ENG 283E: Our Premodern Epics: How Epics Create Culture and Vice Versa

Epic: Rostam Ipad App

Location: Zabul Province, Afghanistan.

The video is a trailer for the Ipad app of the comic book based on the Shahnameh hero Rostam(Rustam). In the Shahnameh and the Comic book, he is depicted as the "Matchless" and most powerful warrior hero in all of Persia’s history (Firdausi V. 1657). Like a much more tragic, Persian Superman, his life and exploits fit well into the format of Comic Books and their superheroes. The descriptive language of the Shahnameh gives good inspiration for the pages and pages of distinctively Persian art. Similarly, the poetic constraints(recording the political, religious, and mythical history of Persia in 60,000 rhyming couplets while not using any Arabic words) are mirrored in the textual constraints necessitated by the Comic medium. Rostam was born in Zabulistan, a historical region of the Persian Empire which roughly corresponds to the modern day Zabul province of Afghanistan. Though the heart of the Persian Empire is in Modern Iran, the Persian empire at it's height stretched from Greece and Northern Egypt almost all the way into India. Rostam, being born in Zabulistan, is something of a foreign hero a la Beowulf, additionally there is "a ring structure at least as noticeable as that noted in the Illiad or Beowulf (Davis 54). Asfandiyar even speaking "shame of the Race of Rostam"(Firdausi 14). The Superman comparison becomes even more apropos as Superman himself was a foreign hero. His father was rejected by his Grandfather and he, like his father, must gain respect through action, not birth. He is, like Heracles, forced to undergo a series of labors, however these labors are to save his Monarch, not his own soul. By practicing this selfless fealty, even though he is from the outskirts, the Epic of Rostam prioritizes bravery and nationalism as the predominate cultural values. Much like 1001 nights, the nation that the Shahnameh was written was incredibly diverse with extensive cross-cultural exchange networks. Unlike 1001 nights, the Shahnameh is in a sense attempting to preserve the history and cultural identity of the Persian people, as they adapt under Islamic rule. In this culturally progenerating tale, the ultimate hero is Rostam.

Works Cited:

Davis, Dick. “The Problem of Ferdowsî's Sources.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 116, no. 1, 1996, pp. 48–57. http://www.jstor.org/stable/606371.
Firdausi. The Shahnameh. London: K. Paul Trench, Trubner Company, 1905-1925. Document.

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