Thursday, October 12, 2006

Arash, Another Lookَ

My previous post was about Arash the Archer. It was a short retelling of the story in English by myself and I hope I have done it well, since it is one of my favorite stories. I believe, of course, the best narrative is by Siavash Kasrayi who told the old story in verse so beautifully. I think, there is an English translation of Kasrayi's narrative, although I have not read it.

The story, as you may have read from my previous post, tells the story of a man who puts his life on an arrow and throws it so far that it frees the entire land of Iran from the occupation of the barbarian Turanians and, believe it or not, every time I read the story it brings tears to my eyes. I'm not sure why. Probably because of the beauty of the story, or probably because of the great devotion of Arash, or probably both and much more. If you like the story, here's some more information about it.

The battles between the uncivilized people, called Turanians, who lived east of Iran in Central Asia shapes a large part of the Iranian legends and mythology, especially those narrated by Ferdowsi in his grand epic Shahnameh. Ferdowsi has referred to Arash in his book several times but has not mentioned the story. The story is attested in Avesta that shows how old it is (at least 1000 B.C.). In modern time, the story came into popularity again after Siavash Kasrayi published his narrative of it in verse.

Let's take another look at the legend.

The story starts in a time that Turanians have moved forward far into the Iranian territories and have reached near Mount Damavand. Damavand is usually considered the heart of Iran, and Iran at that time was a very larger country that its north eastern border was the Oxus river in Central Asia. Turanians, eager to smash the hearts of the peoples of Iran, suggest that the border between the two countries should be set upon the place an arrow, thrown by an Iranian archer, lands. No one in Iran is willing to accept the arrow until it comes to Arash, an ordinary man from an ordinary family. He goes upon the mountain and, knowing that no mere arrow can fly that much to cover all Iran-Zamin, puts his life on the arrow and throws it. The arrow flies by the power of his spirit and goes as far as the far bank of the Oxus and sets the eastern border of the empire for many centuries, while Arash's body is turned into many pieces and spread all over the land.

It is said that the spirit of Arash still dwells in Mount Damavand and helps the lost people find their way.


Jeremiah said...

Thank you for providing a short retelling of the story about Arash the Archer in English. It was interesting, and I appreciated the background information you provided. I hope you will add more posts about Iranian legends and mythology in the future.

That said, I wonder if the current government of Iran uses this story to convince Iranians to sacrifice themselves for the state? It can be admirable for an individual to voluntarily lay down his life for the good of the community, if it is necessary. However, the modern state does not do much that is either necessary or good.

Homayoon said...

I love mythology and I will surely add posts about Iranian legends in the future.

You know, the islamic government prefers not to teach people about things that has been in Iran before the islamic conquest of Iran. In their minds the glory of Iran starts after the islamic conquest (although almost all Iranians do not agree with this way of thought). If one suffices reading only what the government teaches at schools, he/she would probably never learn about heroes such as Arash!

I agree with you that the modern state is usually more of a bar in the way of its citizens and does not do much so that a citizen is going to willingly sacrifice his/her life for the government. Such sacrifice would only be acceptable if it is for the sake of the country and not the state. Arash's sacrifice was surely for the sake of his homeland, although at that time the government of Iran was a necessity of what its citizens called "Iran" and a Shah was something almost natural. Ancient Iranians believed strongly in monarchy (and honestly I strongly agree with them!).