to study philosophy, astronomy, poetry, and astrology.
He was happily married to an educated musician who bore him a son, who died at the age of 37, and a daughter, who survived him. Firdausi began to write his masterpiece, the Shahnameh, at about the age of 40. His main motive in undertaking this great task was to revive the glory of ancient Iran. That is why Ferdausi used only Persian in his masterpiece. As Firdausi himself says “Persian language is revived by this work”. B. BACKGROUND ON THE TEXT The Shahnameh is structured according to the mythical and historical reign of 50 Persian Kings.
The epic can be roughly divided into three parts: the first part tells of the mythical creation of Persia and its earliest mythical past; the second part tells of the legendary Kings and the heroes Rostam and Sohrab which compromises most of the epic poem; the third part blends historical fact with legend, telling of the semi-mythical adventures of actual historical Kings. It is an enormous poetic opus written by the Persian poet Firdausi around 1000AD, is the national epic of the Persian speaking world.
The Shahnameh tells the mythical and historical past of Iran from the creation of the world up until the Islamic conquest of Iran in the 7th century, it is rich with exploits of love and betrayal, courage, and valor. Aside from its utmost literary importance, the Shahnameh written in almost pure Persian, had been essential for reviving the Persian language subsequent to the influence of the Arabs. This voluminous work, regarded by Persian speakers as a literary masterpiece, also reflects Iran’s history, cultural values, its ancient religions (Zoroastrianism), and its profound sense of nationhood.
There were insights that Firdausi’s 60,000 couplets epic poem is probably based mainly on an earlier prose version which itself was a compilation of old Iranian stories and historical facts and fables of the kings and heroes of Iran from mythical times down to the reign of Khosrau II (590-628), but it also contains additional material continuing the story to the overthrow of the Sassanids by the Arabs in the middle of the 7th century. However, there is without any doubt also a strong influence of oral literature, since the style of the Shahnameh shows characteristics of both written and oral literature.
Firdausi completed the Shahnameh at the point in time when national independence had been compromised. While there are memorable heroes and heroines of the classical type in this work, the real, ongoing hero is Iran itself. There is also this time in Iranian history where they call Shahnameh the “Persian Quran”. The Shahnameh is also considered to be one of the longest poems ever composed and recounts the history of Iran from the dawn of time to the Muslim Arab conquests of the seventh century AD. There is no Persian text, in prose or poetry, which has been so frequently and lavishly illustrated.
The Shahnameh can be divided into three main sections: the mythical age, the heroic age and the historical age. As a literary masterpiece, it has played a vital role in recording the antiquity of Iranian culture, preserving the heritage of Persian poetry, purifying the Persian language and ensuring its independence from the other languages. SUMMARY The first part of this epic poem or the mythical age deals with the cosmography and the creation of the world out of nothing. After the creation, it was followed by the ruling of Jamshid for over 700 hundred years.
When he was over thrown his reign was succeeded by the rule of the evil Serpent King Zahhak who is killed by a blacksmith. After Zahhak’s death King Faridun ruled over the land and comes after him were his sons. Then the part two of the epic poem or also known as the heroic age comes in. It begins with the birth of Zal from the union of Sam and an unnamed palace courtier. Zal is born to King Sam but the baby has hair as white as snow. Sam thinks his son is either an old man or a demon and orders the baby to be taken to the foothills of the Alborz mountains and be left there.
Zal is found by the magical Simorgh, the phoenix like bird with red and gold feathers who has her nest on the summit of the mountain. She carries the baby to her next and brings him up as her own. Some years later King Sam is reminded in a haunting dream how badly he has behaved towards his son. Sam feels remorse and sets out to the Alborz mountains to see if his son might still be alive. He finds his son a grown handsome young man, well brought up by the bird. Zal doesn’t want to leave the Simorgh, but she gives him one of her feathers and tells him if he is ever in trouble he must burn the feather and she will come to his aid.
Zal hears a description of Rudabeh, daughter of Mehrab and falls in love with the description. Rudabeh hears equal praise of Zal. They meet, but Rudabeh friends tease her about falling for a man with white hair brought up in a bird’s nest. And Zal is equally worried, for Rudabeh is an ancestor of the evil serpent King Zahhak. But despite these obstacles they vow to meet, Rudabeh offering to let her hair down Rapunzal like from her tower so that Zal can climb up and see her. But Zal doesn’t wish to hurt her and so they use a rope instead. They promise each other their hearts and can love no other.
