The Shahnameh is a collection of stories and myths from ancient Iran, filled with kings, heroes, princesses, magical animals and demons. Written as an epic poem by the poet Ferdowsi in the 10th century, it is one of the great classics of Persian literature. The tales include the Simurgh, the giant bird who brings up an orphaned king in her nest on a craggy rock, wicked King Zahhak with his man-eating snakes, and above all the story of the great hero Rustam and his son Sohrab.
Elizabeth Laird is passionate about bringing this great epic poem to the children of western cultures, as well as retelling it for Iranian children living in the West.
AT THE BEGINNING OF TIME
King Hushang, the Master of Fire
King Tahmuras, the Tamer of Animals
Jamshid the Glorious, Master of the World
THE WICKED KING ZAHHAK
Zahhak Murders his Father
Greedy Zahhak and his Loathsome Snakes
The Death of the Great Jamshid Faranak Hides her Little Son
Feridun Learns the Truth Kaveh, the Courageous Blacksmith
Feridun Rides to War The Triumph of Feridun
SAM, THE FIRST CHAMPION OF KINGS
The Champion Sam, and Zal, his White-Haired Son
Sam Searches for his Son Zal Goes Hunting
King Mehrab's Beautiful Daughter
Rudabeh's Companions Set their Trap
The Falcon Catches the Dove
The Marriage of Zal and Rudabeh
RUSTAM THE HERO
A Champion is Born The Miraculous Baby
Rustam and the White Elephant Trouble Comes to Iran
Rustam Finds his Marvellous Horse Rustam Seeks for a King
The Noble Kay Kobad
THE FOOLISH KING KAY KAVUS
The White Demon of Mazanderan
Zal Hears the News
THE SEVEN TRIALS OF RUSTAM
Rustam's First Trial Rustam's Second Trial
Rustam's Third Trial
Rustam's Fourth Trial Rustam's Fifth Trial
Rustam's Sixth Trial Rustam Finds the King
Rustam's Seventh Trial Ulad Wins his Kingdom
KAY KAVUS THE FOOLISH
Rebellion in Barbary The King of Hamaveran's Daughter
The King of Hamaveran Takes his Revenge
Kay Kavus Flies with the Eagles
THE STORY OF RUSTAM AND SOHRAB
Rustam Loses Rakhsh The King of Samagan's Daughter
Tahmineh The Birth of Sohrab
Afrasyab Plots and Plans Sohrab and the White Fortress
Gordafarid, the Warrior Girl
RUSTAM IS SUMMONED
King Kavus Sends for Rustam The Anger of Kay Kavus
Kay Kavus and Rustam March to War
Rustam Spies on Sohrab Sohrab Looks for Rustam
THE BATTLE OF SOHRAB AND RUSTAM
Sohrab Makes his Challenge
The First Battle Between Sohrab and Rustam
Sohrab and Rustam Return to their Camps
Sohrab Throws Rustam to the Ground
The Final Battle The Grief of Rustam
The Death of Rustam
Kaveh, the Courageous Blacksmith
Zahhak sat hunched on his ivory throne, with his crown of turquoise
pressing down on his head, brooding about Feridun, while the snakes
writhed on his shoulders.
"I must be protected," he thought. "I must gather armies of men,
with demons and angels in the ranks, to save me from this boy."
One day, as he sat scowling in his audience hall, there was a commotion
at the door of the palace.
"I want justice!" a man was shouting. "I demand to see the king!"
"Who is it? Who's there?" asked Zahhak fearfully.
A furious man entered the audience chamber, beating his head with
his hands."I am Kaveh, the blacksmith," he called out in his deep voice.
"And you, O king, are an evil tyrant! Eighteen sons I had, good men all
of them. Seventeen have been sacrificed to feed your loathsome snakes,
and now the last, my youngest, waits for death. What have I done to
deserve this? Let my last son go! You owe me this, at least."
Zahhak listened, frightened and astonished. Then he smiled a false
"You will see what a good and noble king I am," he said. "Your
son is free to go. But first sign this document, which my elders have
prepared, telling the world how merciful I am."
The sight of the document made Kaveh more furious than ever.
"Give that thing to me," he bellowed. "I'll show you how I'll sign it!"
He snatched the document from Zahhak's hands, and tore it in two.
The king's servants and courtiers stared in wonder as Kaveh strode
away to rescue his imprisoned son.
"Why did you let him go, sire?" they asked Zahhak. "No one has
ever dared to speak to you like that before."
Zahhak shook his head, puzzled. "When he entered my hall," he said,
"I seemed to see a mountain of iron rise up between us, and when he
beat his hands against his head, I felt that my own heart was bruised."
The blacksmith's son leaps from the tyrant's cage
And the streets echo to his cries of rage,
While on the throne the serpents writhe and hiss.
Threatening Zahhak with their deadly kiss.
Outside the palace, a crowd gathered around the blacksmith and his son.
Kaveh ripped off the leather apron which he wore when working in his
forge, and fixed it to a lance to make a banner.
"Men of honour!" he cried. "Follow me! We'll go to Feridun. He'll
deliver us from the tyrant Zahhak!"
A cheer went up. The people flocked to Kaveh's leather banner. They
followed him all the way to Feridun's palace, and when the young hero
came out to greet them, they raised a deafening shout.
"You are the man to lead us!" they cried. "You'll be our king!"
Feridun took the leather apron and decorated it with cloth of gold
and sparkling jewels. On the tip of Kaveh's lance, he placed a moonwhite
globe. "This will be my royal banner," he declared.
A humble apron, with its leather string,
Is now the sign and symbol of a king.