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Persian Monsters

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I'm going to take a leaf from the book of a previous Moderator and post short, bite-sized summaries that describe various  mythical beings and heroes from Persian myth and folklore. Much of the following entries will be based on information drawn  from my own somewhat meagre store of knowledge, as well as certain particularly helpful web sites that I will be sure to mention at a later date.

Simurgh is a giant female raptor that features prominently in the Shahnameh, a sprawling epic  written by the distinguished poet Ferdowsi.  As Ferdowsi's tale goes,  the great Persian hero Saam abandoned his newborn son Zaal to perish in the brutal wilderness of the Alborz mountain , believing the albino infant to be the offspring of ''daevs'' or demons due to his unatural colouration. Upon hearing the infant's cries, Simurgh which dwelt on the peak of the mountain, felt tempted to feed the helpless infant to her own hatchlings.  However, as she was about to slay it, she heard a divine voice urging her to spare the child's life instead. Moved, she chose to raise the abandoned Zaal as one of her own offspring. During this period, she imparted to him all her wisdom and knowledge, which was considerable indeed. Finally, when Zaal became a man and expressed his desire to join the world of  humans, she gave him three golden feathers at his deparure, promising to come to his aid if he ever burned them. 

Zaal evantually marrried and fathered upon his wife a son. When she finally begun to give birth to his progeny however, disaster struck.  An unusually large infant, the baby's arrival caused serious complications. that threateend to kill his mother. In desaperation, Zaal burned one of the three golden fathers that had been given to him, thus summoning Simurgh. Following her  arrival, she instructed Zaal how to perform a ceasarean operation that allowed his son to be delivered safely.  This infant would grow up to be the mighty and renown warrrior Rustam.

Decades later,  as a great warrior, Rustam challenged a prince by the name of Isfandiyar to a mortal duel. The challenge was readily accepted. As the battle  progressed, Rustam soon found himself gravely wounded by the numerous arrows fired by Isfandiyar  who had received a boon of invincibility from the great sage Zoraster. Seeing the dire plight of his son, Zaal quickly burnt the second golden feather of Smirugh's that yet remained to him. Hastening to his appeal, Simurgh attempted to persuade Rustam to end his fight with Isfandiyar who was revered as a great and virtous hero. She warned him that evil would befall him should Ishfandiyar perish by his hands.  Rustam's efforts to reach a truce were spurned  by the prince however. In order to save Rustam's life, Simurgh urged Rustam to fire an arrow point into the forehead of Isfandiyar.  Rustam promptly acted as she advised, slaying Isfandiyar instantly and in the process, ensuring his own evantual doom.

Azi Dahaka

Azi Dahaka is a monstrous, multi-headed and tripple bellied daev or demon. Somewhat resembling a dragon or snake, he is one of the evil spirits that serve the supreme evil being Angra Mainyu and represents corruption and greed. It is believed that whenever Azi Dahaka bleeds, his body spawns thousands of venomous insects and snakes. The sacred Zorastrian text, the Vendidad, describes how Azi Dahka was defeated by Atar, the god of fire who is also the son of Ahura Mazda, the benovalent diety that keeps the forces of evil at bay and rules the world. When Azi Dahka seized the Haverano, a mystical item that grants the possessor the qualities and abilities required to govern as a king, Atar confronted the daev and threatened to set his triple bellies aflame unless Azia Dahaka relinquished his hold on the Haverano. Terrified of the god's raging flames, Azi Dahaka did as commanded and fled Atar's blazing presence.  However, the demon's mischief was only ended permanently after the great hero Thraetona defeated him and had him imprisioned in the bowels of Mount Demavand. It is prophesied that when the world nears its end, Azi Dahaka will break free of his chains and will proceed to kill a third of humanity before he is finally vanquished for good.


