The Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings

The Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings

by Elizabeth Laird, Shirin Adl
     
 


The Shahnameh is a fabulous collection of stories and myths from ancient Persia, written into an epic poem by the poet Firdousi in the 10th century. The Shahnameh's place in Persian literature is equivalent to the Arthurian legend in Europe. The tales describe the beginning of the world, and include amazing birds who bring up orphaned Kings, noble horses…  See more details below

Overview


The Shahnameh is a fabulous collection of stories and myths from ancient Persia, written into an epic poem by the poet Firdousi in the 10th century. The Shahnameh's place in Persian literature is equivalent to the Arthurian legend in Europe. The tales describe the beginning of the world, and include amazing birds who bring up orphaned Kings, noble horses who kill lions to save their masters, wars between demons and heroes, a feisty princess who goes to war incognito, and above all the great hero Rostam, who tragically kills his own son Sohrab, not knowing his identity.
Elizabeth Laird is passionate about bringing this great epic poem to the children of western cultures, as well as retelling it for Iranian children living in the West.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Laird’s retelling of revered Persian poet Ferdowsi’s 10th-century epic poem (60,000 verses strong, it’s the national epic of Iran) takes the form of haunting scenes with a fiery cast of characters rivaling those of the Greek myths. The short prose passages detail the rise and fall of kings, forbidden romance, the wrath of demons, the betrayals of sons and fathers, and magical creatures. Borders of winding vines, dotted with birds and flowers, surround Laird’s text, while larger, vivid images are set within borders that recall Persian rugs. Adl’s gangly cartoon humans, demons, and animals are given depth by fabric, metallic, and other textural accents. With captivating villains and otherworldly adventure, it’s a retelling with obvious appeal to fans of myth, folklore, fantasy, and ancient culture. Ages 7–11. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

"Zahhak sat hunched on his ivory throne, with his crown of turquoise pressing down on his head, brooding about Feridun, while the snakes writhed on his shoulders.
'I must be protected,' he thought. 'I must gather armies of men, with demons and angels in the ranks, to save me from this boy.'"
— from the book
School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—These are the sort of tales that delight many children and draw them to literature. Completed by the poet Ferdowski in the early 11th century, and originally composed of 60,000 rhymed couplets, Shahnameh is the national epic of the Persian-speaking world. Its stories tell of the kings and heroes of ancient Iran from its mythical beginnings, when Kayumars, "a man of the mountains" chosen as the first king by the Great God, taught his people how to eat and dress themselves in skins. There are stories of great warriors like Sam and his son, Zal, who was raised by the Simurgh, a giant magical bird; Sam's grandson Rustam and his horse Rakhsh, who were forced to endure seven trials in order to rescue the foolish King Kavus, and the sad story of Rustam's son Sohrab, mortally wounded by his own father, who was ignorant of his identity. The stories are written in brief, descriptive narrative peppered with conversation that makes the principal characters more real and the tales more appealing. Occasional poetic breaks in the text-two to three rhyming couplets-paraphrase or summarize the action or present the thoughts of a major character. Each page is surrounded by a colorful border of vines and fanciful flowers; occasional small pen-and-ink line drawings show action scenes. Eleven brightly colored, pattern-filled single- and double-page paintings in a flat, primitive style are surrounded by quiltlike or illuminated borders, as were manuscripts of the original poem. A brief introduction, lists of contents and characters, and notes about the poet are included.Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Kirkus Reviews
In this adaptation of the Iranian epic, finished in the 11th century by Ferdowsi, the tragic tale of Rustam and Sohrab takes center stage. The chronology of Persian kings at the beginning is difficult to follow, with many names to master and innumerable battle scenes, but as the great hero Rustam enters the story, events begin to slow down. His exploits are described in detail. Years later, his son Sohrab, never having met his father, seeks him out on the battlefield. He is deceived by Rustam, who does not realize that Sohrab is his son. Sohrab's death at the hands of his father, ignorant of the relationship, is emotionally engaging. Laird's language is hyperbolic, as befits the description of mythological heroes, but it is always accessible, despite the occasional introduction of couplets reminiscent of the original poem. The illustrator uses elements of Persian miniatures in her naïve style, melding painting and collage. Handsomely produced with flowery borders on each page and intense color, the single- and double-page spreads are full of movement. Less successful are the smaller black-and-white vignettes, which are sometimes intertwined with the attractive borders. Lists of characters and museums with collections of Persian miniatures are included. Although there are many stories omitted in this version, this is an excellent starting place to encounter the ancient heroes of Iran. (introduction) (Folklore. 9-11)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781847802538
Publisher:
Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Publication date:
02/21/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
120
Product dimensions:
8.70(w) x 10.80(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt


