The Word in Ferdowsi's Shahnameh

In Shahnameh, as is the case in religious holy texts, the "word" is considered the embodiment of the "idea" which in turn is the progenitor of creation. The "divine" word of God contains the eternal truths and is the link between the creator and his creations. In Persian mythology, too, the word, which is man's most wondrous attribute, had divine origin so that he would not be deprived of God's grace. As an epic poet, Ferdowsi has chosen man and his worldly surroundings as the focus of his poetry where words forever reflect his own observations of men and events. Epic poetry is extrovert but is not solely centered on the external world. The epic poet perceives the world through his inner senses and imbues and colors it with his own meanings and values.

The splendor, clarity and glory of Ferdowsi's words spring from three inter-related sources: belief in the uniquely transcendent mission of word; the nobility and free spirit of the kings and heroes of his epics; and their incredible fates and deeds. The powerful impact of the poet's words, emanates not only from the clarity and magnificence of the images that he has so ably constructed but also form the purity and universality of the truths about human nature as reflected in the characters of his protagonists. But, truth, unaccompanied by an inner belief will not suffice and Ferdowsi's words evince both his existential affinity with, and worldly understanding of, what he sees as the truth.

Ferdowsi, having experienced life on both spiritual and spatial planes, conceives of his words as the building blocs of an immortal edifice, never to be touched by the passage of time and its ravages. This architectural image is surely the reflection of the poet's dream of remaining forever alive within the confines of his words. A thousand years after his dream has not been shattered.

Shahrokh Meskoob
Current Issue: 
Past Issue