Project 6060 – Lesson 54
The epic Iranian poet, Ferdowsi, versified the ‘Shahname’ more than one thousand years ago. The composition of this literary masterpiece took more than thirty years. The Shahname contains stories, legends and historical accounts of Iran and its kings. Its mythical hero is, ‘Rostam’, who has a horse called ‘Rakhsh’. He always comes to the aid of the Iranian kings to defeat their enemies.
One of the Shahname’s most famous stories is ‘The Seven Stages’ (or Seven Labours). In this story, Rostam wants to save ‘Keykavos’, the Iranian king of that time, and his soldiers, from the ‘White Demon’ because this demon had captured and blinded them. On the way, Rostam has seven adventures, all of which he overcomes successfully. Because of this, they call this story The Seven Stages. Here, we read a summary of the story in simple language:
Rakhsh Battles a Lion
For one whole day, Rostam was travelling when he stopped in a plain to prepare some food and he caught a zebra and grilled and ate it. He let his horse, Rakhsh, go free to graze in the plain and he, himself, slept. A lion lived in that plain and when it saw them, it said: “First I need to get rid of the horse, and then I can kill the horse’s owner.” Next, it went to attack Rakhsh, but Rakhsh beat its head with two hooves and sunk his teeth into its back and killed it.
Two hooves he brought down and on its head whacked Then he sunk his sharp teeth down into its back
When Rostam woke and saw the lion’s corpse, he said to Rakhsh: “Who told you to fight with a lion? Why didn’t you wake me up?” He said this and slept. The next day, after sunrise, Rostam continued on his way with Rakhsh.
Finding a Freshwater Spring
Rostam and Rakhsh arrived at a dry desert, with no water or grass. The desert was extremely hot and both had become thirsty and listless. Rostam could see no way to escape the desert or quench his thirst, and with his face to the sky he got busy praying.
Just then, a mountain sheep appeared by him. Seeing this mountain sheep, Rostam reasoned that this sheep must be drinking water from somewhere. Therefore, he set out to follow the sheep with Rakhsh. They arrived at a freshwater spring, drank from the spring water and then washed themselves in the spring water. Then Rostam told Rakhsh that he wanted to sleep, and to wake him up if an enemy should come near.
Should foe pass this way, come straight to me And with lion and demon fight not thee.
Rostam’s battle with a Dragon
All of a sudden, Rakhsh saw a dragon on the plain and woke Rostam up from his sleep, but the dragon disappeared. Rostam got angry at Rakhsh, wondering why he had woken him up with no reason, and went back to sleep. This happened once again and made Rostam even angrier. The third time the dragon appeared, this time Rakhsh woke Rostam up on time and Rostam saw the dragon. The dragon said to Rostam, “You can’t escape me and I will kill you.” Then it asked Rostam his name.
And so he replied, “my name is Rostam” From the lineage of Sam and Niram
Rostam began to struggle with the dragon. Rakhsh realised that the dragon was extremely strong and powerful, so he came to help Rostam and together they defeated the dragon. With his sword, Rostam cut off the dragon’s head then he continued on his journey with Rakhsh.
The Killing of the Witch
Rostam arrived at a place full of trees and vegetation. There he saw a wellspring, next to which were food, bread, a goblet full of wine and a musical instrument. First of all, Rostam played the instrument a little and sang. An old witch saw Rostam and transformed herself into a beautiful woman and went towards him.
Rostam was happy to see the beautiful girl and spoke the name of God in the song that he was singing. At that moment, the girl’s face changed back to its original form, which was like a demon or witch. When Rostam realised that she was a demon, he tied her up and cut her in half with a dagger.
Olad’s Capture by Rostam
Rostam continued on his way until he arrived at a river. He got down from Rakhsh and slept next to the river. And Rakhsh went into the meadow to graze. The meadow keeper of that region became angry at Rakhsh’s grazing and launched an attack against Rostam and kicked him. Rostam woke from his sleep and cut off the meadow keeper’s two ears. The meadow keeper went to ‘Olad’, the champion of the region and lodged a complaint about Rostam.
The meadow man came to him wailing with pain Bloodied ears in hands, which Rostam had maimed
Olad went with his army to fight Rostam and Rostam brought them all down and defeated Olad and told him “If you show me where the White Demon is, I will make you the king of Mazandaran. Otherwise I will kill you”. Olad accepted and set off after Rostam and Rakhsh to take them to the area of the White Demon.
Rostam’s fight with Arzhang the Demon
Olad took Rostam to the ‘Aspruz’ Mountain; the same place where Keykavos and his army had been bound. Once there, they realised that the mountain was being guarded by Arzhang the Demon. Rostam went towards Arzhang the Demon and let out a roar. Arzhang the Demon came out from there.
Rostam went to attack him and, with a swift blow, he killed Arzhang and so Arzhang’s army, who were demons got scared and ran away. In doing this, Rostam freed King Kavos and his army. Kavos showed Rostam the way to reach the White Demon’s cave and Rostam set off to kill the White Demon.
Rostam’s battle with the White Demon
Rostam and Olad arrived at ‘Haftkuh’. The White Demon was inside a cave there. They spent the night close to the cave. The morning of the next day, Rostam went towards their army and destroyed them all. Next, the battle between Rostam and the Demon began. First, Rostam cut one leg and one arm from his body and the Demon continued to fight Rostam in this state. Eventually, Rostam was victorious and the White Demon was killed.
He plunged his dagger into its heart Its liver from body he tore apart
Rostam took the liver out of the demon and instilled the blood from it into the eyes of Keykavos and the army and all of them regained their sight.
As such, using his strength and wit, and with help from Rakhsh and the guidance of Olad, Rostam successfully overcame seven difficult obstacles in order to save the King of Iran and his army. Rostam’s victory and his passage beyond these obstacles makes story of The Seven Labours interesting, exciting, and gripping.
Translation of Dialogue
Bahman: Have you read Ferdowsi’s Shahname?
Maryam: Some of its stories.
Bahman: Which of its stories do you like the most?
Maryam: ‘The Seven Stages’ and ‘Rostam and Sohrab’.
Bahman: Which of the stages do you like the most?
Maryam: The stage where Rostam and Rakhsh are in the desert with no water or grass.
Bahman: Why do you like this bit the most?
Maryam: Because in this section, Rostam uses his mind, as opposed to the other sections where he uses his force and strength.
Traduction de Dialogue
Traducción de Diálogo