Burning the Shahnameh


Burning the Shahnameh
by bahmani

Having written a comic book based on the Rostam & Sohrab tale from the Shahnameh, I am somewhat enamored, entranced, and engulfed by the greatest myth and romantic folklore ever written about our homeland.

In the Shahnameh, Ferdowsi's Rostam, is always the reluctant savior of Iran, which seems to be perpetually under attack from the evil Deev manipulating the mortals like Afrasiab into doing their worst bidding.

Rostam is always there, just in time, on the scene, bigger and badder than life, un-defeatable, and saves us from our own misfortunes always at our own hands. Rostam often becomes sullen and despondent from these heroic deeds, and never seems happy with us. One of the many reasons why in spite of many opportunities, Rostam never even contemplates taking the throne for himself. As easy and as obvious as it might be to do.

What has puzzled me is why Ferdowsi put so much trust into one man, and even though he always made fun of Kings in the Shahnameh, he never once did the obvious happy ending and put Rostam on the throne and be done with it.

Now as we look upon Iran, once again thrust into the hands of the evil Deev, with a new Afrasiab doing his evil worst bidding, many have started to look for a Rostam to arise and arrive and save us again.

Ferdowsi's other depiction of Rostam that has also puzzled me, is why is Rostam such a giant of a man? He is always described as huge, far bigger than mortal men, and I have wondered if in fact the depiction is meant to mean that Rostam is the embodiment of the Iranian people. That they should rise up as a giant and defeat evil and rid it from their land.

Maybe we are collectively Rostam? Maybe we are to arise and save Iran from the Deev?

I kind of like this metaphor, even if Ferdowsi did not in fact intend it, or that his depiction of Rostam was simply an outrageously large man with a penchant for a good fight, and hunting the occasional wild proverbial and literal Ass now and then.

But if I am right, then it is too perfect. That the real lesson from The Shahnameh could in fact be that while a "Rostam" (us) always arrives to save Iran from evil, just when he is needed most, almost at the last hour, that if we turn away from our duty as Iranian People ("Rostam") and ignore the cries and look around for a real Rostam, he (we) might never come to save the day.

Maybe we need to understand our duty, and destiny. Maybe we need to get this larger metaphor than Ferdowsi has laid out for us. Maybe we need to collectively be the Rostam and rise up and rid Iran from the Deev and his minions.

If not, then what use is the Shahnameh to us in the end? Maybe we ought to just burn the Shahnameh, and be done with it once and for all, and then sit and wait for a UN resolution and the French air force to save Iran instead.

But that would certainly be much less romantic and heroic and far less fun. For look at all the Asses in Iran that there are to hunt these days!


more from bahmani
Anahid Hojjati

Great, I know I can count on you if ...

by Anahid Hojjati on

any of the Ferdosi fans object. So far, they have not. Today's issue seems to be those who like their Persian food the old style or those who like it spicier.


I prefer hafez too.

by bahmani on

Hafez is such a work of sheer power and genius, that even someone as porroo as me knows better than to monkey with it.

Don't worry though, if any Shahnameh fan tries, I will proudly stand with you to defend the impenetrable fortress of Hafez.

A relatively easy thing to do, since we are of course, right. :)

Anahid Hojjati

Thanks Mr. Bahmani for a good article

by Anahid Hojjati on

I enjoyed reading your article. I hope SamSam is not reading my comment. But I think, even though I probably never verbalized it or thought extensively about it, for the same reason you are writing, I have always preferred Hafez and khayam to Ferdosi.  Now I have to be prepared for those Ferdosi lovers who might get upset with me :)).

Maryam Hojjat

Bahmani, Great metaphore

by Maryam Hojjat on

I enjoyed your analysis of Shahnameh e Ferdousi.

Mash Ghasem

Yes we is!

by Mash Ghasem on

Bahmani jan, another top notch essay, kudos. Till this very moment reading a comic book Rostam was the last thing on my list, not any more.

You're on to something very significant here; the possibility of Iranians acting as their own "collective saviour," or is that with a S, saviours?

Attar has also given us the myth of Simorgh in Conference of the Birds; and the surviving Thirty Birds looking at their own shadow while flying and seeing this giant bird, that was Simorgh, that was them, that was Simorgh, that was...

So, in our culture and in our history we have had many positive insatnces that we have acted in a collective manner to acheive our goals and aims. Could we do it now agaisnt IR? I'm very optimistic.

As far as Rostam's character portrayed in here, it might be a bit simplified, most probably becuase you want to keep your essay short and to the main point: collective salvation through self-organizing.

As we all know Rostam is a profoundly tragic figure; killing his own son:never having a settled life: getting killed by a punk of a brother: and his job description, basically dealing with ahole kings and monsters all the time. Not a happy life. Shoja'edin Shafa alludes to Shahnameh's similarity to the Greek drama's and tragedies, and though in a comparative sense  Rostam's narrative is not as bad as Antigone,all and all it's still pretty misreable. As you also pondered, is this the price of being a hero? who knows.

Do we need a hero? No. Can we be/act as our own collective hero? Hopefully yes!




Tina Turner- We Don't Need Another Hero.



TiTina Turner performing We Don't Need Another Hero.na Turner - We Don't Need Another Hero
Tina Turner - We Don't Need Another Hero
Tina Turner - We Don't Need Another Hero



Multiple Personality Disorder

very well written

by Multiple Personality Disorder on