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Full text of "The story-book of the Shah; or, Legends of old Persia"

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THE 

STORY-BOOK OF THE SHAH 

OR 

LEGENDS OF OLD PERSIA 




THE HE-GOAT 




Frontispiece 



KING JRMSHED AND THE GENII. 



THE STORY-BOOK OF 
THE SHAH 

OR 

LEGENDS OF OLD PERSIA 



ELLA C. SYKES 

AUTHOR OF " THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE ' 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY CLAUDE COOPER 

AND DECORATIONS BY ETHEL R. SYKES 

FROM PERSIAN SOURCES 



LONDON 

JOHN MACQUEEN 

49, RUPERT STREET, W. 
1901 



Gbese Stories 

ARE 

AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED 

TO 

MY LITTLE GOD-DAUGHTERS 

ENID, JOAN AND KATHLEEN 



5 




PREFACE 

THE old legends re-told in this book are as 
well-known to the Persians of to-day, as were 
the Siege of Troy or the adventures of 
Odysseus to the Athenians in the time of 
Pericles. 

Some eight centuries have now passed since 
the poet Firdausi, the Oriental Homer, collected 
these ancient tales of Kings and Heroes, and 
embodied them in a fine epic poem, the " Shah 
Nameh," which has been called the " Iliad of 
the East." 

This, alas ! I have not read in the original, 



545005 



VI 



PREFACE 



but I have endeavoured to make such characters 
as Jemshed, Rustem, Sohrab, and others, in- 
teresting to English readers, and have given 
local colour to my book by depicting, from my 
own experiences, gained during a two years' 
residence in the country, some of the aspects of 
Persia, and the different manners and customs 
of its inhabitants, as they are at the present 
day. 

In many cases I have taken only the bare 
outline of the story, filling it in with suitable 
incidents, and have tried to avoid the repetition 
and verbosity of the original, which would not 
appeal to the Western mind, as it does to the 
Eastern. 



CONTENTS 



. i 

THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED, . . . / . i 

II 

THE STORY OF KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDUN, . 45 

III 

THE STORIES OF ZAL AND THE CHILDHOOD OF RUSTEM, 73 

IV 
RUSTEM, THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, . . 95 

V 
RUSTEM AND SOHRAB, . . . .119 

VI 

THE STORY OF BYZUN AND MANfjEH, . . .143 

VII 
SOME OF THE FEATS OF RUSTEM, . ' ; . . 169 

VIII 
THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR, . . . . .189 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



PAGE 

KING JEMSHED AND THE GENII, . . Frontispiece 

KING JEMSHED AND THE SLAVE-GIRL, . . Facing 23 

FERIDUN AND THE GOOD GENIUS, . >j 54 

ZAL AND RUDABEH, .... ,,82 

RUSTEM FIGHTS WITH KING AFRASIYAB (FROM 

A PERSIAN PAINTING), . . . 101 

RUSTEM AND THE WHITE DEMON, . . ,,114 

KING KAI-KAUS TRYING TO FLY, . . ,,122 

RUSTEM AND SOHRAB, .... 138 

MANfjEH IN HER TENT, . . . ,,150 

THE COUNCIL OF THE WISE MEN, . . ,,183 
ISFENDIYAR CONQUERS THE KING OF INDIA 

(FROM A PERSIAN PAINTING), . . 190 

ISFENDIYAR AND THE DRAGON, . . 204 




I 



The Story of King Jemshed 



CHAPTER I 

IT has seemed to me that perhaps some English 
children might like to hear the stories that have 
delighted boys and girls in Persia for so many 
hundreds of years. 

We ourselves know all about " Jack the Giant- 
Killer," " Puss in Boots," and a host of those 
friends of our childhood, and, later on, we make 
acquaintance with Hercules, and Jason, and 
much -travelled Ulysses, but few of us have come 
1 A 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

across King Jemshed, the white-haired Zal, or 
mighty Rustem, and it is of these and others as 
renowned that I propose to tell you. 

The Persians relate that many hundreds of 
years ago their ancestors dwelt in the Elburz 
mountains, a lofty range to the north of their 
country. They were wont to sleep in caves on 
the hill-sides, and were clad in the skins of the 
animals which they had slain for food with their 
bows and arrows, each man living for himself, 
and owning no allegiance to anyone. But after 
a while they chose a king, Kaiumers by name, 
and he was so wise that even the animals 
assembled to do him homage. The lions 
and tigers came from their lairs in the distant 
forest, and wolves and leopards crouched 
before the monarch in company with the fierce 
wild boar and the fleet-footed ass of the desert. 

Kaiumers prospered and grew great and 
strong, but, unfortunately, he had an enemy, 
who was the King of the Divs or Demons, 
2 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

and who ruled over the fruitful province of 
Mazanderan, which lay to the north of Kaiu- 
mers' kingdom. Now these Demons were not 
to be lightly despised. They were like men in 
some ways, but had horns and long ears and 
tails, and were possessed of all the arts of 
sorcery and enchantment. Many of them were 
giants, so you see that it required great cour- 
age to fight against them, and, as they could 
call up whirlwinds and great fires at will, and 
could vanish whenever they pleased, it was 
far better to have them as friends than as 
enemies. 

However, poor Kaiumers had no choice. 
The king of the Demons announced that he 
intended to overthrow him and his kingdom, 
and sent a great army of cat-headed men, giants, 
and monsters of horrible aspect, into Persia. 
Kaiumers' son did his best to stem this terrible 
invasion, but, alas, to no purpose, for he was 
slain at the commencement of the battle, and 
3 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

the Persian soldiers fled in terror to their 
mountain fastnesses. 

Kaiumers grieved bitterly for the loss of his 
son, and his pride as a king was severely hurt, 
for the Demons overflowed the Persian lands, 
and, in the insolence of their triumph, treated 
the lawful inhabitants as their slaves. 

But the Gods above, who always guard the 
right, would not suffer this state of things for 
long, and one day a mysterious and awe- 
inspiring voice was heard by old Kaiumers in 
the remote cavern where he lay hid from his 
enemies. " Cease thy wild despair," it said. 
" Summon the bravest of thy subjects to thy 
standard, and victory shall crown thy arms." 
So the monarch roused himself, and, resolving 
to fight yet once again for his kingdom, com- 
manded his dearly-loved grandson, Husheng, 
to lead his forces. This youth did not trust 
to human help alone, but called the wild beasts 
to assist him, and it is said that even the birds 
4 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

of the air gave valuable aid in confusing the 
foe by flying in their faces and making swoops 
at their eyes. 

The great army of Demons was a terrible 
sight, enveloped as it was in flames and clouds 
of smoke, but the heroism of the Persians won 
the day, Husheng particularly distinguishing 
himself by slaying the Demon King and vari- 
ous members of his family in single combat. 
As was always the case in those days, the 
whole army was routed on the death of its 
leader, and the panic-stricken Divs were pur- 
sued by the tigers and wolves and panthers, 
which tore them to pieces as they fled. 

From now onwards the kingdom of Persia was 
secure, and civilization grew apace, and reached 
a climax in the long reign of Jemshed, the 
grandson of the valiant Husheng. 

