Similar Literatures

While reading the Iliad by Homer, I found the poem so similar to a poem that not only me but many Persian people are grown up with, the Shahname.

Shahname is one of the greatest masterpieces in Iran’s literature. Hakim Abul-Ghasem Frowsy dedicated thirty years of his life (979-1010 A.D) to make such an astonishing 60,000-verse piece. Shahname is divided into three parts: first part, the mythical age, is the explanation of how the world and human came to existence and then talks about the first men who became the kings of the world and how human started to make home, discovered fire and developed civilization. The second part, which is the heroic age of the Shahname, deals with stories of the great pahlavanan, the knights or heroes, of Iran and their extraordinary power. The third part, the historical age, explains about the history of Iran from Ashkanian dynasty until the time when Islam enters Iran. The second part of the Shahname is where we can find many commonalities with the Iliad.

However unlike the Iliad, whose characters are gods and goddesses, Frowsy has chosen his characters human beings, the characteristics and the suggested messages are quiet similar to each other. Likely to Iliad, the Shahname has super power antagonists who are fighting with each other every time. For example, the same as Achilles, Esfandyar in the Shahname is the hero that his mother washes his body in a magical spring in order to keep him powerful and undying, but when he is under the water, fearing from water he closes his eyes and that makes his weak point (like Achilles and his heel). The Hector of the Shahname is Siavush, a handsome and noble pahlavan that before his birth the predictors had predicted him as someone who brings destruction and bad luck. Siavush’s father, Keikawus, is an obstinate and selfish king. He kills many people for his hunger for power.

Other than same characters, the Iliad and the Shahname try to show the people’s believe in unchangeable fate and destiny. Even after Esfandyar washes his body in the magical water to save his life, the death does not leave him alone. Esfandyar gets killed by his father-in-law, like Hercules who finally dies. The other tangible similarity is the struggle between good and bad during the story. The good and the bad might be the inner thoughts of the characters or the devils or the cruel god or the monster or Simorq (a kind on bird which is the symbol of knowledge in Persian literature).

Learning the similarities we find not only the Iliad and the Shahname but also many other stories and poems which have been inherited orally are similar to each other.


2 Responses to Similar Literatures

  1. kalpana23 says:

    Dear friend,
    Thank you very much indeed for the information about Shahname, which you said is similar to Iliad. It was interesting for me to read Iliad, and I have a desire to read the entire book some day. Now, you have added one more book in my list of “Books to read.” As I am totally unfamiliar with Persian myth, I guess it will be very informative and interesting for me. According to your writing, unlike Iliad, Shahname has human beings as characters, which is the most exciting thing I seek for.


    • zahra says:

      Dear friend,
      I am so happy to hear it. I’m sure if you try one Persian book, especially the poems, you will put all Persian books in your list. Sometimes, i feel so weak when I can’t convey the meaning of the beautiful and rich masterpieces of Persian authors. It would be great if you start reading them and catching their concepts by yourself. You can try Mowlana Rumi’s poems too. Then, you will be so excited that you can fly in the sky of love and passion and friendship.

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