And all the families agree to their marriage, which overcomes the negative influence of the past. Their wedding lasts 30 days. Rudabeh got pregnant, but was in great pain and unable to give birth. Zal remembers the Simorgh’s feather. He burns it and the Simorgh appears. The bird orders and arranges the first caesarean birth, giving Rudabeh healing herbs and stroking her with her feathers. Rudabeh gives birth to a huge son, “a lion cub”, Rostam. Rostam is a miracle baby and has grown into a boy within 5 days and to the height and strength of a young man within weeks.
As a child he is the only one who is able to kill a white elephant that is rampaging unstoppable through the palace. Due to that Rostam needs a horse and so all the horses in the kingdom are paraded in front of him. He places his hand on each horse’s back and each horse buckles under his strength and their bellies touch the ground. Then he sees a young foal, “brave as a lion, as tall as a camel, as strong as an elephant. ” No one knows who the foal belongs to and no one can catch him. Rostam is the only one who can catch and saddle the foal.
He says that the foal will be his war horse and calls the foal, Rakhsh, Lightning. During the reign of Rostam for 300 years, is the time which he overcomes seven heroic trials and many demons. Rostam sets off to free King Kay Kavus from demons. On the way he undergoes seven tests. These are known as the seven heroic trials (Lion, Desert, Dragon, Witch, Ulad, Demon King Arzhang, and The White Demon). After the seven tests Rakhsh is caught by Turkish horsemen while Rostam is asleep. Rostam goes to the King of Samangan for help. Tahmina, the King’s daughter has heard about Rostam and fallen in love with his description.
She comes into his room while he sleeps and he wakes to see her beauty. They fall in love and marry. Tahmina helps get Rakhsh back. Rostam doesn’t stay long and leaves to go on more campaigns. Before he leaves Rostam gives Tahmina a bracelet of gems, and if they have a child she is to give it to the baby. If it is a girl the girl can wear it in her hair, if it is a boy he should wear it on his arm. Rostam leaves and Tahmina never sees him again. Tahmina gives birth to a boy, Sohrab. At ten years old Sohrab asks who his father is. Tahmina tells him it is the champion Rostam, and gives Sohrab the bracelet.
She tells Sohrab to keep it secret that he is the son of Rostam, because she is afraid that he will be called to war like his father, and she will never see him again. Sohrab is given a wonderful horse. His strength becomes widely known and the King sends him to war. Sohrab and Rostam meet on the battle field and don’t know each other. Rostam is amazed by Sohrab’s strength. Sohrab senses that this might be his father, and tells Rostam not to fight. Rostam thinks Sohrab is trying to trick him. So Sohrab is about to kill Rostam. Rostam tells him that a true hero never kills at the first strike and Sohrab lets him go.
They fight again, but Sohrab is nervous and uncertain. He doesn’t want to fight and Rostam immediately mortally wounds Sohrab. As Sohrab dies he describes how he has been looking for his father and shows Rostam the bracelet. Rostam realises this is his own son. Sohrab dies and Rostam is overwhelmed with grief. After that he arranges a funeral for his son. The part three of the epic poem or known as the historical age focuses on the reigns and adventures of, among others: Key Khosrow; Siyavush; Goshtasp; Esfandiyar; Darius; Alexander, and Bahram Gur. ANALYSIS A. THEME THEME| EXPLANATION|
The Undying Power of Love| This is the thing that made up the story. Love connotes both positive and negative aspects, Rostam’s love for Taminah falls in for the positive aspect, the love that he felt when he first saw her and the love that they were proud of. But The love hat falls in the negative aspect is Rostam’s love fame, power, and for strength that eventually leads him to be away from his family. So he did not know anything about his son, therefore he unknowingly killed him. | B. MOTIFS MOTIFS| EXPLANATION| The Destructions of War| In a war nobody wins, but instead they all loose!
Because war does not only take away the material things that a person values like the land and all the riches. But sometimes because of war you lose your own flesh and blood. Just like what happen with Rostam, because duty calls for it he has to leave his wife and his child even before he set eyes on it, now look how war destroys the family. Then as the young Sohrab grows he does not have a father to guide him, now war is destroying his chance to be raise by his father. And now because of war he had to fight with his father without his father knowing that he is nothing but his own flesh and blood. A Mother’s Love| Why do you think Taminah told his son not to tell who his father was? Because she loved his son so much. And because of this love fear starts to grow inside her. The fear that once the higher officials knew about his son he will be called to war, and she will never see him again. | The Fate of A Warrior| Once you’re a warrior you must learn to accept 2 things one is that in order to survive now you have to kill, while the other is none other than to die in a battle. But in this case it is more heart braking in Rostam’s part to know that the boy whom he just killed is none other than his own son. | C. SYMBOLS
SYMBOLS| EXPLANATION| The Placement of Bracelet that is Given to Tahmina | Acording to Rostam when it is a daughter she should place it in her head, but if it is a son it should be placed in the arm. This depicts that if it’s a girl it’s her beauty that she will be known off just like her ancestors. But if it happens to be a son it’s his strength that is symbolized by his arm that will make him famous just like his ancestors the King’s of Persia. | The Three Rubies in the Bracelet| Using the mythological approach, number three symbolizes the spiritual belief, which shows that Rostam is asking for guidance from the gods.