Persians speak of the wisdom and power of 
this mighty monarch as we do of that of King 
Solomon. The Demons were subservient to 
5 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

his will, and he made them build magnificent 
palaces for him. They also launched vessels 
on the Caspian Sea, and even went so far as 
to transport Jemshed on his throne from one 
city to another in less time than it takes to 
write it. For seven hundred years Persia en- 
joyed a Golden Age under this king, so highly 
favoured by the Gods. During that time no 
one died or was ill, and Jemshed, along with 
his subjects, was in the very heyday of youth 
and strength, old age being unknown. 

But the greatness of his prosperity inflated 
the monarch with pride, and he forgot the 
gratitude due to the Gods to whom he and 
his people owed all their happiness. 

There came a day when he commanded 
everyone of his subjects to assemble in the 
great square in front of his palace. Now this 
mansion of the king, built by the Demons, 
was like a fairy dream. All the outside walls 
were covered with beautifully-painted tiles, and 
6 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

the many windows and balconies were made 
of fretted stonework, which was encrusted 
with bits of looking-glass, so that the whole 
building glittered and sparkled as if it had 
been besprinkled with diamonds. 

And we can still see this kind of ornamen- 
tation in Persia to-day, because the Persians 
have never quite forgotten the manner in 
which the Demons made King Jemshed's 
palace. 

Inside, there were lofty halls with springing 
fountains, and silk carpets covering soft divans 
on which to lie. The walls were hung with 
pictures and embroidered silks and jewelled 
hangings, everything much like a Persian 
palace of to-day, but, of course, far grander, 
mere men not being able to make things as 
well as the Genii can. 

The palace stood in the midst of the 
city, to the north of which rose the Elburz 
range, covered with snow, the great Volcano 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

Demavend sending up its smoke, lazily curling 
into the clear blue sky of a Persian winter. 

In front of the palace was placed the throne 
of mighty Jemshed, on which he could be 
carried from place to place in his kingdom in 
the twinkling of an eye. It was the handi- 
work of Demons, and was studded with every 
precious stone you have ever heard of, and 
a great many that you have not. As the 
brilliant sunshine lit it up, it was almost too 
dazzling for mortal eye to gaze on, and 
around it stood a great array of cat-headed 
Divs, gigantic Afreets, and fearsome-looking 
Jinns, while graceful Peris, a kind of fairy, 
held a magnificent awning over it. 

After a while the brazen trumpets blew, the 
toms-toms were beaten by men's hands, and 
the vast crowds became all agog with im- 
patience to see their mighty monarch, and to 
hear for what purpose he had commanded 
them thus to assemble. 
8 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

At last Jemshed, surrounded by his mightiest 
warriors and the most learned of his subjects, 
came forth from his palace and mounted the 
throne, while all the people fell on their faces 
before him, and did obeisance. 

He wore many silken coats, one over the 
other, and a fur mantle outside all the rest ; his 
gorgeously-embroidered trousers were tight at 
the ankles, and his slippers were of pure gold, 
while on his head was a big, many-coloured tur- 
ban with a huge diamond blazing in front of it. 

At the present day the Shah of Persia wears 
several coats, one over the other, but, as they 
are usually of buff or dark cloth, and his trousers 
like those of a European gentleman, you would 
not consider him very fine in appearance. 

On this occasion Jemshed looked so magni- 
ficent that from his loyal subjects arose a loud 
and prolonged " Bah ! bah ! " of admiration, and 
the Persians still show their astonishment and 
pleasure in the same manner. 
9 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

After a moment the great King raised his 
sceptre and commanded his people to rise 
and be silent. In an instant there was an 
intense stillness, and one could almost "hear 
Demavend smoking," as the saying went, so 
eager were all to listen to the " Shelter of the 
Universe," the " Asylum of the World," as 
Persians call their ruler. 

" Subjects of the greatest monarch on the 
earth," Jemshed began, "it is well for you to 
understand whence comes all your prosperity. 
Why is it that Disease and Poverty and 
Death are driven from this land? Why is it 
that you are always young and fair, and need 
never fear the approach of old age? The 
kingdoms on our frontiers are not favoured as 
we are. Famine and Pestilence visit all other 
nations, Death garners them in by thousands, 
and those he spares grow old and feeble. 
What is the reason of this difference ? " 

Here the King paused for a moment, and 
10 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

shouts of " Hail to the Mighty Gods ! " arose 
from the great concourse, and then ensued 
silence, for his subjects saw with surprise a 
dark frown gather upon the brow of their 
monarch. 

" You say your welfare is a gift from the 
Gods!" he cried out in anger. "Not so, you 
foolish ones, blind as moles or worms. Know 
you not that all the good gifts you enjoy pro- 
ceed from me myself? Know you not that it 
is I, the King, who have driven away Death 
and Sickness and Poverty from among you? 
Are you too ignorant to understand that Jem- 
shed himself is the source of all your joy and 
rest, that all goodness and greatness proceed 
from him ? " 

This impious speech was at first received 
with great acclamation by the vast crowd, but, 
even as they shouted, a cry arose among 
them of " Look at Demavend ! " and all eyes 

turned to the mountain. The snow-covered 
11 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

volcano had suddenly become of a dusky red 
hue, and a huge black cloud issued from the 
crater and was wafted down towards the plain, 
until it hovered over the awe-struck people who 
turned to Jemshed for aid in their terror. 

But, even as his subjects gazed upon him, 
the grandeur of the proud King vanished 
away. The gorgeous palace fell into a heap 
of unsightly ruins, the gem-studded throne, 
the wonder of the world, crumbled into dust, 
and Jemshed's royal robes became fluttering 
rags such as the very beggars would disdain. 

Along the ground glided venomous snakes, 
and loathsome lizards crawled among the 
populace, while the black cloud rained down 
a veritable army of huge scorpions, yellow 
and black, of fat-bodied, hairy tarantulas and 
swiftly-running centipedes. 

On all sides were clear signs of the anger of 
the Dwellers in the High Heavens, and as the 
people shrank away from the horrible reptiles 
12 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

and insects, they cried out that they would no 
longer obey Jemshed as their King, because 
he had lost the favour of the Gods through 
his impious pride. 

Poor monarch! He paid bitterly for his 
arrogance, and to the last day of his life he 
regretted that he had ever made that boastful 
speech. His regrets, however, came too late. 
The nobles and warriors, seeing that the Gods 
were against him, respected him no more, and 
many actually gave their allegiance to Zohak, 
an Arab King, who was a slave to Iblis, the 
Spirit of Evil. 

Accordingly, Zohak determined to conquer 
Persia, which was far larger and richer than 
his own kingdom, and sent a large army into 
that country. 

Jemshed did his best to guard his land from 
the hordes of wild Arabs that flowed into it, 
but, alas, in vain. His power was gone, and 

his very soldiers, who used to think they 
13 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

could never be conquered if only their King 
were with them, now cursed him openly, 
as he rode at their head on his milk-white 
charger. 

