Zahhak, the Persian Monster King

3226 Words13 Pages
The Symbolism of Snake as an Element of Monstrosity in a Folktale from Shahnameh By Ghazaal Bozorgmehr The story of Zahhak, the half-human half-snake king of Persia, is one of the folktales included in Shahnameh, the heroic book of epic poetry based on Persian folktales, turned into verse by the Persian poet, Ferdowsi, in 10th century AD. Since the literal translation of the word Shahnameh is The Book of the Kings, it is not surprising for the tale of Zahhak, the story of a monster-king, over thrown by a hero-king, to be the first tale chosen for this book to be composed into verse. To me this legend was significant in several ways for the connections it can make with the idea of monster, human, society and nation. The question is how the blurring of the borders between human and monster- given that the monster is in a ruling position in this story- can distort the borders of a nation. To answer this question I am going to, firstly, present a brief history of the era in which the story was shaped into verse by Ferdowsi. Next, there will be a summary of the tale itself; third, I am going to explore the symbolism of monstrous snake in Persian understanding regarding its connections with the evil and non-evil. Finally through associations presented among the image of the monster king of Persia, the symbolism of the snake and the history of the era, I am going to depict the possible role this particular monster-king folk tale could play in illustrating the historical context of the region called Persia in 10th AD when the Persian nation was experiencing threats to its borders. In the course of the development of this idea, I am also going to get the help of some paintings drawn in different eras of the monster king, Zahhak. The historical background out of which this particular story was picked by Ferdowsi can help understand some of the possible reasons for the
Open Document