Raskh was the beloved steed of Rustam. Tremedously strong and large, Raskh was believed to be as tall as a camel and was endowed with a strength equal to that of an Indian elephant's. Rustam accquired Rask prior to embarking on a quest to rescue Kei Kubad, the rightful king of Iran who had been abducted by demons. In order to ensure that Rustam had a means to transport that would allow him to reach the abode of the demons, Rustam's father Zaal permitted him to pick a mount from any one of the vast herds roaming the land of Zabulistan. He then went about testing the strength of each horse by placing his hands on its back. Unable to bear his tremendous strength, each horse quickly toppled to its knees, leaving Rustam despondent about his chances of ever securing a decent mount. Just as his spirits begun to flagg, Rustam quickly spotted a ferocious looking mare guarding a foal. Moving swiftly to seize the foal, Rustam found himself attacked by its mother and drove off the mare by roaring like a lion. Rustam immediately tested the foal's strength and was amazed to learn that when he rested his hand on its back, it scarecly seem to notice the pressure being exerted on its back. Delighted, he questioned the herdsman guarding the horses as to who owned this particular foal, only to be cryptically told that it belonged to whoever was willing to fight the foes of Persia and its people.  From that moment on, the foal became his inseperable companion. Rustam named its Raskh after the Persian word for lightning. Raskh soon proved that he had a ferocious temper.  On a journey to Manzendran once, Rustam and Raskh stopped in a reed field to spend the night. As Rustam slumbered, he was approached by a lion intent on devouring him. Seeing the approach of the beast, Raskh became furious with its daring and ambushed it, attacking the lion with his fore hooves and jaws. When Rustam awoke, he saw the corpse of a mauled lion with Raskh standing next to it. Raskh also saved Rustam's life on another occassion, this time from a dragon. As Rustam slept once again in the open,  he was approached by a dragon. Once again, Raskh spotted the nocturnal predator. To alert Rustam, he stomped his hooves, awakening his master. But as Rustam awoke, the dragon vanished. But no sooner  had Rustam returned to sleep, then the dragon appeared again, prompting Raskh to stomp his hooves again. This continued until Rustam finally threatened to behead Raskh if his horse disturbed his sleep once again.   When the dragon re-appeared yet again, Raskh became enraged and pawed the ground violently, causing it to crack. This time, he attacked the dragon, sinking his teeth into its shoulder. Seeing the flames that the dragon belched forth,  Rustam rushed to the aid of his horse and hacked the monster's head off. Following this event, Raskh went on to have many adventures with his master, until he finally met his death in a trap laid by Rustam's treacherous half brother. When both Rustam and Raskh were tricked into falling into a pit lined with blades, Raskh became impaled and perished. Reacting swiftly, Rustam avenged the death of his loyal steed by putting an arrow in his half-brother before his life too was claimed by the blades of the pit.


The demon Akvan is remembered in the Shahnameh as one of the most dangerous foes that Rustam ever confronted in battle.  Assuming the form of a wild ass, Akvan was fond of attacking the royal herds belonging to Kay Khusrow, the king Of Iran. He would join the herd and then proceeding to break the necks of any horses that were within his reach. When the king wearied of the continued assaults of this savage animal on his herds, he ordered Rustam to slay the creature.
Hastening to his lord's aid, Rustam promised that the monster, be it a demon, lion or a male dragon would easily fall to his blade. Seeking the creature for three days, Rustam finally saw  Akvan on the fourth day. Akvan was truly hideous.  Although the demon shone lustrously like gold, he possesed a head that resembled that of an elephant, while tusks protruded  out of his mouth.

Not intimidated in the least by Akvan's gruesome appearance, Rustam attempted to ensnare the ass's head with a lasso. However, Akvan easily vanished everytime Rustam threw the lasso at him or unleashed arrows against him. At last, Rustam became exhausted and decided to have a nap. As Rustam lay down and fell asleep, Akvan attacked the hero. Taking the form of a storm wind, Akvan grabbed Rustam and flew off into the sky with his captive. Awakening, Rustam was offered a simple choice by the demon.  Akvan would either hurl him into the mountains where lions would devour him or into the sea where he would drown.  Realising Akvan's nature only too well, Rustam begged the demon not to hurl him into the ocean, claiming his soul would not be able to ascend from its watery depths to heaven.  Akvan reacted by promptly throwing Rustam into the sea. Fighting off sharks with his dagger, Rustam swam to the shore.  Locating Raskh, he then rode off in search of a final confrontation with Akvan. When he finally encountered the demon again, Rustam roared like a lion and immediately ensnared Akvan's waist with his lasso. The hero then proceeded to smash Akvan's skull in with his mace, before finally hacking off the demon's head with his dagger.


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