At last came a terrible day when all was 
lost. The entire Persian army refused to 
fight. The archers would not draw their bows, 
the slingers threw their stones on the ground 
instead of putting them into their slings, and 
the officers left their swords in their sheaths, 
and did not unfasten the heavy battle-axes 
from their saddles. 

Jemshed galloped to and fro among them, 
whirling his huge, spiked mace, and threatening 
to kill them if they did not make ready against 
the Arabs. But not a single man cared for the 
King's anger, though once every subject would 
have prostrated himself at the monarch's feet 
until commanded to rise. 

At last Jemshed saw that all his efforts were 
useless; and as he did not wish to be made 
14 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

prisoner by the Arab hosts, now thronging 
close upon him, he dug the corners of his 
shovel-shaped stirrups into his steed and dis- 
appeared across the plain in a cloud of dust. 
As his horse was the swiftest in Persia, the 
King soon out-distanced the Arab riders sent 
after him, and became a wanderer on the 
face of the earth, without a friend and with 
many foes. 

Where could he go ? To the North, on the 
far side of the Elburz mountains, lay the 
fertile slopes of Mazanderan, but this country 
was inhabited by Demons and Genii, who 
would assuredly kill him now, though only a 
short time back they had trembled at his 
frown, and obeyed his lightest behest. On 
the West were the Arab hordes, and far 
South ran the Persian Gulf, which report said 
was full of crocodiles and sharks and many other 
sea monsters, which were in the habit of com- 
ing inland to devour the wretched inhabitants. 
15 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

On thinking over all these things, Jemshed 
decided to make his way towards India, and, if 
possible, take service with some powerful king 
there, and perhaps in time obtain his aid in 
reconquering his lost kingdom. 

You would not think travelling in Persia, 
even at the present day, a very comfortable 
process. As there are no railways and very 
few roads, everyone has to get from place 
to place on horseback, and all the luggage is 
carried on the pack-saddles of mules. And 
when the day's march is over, you reach no 
comfortable hotel, but must do the best you 
can in a perfectly bare and often very dirty 
room in a caravanserai unless the weather is 
warm enough for you to pitch your tent. 

Jemshed, however, had no baggage and no 
tent, and he did not dare to enter the cara- 
vanserais for fear of being recognized. All 
the shelter he could get was in some peasant's 
small hut, made of mud. Day after day he 
16 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

would traverse broad plains, riding along a 
scarcely-defined track towards a range of 
barren hills, which he would painfully cross ; 
and every now and again a dreary expanse of 
desert had to be passed. 

These deserts in Persia are no light matter 
to the traveller. Water is only to be found 
at long distances apart, and there is no food 
of any kind for man or beast. 

On one occasion Jemshed nearly died of 
thirst in these terrible wastes. The water-skin, 
hanging from his saddle, was emptied to the 
last drop, and yet he had not reached the 
holes, which he had been told would contain 
the precious liquid. It was still winter, and 
the nights were bitterly cold, but during the day 
the sun blazed straight down from a turquoise 
sky on mounds of yellow sand, which his tired 
horse would avoid as far as possible, but 
which often had to be crossed as they rose in 
long chains before him. 

17 B 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

At last the milk-white steed could carry its 
rider no further, and the king struggled along 
wearily in the loose sand, his faithful com- 
panion stumbling after him. 

Two miserable days went by, and Jemshed, 
who had once quaffed the choicest wines of 
Shiraz, now suffered all the agonies of thirst, his 
swollen tongue seeming to fill his parched mouth. 

On the morning of the third day, the poor 
horse had not the strength to stagger to its 
feet, and the King went on his way, feeling a 
great despair overwhelming him. But, lo, and 
behold, as he surmounted the crest of a chain 
of sand hills, he saw a little tamarisk scrub 
growing at their base, and some shallow de- 
pressions in the ground below him. 

Water at last ! He threw himself down, and 
dug with his hands in the sand, which became 
moister and moister as he flung it out of the 
hole, and, in a moment or two, the precious liquid 
began to trickle slowly into this primitive well. 
18 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

When he had quenched his thirst, and felt 
his dried-up body expand again with the 
blessed moisture, his first thought was for his 
faithful horse. With some difficulty he filled 
up his astrakhan hat with water, and hurried 
back lest he should be too late. 

The poor animal lay stretched out and gasp- 
ing, but when Jemshed poured the liquid down 
its throat, it was able to get up and follow him 
to the holes, where it drank and drank as if it 
would never stop. 

Eastward, ever eastward, day after day, week 
after week! The glorious Persian sunsets 
flamed in the sky behind Jemshed, and lit up 
the ranges barring his way with gorgeous rose 
and purple tints, while every night the moon 
sailed across a sky of darkest sapphire in which 
the stars shone with a brilliancy unknown in 
England. Long before morning the curious 
" False Dawn" would often wake him, and then 
darkness would fall on the world again until a 
19 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

crimson streak in the East appeared and grew 
broader and broader. Then, all at once, the 
eastward sky would be sown broadcast with 
flocks of tiny rosy clouds, and the sun himself 
would leap into the heavens to begin a new 
day. 

But even the longest journey has an end, 
and at last Jemshed found himself in the king- 
dom of Zabulistan. This realm, which now forms 
part of India, used to send tribute every year 
to the once proud King of Persia, who was 
now entering it as a homeless wanderer, in 
fear of his life. 




20 



CHAPTER II 

GURENG, the King of Zabulistan, had a 
daughter, Ferooze or Turquoise by name, so 
beautiful that all the Court poets worked their 
hardest to find similes to describe her ex- 
ceeding loveliness. They compared her figure to 
the cypress, her walk to that of the pheasant, 
her face to the full moon, her lips to sugar, 
and her cheeks to the rose or the tulip ; but all 
confessed that no words could do justice to 
the brilliant splendour of her glorious eyes. 

As was only natural, this fair maiden had 
many lovers, but, so far, she had not cared for 
any of them, and her devoted father said that 
21 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

he would never force her to marry unless she 
herself wished to do so. 

She had an old nurse from Kabul, a woman 
skilled in all the enchantments of the Afghans, 
and who was able to foretell the future, 
besides reading many hidden secrets of the 
universe from the moon and the stars. 
This aged crone had prophesied often to her 
lovely mistress that she would become the wife 
of King Jemshed, whose power and achieve- 
ments had been the talk of every tongue, and 
the Princess was so proud at the brilliant 
prospect that she was scornful and haughty to 
the princes who came from far and wide to 
woo her. And, indeed, King Gureng himself 
was deeply impressed by the prophecy of the 
Kabuli nurse until the evil tidings reached 
him of the conquest of Persia by Zohak, and 
the disastrous flight of its monarch. 