Also, red is the color of ruby which depicts power, bravery, and love. A father’s love for his child to be, and the strength, power and bravery that runs in his blood. | Rostam’s Sphere| A man in that time is measured through his social status, bravery and courage and in the number of demons he has slain and the wars he had won. In this case Rostam’s sphere symbolizes all of these things. And as he continuous to sharpen the sphere for it to be ready for any battle, shows what kind of will and desire to win Rostam possesses. Marriage Under the Moon & Parting Under the Sun| Being married under the moonlight is a sign of asking for blessing, guidance and a strong marriage from a celestial being. But having to part ways under the sun in the middle of the day only shows the contradicting energy of the sun and the moon. This shows the binding and the unbinding of marriage. | The Son of Rakhsh as Sohrab’s Horse| This shows that just like Rostam Soharab too will walk through this path of wars and bloody death. and it began when he was given the son of Rakhsh. | D. FORM ELEMENT OF POETRY| EXPLANATION|
Stanza| Shahnameh is an epic poem having 60,000 couplets. | Rhyme| The epic poem has an end rhyme, which occurs in the end of two lines. | Symbolism| Shahnameh is filled with different symbolisms. From material things, to feelings and emotions, and even celestial bodies. | Imagery| There is imagery in the poem because as the reader reads the lines it enables you the reader to visualize what was happening on the text or what was the character is experiencing. | Figures of Speech| There were also figures of speech found in the text, like simile, personification, irony, symbol and many more. | STUDY QUESTIONS . Shahnameh is written during the Arab conquest in Persia (Iran), what do you think is Firdausi’s reason for writing this epic? 2. What is the reason why Shahnameh is called the ‘Persian Quran’? 3. How is Rostam similar to other epic heroes? 4. What is the importance of the tests Rostam has undergone? 5. In the epic there were scenes in which Rostam is sleeping while Rakhsh is fighting, what do you think is the meaning of this? 6. What is the similarity of Taminah, an ancient woman to the woman of the present generation? 7. Do you think Shahnameh should be called an epic? Why? Why not? ESSAY TOPICS 1.
It is said that Shahnameh is filled with four things such as love, betrayal, courage, and valor. Formulate an essay proving that it is true, and how these things enters in a person’s life and starts to complicate things. 2. What is your own opinion about war? Is it necessary, unavoidable? Is war really needed? Prove your answers. QUIZ 1. In the first part of the epic poem what is the world? a. The world is chaotic b. The world is ruled by the god’s c. The world is all but watersd. The world is filled with nothingness 2. Who is the ancestor of Rudabeh? a. King Zahhak b. King Sam c. King Faridumd. King Bahram Gur 3.
What did the Simorgh gave Zal when he is about to leave? a. A gold bar b. A serpent staff c. A featherd. An egg 4. What is Rostam’s description when he was born? a. The Serpent Kingb. A Lion Cub c. The Snow Whited. The Reaper of Monterey 5. What does ‘Rakhsh’ means? a. Thunder b. Stormc. Lightning d. Tornado 6. What is Rostam’s third test? a. A fight with the witch b. A fight with the lion c. A fight with the Demon King d. A fight with the Dragon 7. What did Rostam gave Taminah before he left? a. A Tiarab. A Kissc. A Ringd. A Bracelet 8. How old is Sohrab when he asked about his father? a. 15b. 10c. 12d. 13 . Where did Sohrab died? a. On the battle field b. On the infirmary c. On the boat d. On the chariot 10. The part three of the epic poem is known as the ? a. Mythical Ageb. Historical Age c. Heroic Aged. Archetypal Age REFERENCES http://shahnameh. eu/ferdowsi. html http://www. encyclopedia. com/topic/Firdausi. aspx http://books. google. com. ph/books/about/Shahnama. html? id=10xkB4rLRAUC=y http://www. medialeft. net/main/index. php? option=com_content=article=1846:ferdowsi-the-reviver-of-persian-language=145:kourosh-ziabari=269 http://www. bl. uk/learning/cult/inside/corner/shah/synopsis. html