The nations of the world each have their respective culture, national heroes and in most cases, almost mythological epic stories. Just as the British have the King Arthurian legends, how Greece has its ancient Odyssey, and how the Americas have their pre-Columbus history; other countries have similar tales and legendary figures which have shaped their past. Most of these stories have many things in common. In particular, all of the heroes performed daring or glorious deeds to make their country an admirable place. This book of Persian tales is no different. It takes the reader on a fantastic journey — to a distant figment of the custom and culture of ancient Persian storytelling.
In its original Persian form, written by a man named Firdausi in the 11th century, this book was first known as the “Epic of Kings.” And like the legends of King Arthur, Hercules and Beowulf, it is a collection of the legends of various kings of Persia, their escape from peril, and the battles they fought and won. Rustem is the real hero of this book. He has an inclination of appearing at precisely the right time with his keen wit and gigantic strength, to save the king from some disgrace or unfortunate situation just as things seem most ominous. Many of these stories are associated with Rustem’s remarkable steed Rakus.
The Shahnameh or Shah-nama (Persian: شاهنامه Šāhnāmeh, “The Epic of Kings”) is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 AD and is the national epic of Iran and related societies. Consisting of some 60,000 verses, the Shahnameh tells mainly the mythical and to some extent the historical past of (Greater) Iran from the creation of the world until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century.
The work is of central importance in Persian culture, regarded as a literary masterpiece, and definitive of ethno-national cultural identity of Iran. It is also important to the contemporary adherents of Zoroastrianism, in that it traces the historical links between the beginnings of the religion with the death of the last Zoroastrian ruler of Persia during the Muslim conquest.