Now it came to pass that Jemshed arrived 

at the city of Zabul in the month of May, 
22 




To face page 



THE SLAVE-GIRL SEES KING JEMSHED. 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

when the roses were in full bloom, and all 
the world was rejoicing in the delicious sun- 
shine, which would too soon become of almost 
unbearable strength. The poor refugee wished 
to enter into a big walled enclosure, outside 
the city-gate, shaded by trees and cool with 
running water, to repose after his long journey. 
But to his surprise he found guards posted 
at the entrance, who informed him that the 
Princess was inside, disporting herself with her 
maidens, and, therefore, no intruder might 
enter the garden. Jemshed was too tired to go 
further, so threw himself down in the shade 
of a tree outside. His marvellous youth and 
beauty, undimmed by the hundreds of years 
that he had dwelt on the earth, and uninjured 
by his terrible misfortune, at once attracted the 
notice of a slave-girl who chanced to come out 
of the gardens. To her inquiries the dethroned 
King answered that formerly he was rich and 
powerful, but that now he was too poor even to 
23 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

buy wine, and he begged the girl to give him 
some of his favourite drink, as it would lessen 
his miseries both of mind and body. 

The Princess and her train of girls inside 
the garden had been rinding the time pass 
somewhat slowly that day, and all listened 
in great excitement when the slave-girl 
rushed up to them, and, prostrating herself, 
informed her royal mistress that the most 
beautiful youth in the world was resting out- 
side the gate, and had begged her to give him 
wine as he was weary with travelling. 

Ferooze, who was not lacking in curiosity, at 
once rose and hastened to the entrance, and as 
soon as her eyes fell on the stranger she felt 
a strong affection for him and invited him to 
come into her garden. Jemshed hesitated to 
comply, as he feared his disguise might be pene- 
trated, and even when the lady told him who 
she was, and that her every wish was law to 
her father, he still hung back. But when she 
24 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

gazed at him with her melting eyes and held 
out her hand to him, he could no longer resist 
such charm and loveliness, and, entering the 
garden, he walked beside her along the shady 
avenues. Soon they came to a leaping foun- 
tain, around which fine carpets and soft cushions 
were spread, and the Princess bade the stranger 
seat himself beside her, clapping her hands as 
a signal to her slaves to bring the noon-day 
meal. 

The food was not like that to which we are 
accustomed, and was served on golden trays 
placed on a silken cloth laid on the ground. 

There was a great mound of pillau, 
which is boiled rice and butter mixed with 
chopped meat and vegetables ; also kabob-i- 
sikhs, which are bits of mutton and onion roasted 
on long wooden skewers, and chilav kabob, 
a very favourite dish, where tender pieces of 
meat are laid on a big pile of snowy rice and 
are eaten with butter and raw eggs. Plums 
25 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

and apricots flanked the meats, and there were 
so many kinds of sweetmeats, that it would 
only tire you were I to describe them, and 
would be unkind on my part, as you cannot 
taste them for yourselves. As there were no 
knives and forks, the Princess and her guest 
had to eat with their fingers, as the Persians 
do at the present day, and you would be quite 
astonished to see how neatly they do it. It is 
not at all an easy matter, as you will soon see, 
if you try to eat boiled rice in that way. 
Ferooze drank only water in a cup filled with 
snow, but the slave-girl handed Jemshed a 
brimming goblet of wine, and as he quaffed 
it his melancholy vanished, and he told the 
Princess that the ruby-tinted juice of the grape 
helped him to forget his enemies and misfor- 
tunes, and inspired him with courage to face 
the world again. As he spoke his eyes glowed, 
and he held the golden cup with such a grace 
that the royal girl was convinced he could be 
26 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

none other than King Jemshed himself, and she 
secretly sent a slave to the palace for a por- 
trait of the once mighty monarch, in order to 
compare it with the features of the stranger. 

Meantime two doves fluttered near where 
they sat, and, perching on a fragment of 
broken wall, began to bill and coo with one 
another. The Princess perceiving them, and 
anxious to show the stranger what she could 
do, sent for her bow and arrows. 

"Now, which bird shall I shoot?" she play- 
fully asked Jemshed. " Perhaps you are not 
aware that no warrior in the kingdom has so 
strong an arm or so sure an aim as I have ? " 
But Jemshed held out his own hand for the 
bow, and the royal beauty, falling ever deeper 
in love, yielded it to him. " Now, if I hit the 
mate," he cried, "shall the lady whom I 
admire most in the world be mine ? " Ferooze 
bowed her head in sign of assent, and mar- 
velled to see with what ease the handsome 
27 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

stranger handled the bow, which not one of 
her father's men of war could bend. The poor 
dove was slain, and then the lady took the 
bow, and asking whether she should have as 
husband the man whom she loved if her aim 
were true, she transfixed the other dove 
through the heart As Jemshed and the Prin- 
cess were gazing at one another with love shin- 
ing in their eyes, the old nurse from Kabul 
hobbled up to them, and pulled her mistress 
aside to inform her that the beautiful youth 
was no other than the King of Persia himself, 
whom Destiny had led to this spot to be her 
husband. And to make assurance doubly sure, 
a slave appeared carrying the portrait of the 
once mighty monarch, which the Princess in- 
vited her guest to look at. 

At the sight of the likeness of the King, 
clad in gorgeous robes, crowned with jewels, 
and seated on his wondrous throne, the master- 
piece of Demons, Jemshed burst into tears, so 
28 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

bitter was the remembrance of his past splen- 
dour as compared with his present wretchedness. 
But even then he would not confess that he 
was the original of the portrait, and long did 
he evade the inquiries of both the lady and 
her nurse, so fearful was he of being captured 
by the myrmidons of Zohak if he betrayed 
his name. 

However, the great love of Ferooze pre- 
vailed at last, and he poured out to her 
the whole history of his misfortunes and the 
downfall of his kingdom. 

The maiden, as she listened to him, made 
one of the fairest of pictures. She wore a 
loose-sleeved jacket of silver gauze richly em- 
broidered with gold, her long full trousers of 
silk were a very marvel of the loom, and the 
thick plaits of her black hair were crowned 
with a little jewelled cap. 

You must not think that she and Jemshed 

sat on chairs as we do, for such things were 
29 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

unknown then in Persia, and even now there 
are but few of them. No, they sat on their 
heels, and if you try to sit in that way, you 
will find it very uncomfortable, and you will 
get cramp in your legs if you do it for long. 
But, all the same, every Persian sits like that 
at the present day, and they don't find an 
English chair at all a pleasant kind of seat. 

When the royal wanderer had finished the 
recital of his woes, he was lost in gloomy 
thoughts for awhile, and forgot that the love 
of the fairest woman in the world was his, 
should he care to accept it 

Then the Princess laid her hand upon his 
arm, and, looking into the depths of his eyes, 
said : " The anger of the Gods has been 
kindled against you, but it will not endure for 
ever. Even now they give you a sign that 
their wrath is cooling. They have brought 
you here, and if you will wed with me, you 
will become King of Zabulistan when my 
30 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

father is no more, for he has no son to 
succeed him." 

Jemshed answered, however, that he dreaded 
lest misfortune should come upon Ferooze, 
should he marry her, and he felt that he 
ought never to allow her to join her lot with 
a being accursed of Heaven. 

So they argued with one another until 
they were interrupted by the old Kabuli nurse, 
who came limping up to them. "It is written 
in the stars that you, my mistress, are to wed 
with King Jemshed ! " she exclaimed. " No 
mortal power can keep apart those whom Des- 
tiny has ordained shall be one. Strive and 
struggle as you may, it will be all in vain." 
The words of the aged woman convinced 
Jemshed, and, bowing low before the Princess, 
he vowed to love and serve her to the best of 
his power and all his life long. 

