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, The Son of Zal-Dastan
Synopsis: Rudabeh nearly dies giving birth, but with the help of a wizard and the great bird Simorgh, Rostam is born to great acclaim.
TG: At first I was very worried Rudabeh was going to die giving birth to Rostam, in some terrible metaphor about how he’s too great and strong for this earth, much less a human woman’s body. BUT not only did she survive, she named him, and named him after her own trial with death. She also is the first to acknowlege the farr in him (“she saw the signs of royal glory”). I was so glad she made it, and to see the return of Simorgh, who raised Zal, and that Sindokht was present, too. Even though the line of men is obviously the most important, the women are not only not erased, but they come back and are part of the family in a way that creates the future, too, not just holding the history.
But let’s talk about the doll baby for a moment: in any modern Western narrative that would be the beginning of a story in which the doll becomes Rostam’s ultimate weakness, or evil doppelganger – possessed by the devil or something. Part of me hopes that’s where it’s going (and that the doll baby will, in fact, return at all) but part of me thinks it’s just one more fascinating detail dropped in as part of the story, only there to highlight how great Rostam is and will be. Not foreshadowing or the promise of danger. We shall see!
Additionally, I’ve noticed before that when a great mass of people is brought together (usually an army) the descriptions say the ground grows black. In this section the lines are: “the earth turned the color of ebony beneath the cavalry’s hooves” and “the earth turned black as pitch.” I’m wondering what this is in reference to. The great shadow of a gathered army darkening the ground? That’s the best I can come up with.