Kaveh, the Courageous Blacksmith

Zahhak sat hunched on his ivory throne, with his crown of turquoise
pressing down on his head, brooding about Feridun, while the snakes
writhed on his shoulders.
“I must be protected,” he thought. “I must gather armies of men,
with demons and angels in the ranks, to save me from this boy.”
One day, as he sat scowling in his audience hall, there was a commotion
at the door of the palace.
“I want justice!” a man was shouting. “I demand to see the king!”
“Who is it? Who’s there?” asked Zahhak fearfully.
A furious man entered the audience chamber, beating his head with
his hands.“I am Kaveh, the blacksmith,” he called out in his deep voice.
“And you, O king, are an evil tyrant! Eighteen sons I had, good men all
of them. Seventeen have been sacrificed to feed your loathsome snakes,
and now the last, my youngest, waits for death. What have I done to
deserve this? Let my last son go! You owe me this, at least.”
Zahhak listened, frightened and astonished. Then he smiled a false
smile.
“You will see what a good and noble king I am,” he said. “Your
son is free to go. But first sign this document, which my elders have
prepared, telling the world how merciful I am.”
The sight of the document made Kaveh more furious than ever.
“Give that thing to me,” he bellowed. “I’ll show you how I’ll sign it!”
He snatched the document from Zahhak’s hands, and tore it in two.
The king’s servants and courtiers stared in wonder as Kaveh strode
away to rescue his imprisoned son.
“Why did you let him go, sire?” they asked Zahhak. “No one has
ever dared to speak to you like that before.”
Zahhak shook his head, puzzled. “When he entered my hall,” he said,
“I seemed to see a mountain of iron rise up between us, and when he
beat his hands against his head, I felt that my own heart was bruised.”
24 25
27
The blacksmith’s son leaps from the tyrant’s cage
And the streets echo to his cries of rage,
While on the throne the serpents writhe and hiss.
Threatening Zahhak with their deadly kiss.
Outside the palace, a crowd gathered around the blacksmith and his son.
Kaveh ripped off the leather apron which he wore when working in his
forge, and fixed it to a lance to make a banner.
“Men of honour!” he cried. “Follow me! We’ll go to Feridun. He’ll
deliver us from the tyrant Zahhak!”
A cheer went up. The people flocked to Kaveh’s leather banner. They
followed him all the way to Feridun’s palace, and when the young hero
came out to greet them, they raised a deafening shout.
“You are the man to lead us!” they cried. “You’ll be our king!”
Feridun took the leather apron and decorated it with cloth of gold
and sparkling jewels. On the tip of Kaveh’s lance, he placed a moonwhite
globe. “This will be my royal banner,” he declared.
A humble apron, with its leather string,
Is now the sign and symbol of a king.

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Meet the Author


Elizabeth Laird is the author of Red Sky in the Morning, The Garbage King, Crusade and Lost Riders. She has been shortlisted five times for the Carnegie Medal. She has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, and her son lived for four years in Iran. She met her husband while travelling in India and they lived together in Iraq, Lebanon and Austria. Her other books for Frances Lincoln are A Fistful of Pearls: Stories from Iraq, Pea Boy, and The Ogress and the Snake: Stories from Ethiopia. Laird divides her time between London and Edinburgh.
Shirin Adl was born in Harlow, Essex, and grew up in Iran. Back in England, she studied Illustration at Loughborough University, going on to win the Hallmark M&S Talented Designer Award. She also designs greetings cards and makes cartoons. Adl's books for Frances Lincoln are Ramadan Moon and Elizabeth Laird's Pea Boy. She lives in Oxford.

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