The mollah or priest, who had taught 
Ferooze to read and write, and to understand 
31 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

the mysteries of her religion, was now sum- 
moned, and he married the royal pair accord- 
ing to the customs of Zabulistan. 

But the Princess sent no messenger to tell 
her father, King Gureng, of what she had 
done, as she feared his anger greatly, and was 
glad to think that he was away in a distant 
part of his dominions. 

The women now came to dance and sing 
before the newly-wedded couple, piling up great 
couches of fresh pink roses on which they re- 
clined and listened to the music. 

You would not have considered the dancing 
a very interesting performance, for it was not 
at all brisk or lively. 

Two slave girls shuffled backwards and for- 
wards, and threw themselves into various 
attitudes, one woman being able to bend right 
backwards until her head touched the ground, 
and then to raise herself slowly again, very red 
in the face. Some of the slaves beat tom-toms 
32 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

or drums loudly with their hands, while others 
played on instruments looking rather like 
guitars, and all the rest sang. You would 
have thought that the singing was a succession 
of yells and screeches, somewhat resembling 
the sounds in the Zoo when the animals are 
going to be fed, but, of course, Jemshed and 
the Princess enjoyed it greatly. 

When the singing and dancing were over, 
the attendants sprinkled the young couple with 
rose-water, and summoned one of the Court 
poets to amuse them with tales of old Kaiu- 
mers and his grandson, the valiant Husheng. 

I daresay Ferooze would have been much 
surprised had she known that her story and 
that of King Jemshed would be related in 
Persia hundreds of years after both of them 
were dead, and that Persians of to-day would 
crowd round some Dervish in scores, listening 
eagerly to the oft-repeated tale. 

But so it is, and the names of the proud 
33 c 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

monarch and his fair bride are as familiar 
to the boys and girls of far-off Persia as are 
those of "Dick Whittington" or "Jack the 
Giant- Killer" to us. 

###=## 

The weeks of the honeymoon glided by like 
a delicious dream, and Jemshed loved his wife 
more dearly than he could ever have done in 
the old days of his pride, when he cared for 
no one but himself. 

The Princess was far happier than words of 
mine can describe, though the news that King 
Gureng was coming back to his capital cast a 
shadow over her great joy. 

"Whatever may befall us in the future," she 
would say to herself, "nothing can take away 
from me these weeks of peerless happiness. 
If I must pass all the rest of my life in misery, 
I shall not feel that I have paid too 'high a 
price for Jemshed's love." 

When King Gureng returned to his palace, 
34 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

and was informed that his daughter, the apple 
of his eye, had married without his permission, 
his wrath was great, and he summoned her 
and her nurse into the royal presence, and 
reproached her for having united herself to a 
mere stranger. At this the Princess could no 
longer contain herself, and, reminding her father 
that he had always promised that she should 
wed the man she loved, she astounded him 
with the news that her husband was Jem- 
shed, the greatest king the world had ever 
known. 

The old Kabuli nurse then explained how 
her prophecy had been fulfilled, and how the 
marriage that she had foretold long ago had 
now come to pass, and as she spoke King 
Gureng's face gleamed with satisfaction. "Is 
it really Jemshed who is here and in my 
power ? " he exclaimed. " I owe you hearty 
thanks, my daughter, for having captured such 
a noble prize for me. I shall send him bound 
35 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

to Zohak, his deadly enemy, and the King of 
the Arabs will give me a fine kingdom in ex- 
change for him." But the girl threw herself 
at her father's feet and wept exceedingly. She 
lamented without ceasing, bidding Gureng re- 
member that such a deed of treachery would 
be severely punished at the great Day of 
Doom, and telling him that she would die if 
harm were to befall her husband, and her 
words had some effect on the monarch. 

To console her, he promised to give up his 
cruel design, and said he would do what he 
could for his son-in-law, even to giving him an 
army with which to re-conquer his kingdom. So 
the Princess rushed off joyously to Jemshed to 
tell him the good news. 

But, as often happens, King Gureng, on 
thinking over the matter, changed his mind 
again, and, knowing full well that Zohak would 
destroy the kingdom of Zabulistan if he knew 
that his enemy had taken refuge there, he 
36 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

called a council of his chief men and told them 
of the matter. 

They were horrified when they understood 
that Jemshed was in the country, and coun- 
selled their master to seize him at once, and 
imprison him, as, if not, the Arab King would 
most certainly invade Zabulistan. 

But Ferooze, whose suspicions had been 
aroused by the calling together of this council 
at an unusual hour, had hidden herself behind 
one of the silk carpets which draped the walls 
of the chamber, and had thus heard every 
word of the discussion. 

As soon as the last man had left the room 
she glided out, swathed in her white chaddar 
(mantle), and rapidly made her way to her hus- 
band, for not a moment was to be lost. " Light 
of my eyes ! " she exclaimed, as she hurried up 
to him, " you must leave me at once, and per- 
haps for ever, for my father is resolved to send 
you under a strong guard to the cruel Zohak." 
37 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

She was not a woman to give way to her 
grief when there was anything to be done, 
therefore she wasted no time in laments, but 
sent her most trusty slave to get a peasant 
dress for her husband. Then she stained his 
white skin with the juice of the walnut, sewing 
all the gold and jewels that she possessed into 
a belt, which she fastened round his waist. 

When he was ready to go, she saw with joy 
that few would recognize him for mighty 
Jemshed, and she kissed him once with all 
her heart, saying, " Go now, my lord ; I keep 
back my tears until you are gone out of my 
sight, for before me lie many grey and sad 
years, in which they will flow without ceasing." 
But he could not leave her without pressing 
her again and again to his heart. And then, 
once more, he set out as a wanderer on the 
face of the earth. 

From place to place he travelled, and so great 
was his misery that he hardly ever slept, and 
38 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

became more and more exhausted as the 
days dragged out their weary length. "To 
what end have I been born into the world?" 
he exclaimed one day, as he lay in the shade 
of a great tower in the fertile land of India. 
"Am I, whose glory once reached to the 
Heavens, to perish thus miserably? Oh, that I 
had never been granted the gift of life ! " And 
while he thought and wept, soft sleep overcame 
him and hid from his eyes the approach of 
Destiny. 

A cavalcade was passing near the tower, 
headed by an envoy from the court of Zohak, 
and the noble looked carelessly down at the 
sleeping man as he rode by him. In spite of 
the disguise, he recognized Jemshed at once, 
and, springing from his horse, he called on his 
soldiers to secure the royal prize, and led him 
in chains back to Persia. 

The cruel Zohak was delighted to hear of 
the capture, and ordered the prisoner to be 
39 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

dragged before his throne, that he might gloat 
over the man whom he had for so long tried 
in vain to get into his power. 

The wicked monarch taunted his helpless cap- 
tive as he stood bound before him. " Where is 
now your crown, where is your kingdom, and 
where are all your loyal subjects?" he asked, 
mockingly, and his rage grew greater as 
Jemshed boldly defied him. 

