The Death of Rostam (Shahnameh Readalong 30)

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

This week we present an out of order chapter, the long-awaited podcast (hosted by the brilliant and magnificent Renay of Fangirl Happy Hour and Lady Business) in which you can hear Tessa and I discuss in person with each other the project, and the death of the great hero Rostam, about which we have many complicated thoughts.

Here’s an image of his death together with his loyal horse Rakhsh.


Find this week’s discussion on the Fangirl Happy Hour podcast.

Here’s another image of his death, using marquetry (inlaid wood):


Next week: We hop back to the regular sequence and, after the death of Sekander, continue on with The Ashkanians.

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, Rostam and His Horse Rakhsh, Rostam and Kay Qobad, Kay Kavus’s War Against the Demons of Manzanderan, The Seven Trials of Rostam, The King of Hamaveran and His Daughter Sudabeh, The Tale of Sohrab, The Legend of Seyavash Pt. 1, The Legend of Seyavash Pt. 2, The Legend of Seyavash Pt. 3, Forud the Son of Seyavash, The Akvan Div, Bizhan and Manizheh, The Occultation of Kay Khosrow, Rostam and Esfandyar Pt. 1, Rostam and Esfandyar Pt. 2, The Story of Darab and the Fuller, Sekander’s Conquest of Persia, The Reign of Sekander Pt. 1, The Reign of Sekander Pt. 2

2 thoughts on “The Death of Rostam (Shahnameh Readalong 30)

  1. I was listening to the podcast this past weekend (yeah, I know, I get behind on podcasts) and had a thought when you were talking about the contrast between how prominent Rostam is in the story with the fact that here he is in the Book of Kings and yet isn’t a king, doesn’t beget kings, and doesn’t even seem to be in the running to be a king.

    I wonder if this might be a byproduct of the merging of disparate types of traditional story into a single, conglomerate “national narrative”. Rostam seems much more in the “folk hero” line of work, which is often a separate tradition from the “annals of the kings / genealogical epic” text. If your Annals of the Kings tradition has a strong imperative to preserve an accurate historic record then, even if a prominent folk hero is incorporated into the larger narrative, I could understand resistance to converting him into a king if that wasn’t part of his original tradition.

  2. That makes sense, Heather.

    The explanation I’ve most often heard is that much of the Book of Kings deals with kings who rule justly and those who don’t, and Rostam is the exemplar of the loyal servant to the throne who serves the king regardless of how justly the king behaves because it is Rostam’s duty to serve and the king’s to rule. So even if the king strays from the path of just kingship, Rostam never strays from the path of just servant.

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