Rostam and his Horse Rakhsh (Shahnameh Reading Project 10)

Join Tessa Gratton and me as we read the Shahnameh by Abolqasem Ferdowsi. We’re using the Dick Davis translation (Penguin Classics).

Today’s portion: Rostam and His Horse Rakhsh

Synopsis: Rostram chooses a horse that was foretold to be his.

TG: This was a nice, short episode to dig into, and I was most struck at what an important role the mare had. She protected her foal for his destiny by attacking anyone tried to take him like a lioness, and even though she doesn’t have a name, she was the first horse described in this section, and described beautifully.

Interesting to me that the horses are linked to lions and dragons — I’ve read some in the past about war horses, and they truly are vicious when trained for war.

My favorite part of this piece, though, was the line “the price of this horse is Iran itself.” The horse is quite literally priceless, but also costs a very important promise. I love the symbolism of this exchange.

I went looking for some images of Rakhsh, and they’re plentiful, but very interestingly I also discovered that Rakhsh is the name for an Iranian armoured truck.

Some of my favorite images of the horse Rakhsh:

Sleeping_Rustam (Image from the British Museum)’s%20horse%20Rakhsh.jpg Here’s another painting from one of the illustrated versions of Shahnameh! This one on a webpage through the British Library. Interesting that the horse is painted in a pattern like a leopard or giraffe! that is not what I was imagining by the description of “saffron petals, mottled red and gold” but I can see how that’s near what they meant.

Rostam's horse Rakhsh



The price of this horse is Iran

This line is everything. This is why I read. This is why I write. If a story started off with this sequence it would be nice but it wouldn’t mean anything special; it wouldn’t have weight and resonance. It’s only after the build up of episodes, after the disasters of the war with Turan and the lack of a king, that it hits with all the power and majesty that I want from a story.

I actually read this section and the next one right after finishing the Turan/Iran war section because I was so filled with adrenalin and with all the “what happens next!” feels. We are really headed into the famous meat of the tale.


Next week: Rostam and Kay Qobad

Previously: Introduction, The First Kings, The Demon King Zahhak, Feraydun and His Three Sons, The Story of Iraj, The Vengeance of Manuchehr, Sam & The Simorgh, The Tale of Zal and Rudabeh, Rostam, the Son of Zal-Dastan, The Beginning of the War Between Iran and Turan