He then gave the once mighty King his 
choice of various painful modes of death, but 
the Persian laughed at him disdainfully, daring 
him to do his worst ; and at the last, after cruel 
tortures, died with a smile on his lips. 

Meanwhile the poor Princess wept and 
waited, eagerly interviewing every fakir who 
had begged his way from Persia to Zabulistan. 
But the weeks and months passed by without 
bringing her any news, so at last she began to 
hope that her husband had made good his escape. 
Alack, her hopes were but ill-founded ! One 
40 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

day she heard a Persian beggar chanting in a 
sing-song voice : 

"Khoda guft bidde, 
Shaitan guft nidde," 

which means, in English, " God tells you to 
give, but Satan says, * don't give.' " 

At once she summoned him to her presence, 
and questioned him as to the fate of King Jem- 
shed. The long-haired, wild-eyed fakir, with a 
leopard-skin hung over his shoulders, had come 
direct from the Court of Zohak, and had been 
among the crowd which had gathered round 
the hapless Persian monarch to see him pant 
forth his last breath in anguish. 

Therefore, hoping for large alms, he gave 
the unfortunate Princess a detailed account of 
the way in which her husband had been put to 
death. 

It was too much. Ferooze fainted back on 
the cushions of her divan, and no sooner had 
she come to her senses than she drank a 
41 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

draught of deadly poison, telling her sorrowing 
maidens that it was impossible for her to live 
any longer, so great was her misery. 

King Gureng, alas, repented too late of his 
treacherous conduct towards Jemshed, and 
mourned his lovely daughter all the rest of 
his days, dying a broken-hearted man. 

##=**# 

This is the story of great King Jemshed, 
which every boy and girl in Persia has heard 
a score of times. 

And when to-day some wandering Dervish 
relates the tale, and then passes round his 
carved gourd for alms at the end of the 
narrative, he never fails to impress the moral 
on his crowd of listeners. He will say, " Lo, 
King Jemshed was as a man who seeks to 
hide from his enemies, and yet rides a lofty 
camel, thinking, in his folly, that if he leans 
forward on its neck he will be unobserved. Or, 

again, he was as the partridge of Azerbaijan, 
42 



THE STORY OF KING JEMSHED 

which imagines it is secure from the hunters in 
winter-time if it do but bury its head in the 
snow. The great monarch had offended the 
mighty Gods by his overweening pride, and 
no long journeys, no disguises could hide him 
from their all-seeing gaze, and avert the just 
punishment of his presumption. Even so," and 
here the fakir will turn slowly and look 
fixedly at the people, "if there be some evil- 
doer among you who gather around me, do 
what he may, he can never escape from the 
terrible Eye of Allah." 




43 




i ', 

The Story of King Zohak and 
King 'Feridun 

IN this story I am going to tell you about 
the cruel tyrant Zohak who murdered King 
Jemshed, and whose name is still quoted in 
Persia as a type of all that is wicked. Zohak's 
father was King of the Arabs, and of so 
charitable a disposition that the Gods greatly 
multiplied his flocks and herds to reward him 
for his continual almsgiving. His son led a 
blameless life until the day when he was 
tempted by the Evil Spirit Iblis, who appeared 
to him as a holy man, and discoursed so beauti- 
45 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

fully of high matters, that the young Prince 
was completely deceived by him. 

As soon as Iblis saw what an impression he 
had made, he ceased talking, and when Zohak 
implored him to continue, he said that he could 
not say another word unless the Prince would 
swear to grant him one wish. 

The young man, feeling sure that the desire of 
so pious a Dervish must be righteous, assented ; 
but he was thrown into an agony of mind when 
Iblis revealed to him his horrible plan. "Thy 
father is now old and no longer fitted to be 
King," said the Evil Spirit. "Thou must kill 
him and sit on the throne in his stead." And 
when Zohak refused to consent to such wicked- 
ness, Iblis forced him to his will by saying, 
"Then I will kill thee myself, for thy oath has 
placed thee in my power." The Prince was not 
brave enough to face the idea of death, and 
actually allowed the Evil Spirit to dig a deep 
pit as a trap in the middle of the private path 
46 



KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDIJN 

which led from the palace to the House of 
Prayer. This Iblis covered over with grass, 
and when the good King went that evening to 
perform his devotions, he fell headlong into the 
hole, and perished miserably. 

His son now ruled in his stead, but was 
completely in the power of the Evil One, who 
promised to make him king of the whole 
world if he would obey him in all things. 
And so he grew more and more wicked every 
day. Up to this time Zohak and his subjects 
had fed only on bread and fruit ; but Iblis 
made savoury dishes from many kinds of birds 
and beasts, and each day delighted the King 
with some fresh exhibition of his skill. 

One evening this clever cook appeared with 
roast pheasants and partridges, and Zohak 
found his meal so appetizing that he begged 
Iblis to ask him for whatever he desired. " I 
have but one small wish, oh, noble King," said 
the wily Spirit, "and that is to kiss thy shoulder." 
47 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

The monarch, only too glad to gratify such an 
easy request, at once drew up his loose Eastern 
sleeve, and Iblis pressed his lips to the shoulder, 
and vanished immediately. But, lo, and behold, 
in the twinkling of an eye, two horrible black 
serpents grew on the spot touched by the 
Devil's mouth. 

All the wise men of the kingdom the doctors, 
magicians, and astrologers came to see the 
wonder, but none of them could cure the 
unfortunate Zohak, and the snakes writhed to 
and fro on his shoulder as if hungry for food. 

Iblis alone could have removed the spell, 
and he was nowhere to be found. But one day 
a reverend-looking doctor came to the palace 
and craved to see the King. It was really 
Iblis in disguise, and he informed Zohak that 
it had been foretold long ages ago in the stars 
that the Arab King was to be afflicted with 
these terrible serpents which would make him 
miserable throughout his life. 
48 



KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDUN 

At these words the luckless monarch nearly 
swooned with horror, but was roused by the 
pretended doctor, who said that if two human 
victims were offered up to the serpents every 
day, the spell would soon be broken. And 
Iblis went away, hoping that Zohak, in follow- 
ing his advice, would slay a great part of the 
human race. 

And now began a time of terror and anguish 
for the unfortunate subjects of the Arab King, 
because every day two youths were slain, and 
Zohak's cruelty and tyranny became greater 
than words can describe. In fact, so dreaded 
was his name throughout his own and the ad- 
joining lands, that when King Jemshed fell from 
the favour of the Gods, the Persian nobles 
offered their master's throne to Zohak, saying 
that they would rather have the slave of the 
Evil One for a friend than for an enemy. And 
as we have read, Zohak captured and cruelly 
put to death the unfortunate Jemshed, and 
49 D 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

ruled over Persia in his stead, taking his 
beautiful sister for his wife. 

But yet more punishments were in store for 
the man who had sold himself to the Power of 
Evil, and one night he was visited by a terrible 
dream. 

In it he was attacked by three warriors, and 
the youngest of them hit him on the head 
with an iron mace, and then bound him with 
ropes and dragged him along to some fearsome 
doom. At this point he woke up with yells of 
terror, and immediately called together the 
wise men of his Court, although day had not 
yet dawned, and demanded of them the 
meaning of the dream. 

But the magicians, fearing lest the King might 
slay them were they to tell him the interpre- 
tation, pretended that they must have time to 
study the question thoroughly. Zohak, however, 
was too much frightened to wait long, and on 
the fourth day insisted that they should speak. 
50 



y. 

rr 



KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDUN 

Trembling with fear, the wise men then told 
the meaning- of the dream. "Oh, mighty 
King," they said, "a child shall be born called 
Feridun, who shall slay thee and take thy 
crown." 

The Arab King was nearly mad with terror 
when he heard the fate in store for him, but 
resolving to do what he could to save himself 
from sure-footed Destiny, he ordered that his 
spies should discover whether there were any 
child in the kingdom called by the name of 
Feridun. 

After many conferences with his magicians, 
he learnt that his destroyer would proceed from 
a particular family, and accordingly commanded 
all the members of the tribe to which it be- 
longed to be bound and brought before him. 

The father of Feridun fled on hearing this 
ominous command, but was captured, and at 
once put to death. His wife, however, man- 
aged to make her escape with her infant, 
51 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

which she left on one of the slopes of the 
Elburz Range in charge of a herdsman, a pious 
man, who feared the Gods, and who gave away 
the milk of his cow in charity. The poor 
mother felt that her child was safer in the 
herdsman's cottage than with her as she wan- 
dered among the pathless mountains, moving 
from village to village in her flight. 

At the end of three years she returned to 
the herdsman, saying that the Gods had told 
her in a dream to remove her son from his 
care; and, indeed, it was well that she did so, 
for on the very next day Zohak and his 
soldiers appeared at the pasturage and killed 
the herdsman and all his tribe nay, even the 
cow herself to punish them for their share in 
sheltering Feridim. But the boy, the object of 
their expedition, could nowhere be found, for 
the mother and child had taken refuge with a 
wise Dervish who lived in a cave on the side 
of the fire-belching Volcano Demavend. 
52 



KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDUN 

If you ever go to Tehran, the present 
capital of Persia, you will be sure to see Mount 
Demavend, the tallest peak in the high Elburz 
Range, and it will become quite a friend to 
you, as you look at it many times a day, and 
notice how it glows rosy-red at sunset. But in 
the time of Feridun it was not quiet as it is 
now. Smoke was for ever belching forth from 
its summit, and every now and then great 
flames would burst out, and broad streams of 
melted metal, called lava, would pour down its 
sides in fiery floods. These terrible rivers 
were red-hot, and destroyed everything in their 
path. Sometimes awe-inspiring rumblings would 
be heard, shaking the earth for miles around, 
and occasionally making all the dwellings near 
the mountain totter and fall. 

And none, save perhaps some holy Dervish, 
would ever dare to climb to the summit, for it 
was the chosen home of many Genii and 
Demons. 

53 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

Here also the souls of the good were wont 
to rest during their flight to the other world; 
for the Persians thought that the top of 
Demavend reached almost into the Heavens. 

When, however, Feridim and his mother took 
shelter with the pious hermit, the boy, who 
was bold and feared nothing, began to wander 
about the great mountain. One day he heard 
a voice near him which said : " The Gods 
have decreed that you will destroy the wicked 
Zohak and become King of Persia in his stead." 

Feridun started a little, and looked round 
in some surprise, for he had imagined himself 
alone. But as he gazed, a sort of floating mist 
seemed to be rising from the ground, and slowly 
became a form like a gigantic man. "Fear 
not ! " the figure continued, " I am a benevolent 
Genius, and wish to help you to become a 
worthy King of Persia." 

And the Spirit was as good as his word. 
He taught the boy Jiow to ride, how to draw 
54 



KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDUN 

the bow and wield the sword, and instructed 
him in many hidden mysteries which were to 
prove of much use to him hereafter. 

At the age of sixteen, the young Feridun, 
with the face of a falcon and the eye of an 
eagle, had the air of a leader of men, and one 
day he told his mother that now the time had 
come for him to avenge the death of his father. 

His poor mother wept bitterly, and did her 
best to dissuade him from the attempt. " How 
can you, a mere boy, fight against the power- 
ful King Zohak?" she exclaimed. "He will 
take your life with cruel tortures, and I shall 
rue the day that you were born. Why leave 
me desolate and wretched? I cannot bear to 
part from you." 

But Feridun answered that the Gods would 
help the right ; and having bade farewell to 
the good Genius, who aided him greatly, 
he descended Mount Demavend and made 
his way to the haunts of men. If you 
55 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

had seen him on his white horse, the gift of 
the Genius, the animal breathing smoke from 
its nostrils and harnessed entirely with gold, 
you would have said he looked a Prince at the 



very least. ^"^IA 

He/ was clad from head to foot in golden 
chain-armour ; his helmet and shield were 
studded with gems, and in his hand he carried 
a huge cow-headed mace, in memory of the 
animal whose milk had nourished him in his 
early years. 

Following the counsel of the Genius, he 
boldly approached the magnificent city where 
King Jemshed had formerly reigned in such 
pomp. As he came near one of its twelve 
gateways, all covered in burnished tiles, he 
observed a great crowd issuing forth, and at 
its head marched a brawny man holding a 
spear, from the point of which waved a leather 
apron. This was Kavah, the blacksmith, whose 
two sons had been seized that very morning 
56 



KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDUN 

by the emissaries of Zohak, to be offered up 
in sacrifice to the serpents growing from the 
King's shoulder. Their father, half-mad with 
grief, had rushed into the Bazaars, and stir- 
ring up the people to a sense of their wrongs, 
called upon them to fight for freedom. 

" Let us find Feridim the Deliverer ! " he 
cried. "It is prophesied that he has been 
appointed by the Gods to free us from the 
cruelty of this Arab usurper," and tearing off 
his leather apron, he hoisted it as the standard 
of revolt, and thousands followed him out of 
the city. 

When the crowd saw a youth of such beauty 
and magnificence riding unattended, and evi- 
dently about to enter the town, everyone 
wondered who and what this gorgeously clad 
personage might be. 

Every eye was fixed upon him, when sud- 
denly the rumble of thunder was heard in the 
cloudless blue sky, from which pealed a mighty 
57 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

voice. " This is Feridun ! " it cried. " Persians, 
behold your King! He will deliver you from 
the tyrant Zohak." 

With one accord the multitudes prostrated 
themselves before the youth, and hailed him 
as their monarch with loud acclamations, march- 
ing in his wake, as he proudly rode through 
the fine gateway, confident of victory. 

He made his way slowly through the Bazaars, 
and the workers in brass and copper, the men 
painting on fine vellum or wood, the enamel- 
lers and jewellers, in fact everyone whom he 
passed, left their business and followed Feridun 
with great joy. 

And so he came to the Palace, but here a 
disappointment awaited him, for the wicked 
Zohak had been conveyed by the power of 
Iblis, the Spirit of Evil, to the city of Bagdad, 
on the River Tigris. 

There was nothing for it but to pursue him 
thither. It was not a very easy journey for a 
58 



KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDUN 

people not accustomed to marching. If you 
glance at a map of Persia, you will observe 
that they had to go through the provinces of 
Hamadam and Kermanshah, which are hilly 
countries, and then came a stretch of desert 
before they reached the great River Tigris. 
However, such was the power of the good 
Genius who befriended Feridun, that the 
Persians reached Bagdad in an incredibly short 
time. On their march the stony paths became 
level, the heat of the sun did not affect them, 
and at every camping place they found hun- 
dreds of tents, with clear streams running beside 
them, and actually enormous trays of pillau 
ready for the multitude to eat. Zohak was 
awaiting them, in a huge, strongly fortified 
tower built on the opposite bank of the river, 
and he felt confident that here he was safe, as 
he was guarded by strong enchantments and a 
talisman of magic virtue. 

But the Powers of Good are ever far 
59 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

stronger than the Powers of Evil, and so it 
proved in this case. The question was, how 
were Feridun's followers to cross the Tigris, 
for there was no bridge, and the boats of the 
city were but few and small ? 

Feridun, himself, was not in the least dis- 
mayed. First, calling upon the Gods to help 
him, he rode his white horse into the water, 
which suddenly became of such miraculous 
shallowness that all waded across in perfect 
safety, and proceeded to assault the tower. 

The stronghold was not, however, to be 
taken by human means, and Feridun's good 
Genius appeared to him at this crisis, giving him 
a wonderful wand which would destroy every- 
thing that opposed him. At its touch the walls 
of the once impregnable fortress tottered and 
fell, the magic talisman which guarded the 
tower was destroyed, and many evil Demons 
and Genii shrivelled up like dead leaves, and 
became mere handfuls of dust. 
60 



KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDUN 

But the wicked Zohak was nowhere to be 
found, for Iblis had transported him to far-off 
India, together with the entire Arab army. 

Therefore, when Feridun had taken all the 
treasures of Zohak, and had freed countless 
fair damsels, who had been imprisoned in the 
fortress by the cruel tyrant, he and his 
followers started in pursuit of the Arab King. 

Before they had gone very far, they were 
joined by the usurper's soldiers, who declared 
that they would no longer obey their cruel 
master, so Zohak was deserted by all, and 
wandered a homeless fugitive in fear of his life. 

Being a man of great courage, he deter- 
mined to be avenged on Feridun or perish in 
the attempt; and one night he approached the 
camp of the young Persian King in a carefully 
thought-out disguise. 

A Persian camp is almost noisier by night 
than it is by day. The horses neigh a great 
deal, and every now and then one breaks loose 
61 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

from its picket-rope and at once rushes to 
fight with its especial enemy. You would 
hardly believe what a disturbance this makes, 
as the horses squeal loudly and strike at one 
another with their hoofs, while the grooms with 
cries and shouts try to separate them before 
they hurt themselves. And all the time the 
little donkeys, which carry the bedding of the 
soldiers, never cease from braying, and the 
soldiers sit in parties round crackling camp 
fires, and enliven the dark hours with wild 
songs, some of them playing " sitarrahs or 
thumping tom-toms, and it really seems as if 
no one ever went to bed at all. 

Into such a camp as this, Zohak made his 
way and at once knew where Feridun was, 
because in front of a fine tent, made of scarlet 
cloth embroidered with pheasants, stood the 
royal standard of Persia. This was still the 
old leather apron that had once belonged to 
Kavah, the blacksmith, but now it was so 
62 



KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDUN 

covered with jewels and embroidery that you 
would not have recognized it, and for many 
centuries it was to Persia what the Union Jack 
is to Great Britain. 

Zohak crept softly up to the tent, and 
cautiously pulling back the flap just an inch 
or two, he saw Feridun lying on a pile of silk 
carpets. He felt that Fate had at last delivered 
his foe into his hand, and glided swiftly inside 
with his sword drawn. 

But the good Genius, who was never long 
absent from the Persian King, aroused him 
just in time, and Feridun sprang up and dealt 
his enemy a terrible blow with his iron-headed 
mace. He was about to kill him outright 
when a supernatural voice commanded him to 
forbear. 

"Stay thy hand, Feridun! Thou, oh Zohak, f 
must now suffer the penalty of thy horrible 
crimes. The Gods have sentenced thee to be ; 
bound with chains, and to be cast into a dark 
63 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

cavern of Mount Demavend, there to drag out 
thy miserable days." 

And even at that moment, Zohak was seized 
by invisible hands and carried off through the 
air to his doom. 

Feridun now reigned over Persia, and for 
many years the country flourished exceedingly 
under his wise rule ; but, unluckily, he did not 
manage his sons as well as he did his sub- 
jects. 

When the three young Princes were of age, 
he married them to the beautiful daughters of 
the King of Yemen, and then divided his 
empire into three parts. To Selim and Tur, 
his elder sons, he gave the barren and 
uncivilized provinces of Rum and Turan, but 
to Irij, his youngest and best beloved, he gave 
Persia, and he himself dwelt with this son to 
advise and support him in his kingdom. 

However, this division by no means pleased 
the elder brothers, and the two conspired 
64 



KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDUN 

together to oust Irij from his kingdom and to 
take it for themselves. 

When the news of their design reached 
Persia, Feridun, who appears to have greatly 
changed in old age, advised Irij to give up 
everything to his brethren, telling him that he 
could not resist them successfully, and that, 
life being so short, it really was not worth 
while to trouble overmuch about anything. 

Irij agreed entirely with his father, and set 
out to visit his brothers, and to assure them 
that his kingdom was theirs, and that he him- 
self only desired a quiet life. He alluded to 
Jemshed's cruel fate, saying that it had not 
greatly availed that monarch to have had the 
whole world at his feet. And when he arrived 
in the kingdom of Turan, travelling with a 
band of his friends in a simple way without 
any pomp or ceremony, the hearts of his 
brothers were touched by his prompt sub- 
mission. 

65 E 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

But, as it happened, Irij was possessed of 
great personal attractions, and wherever he 
moved all eyes were upon him, and the 
soldiers of Selim and Tur invariably broke out 
into applause as he passed them. This not 
unnaturally aroused the jealousy of the two 
brothers, and when they heard the warriors 
saying that Irij was far more kingly in appear- 
ance than their own princes, and that they 
would gladly march to battle under his banner, 
Selim told Tur that their brother must be put 
to death. 

And the very next day Tur began to blame 
Irij for having accepted Persia instead of one 
of the two barren kingdoms to the north which 
were perpetually harassed by the Turks. He 
refused to listen to the soft words of his peace- 
ably-inclined brother, and, working himself up 
into a fury, ran upon him with a dagger and 
slew him. 

Then these cruel brothers embalmed the 
66 



KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDUN 

head of the young prince, and sent it to old 
Feridun. 

This monarch was waiting in some anxiety 
for the return of his favourite son, and his 
loyal subjects had arranged a splendid reception 
for their young ruler. Many bands of music, 
fair damsels moving in the slow Persian dance, 
and processions of men on horseback leading 
riderless steeds, were ready to welcome Irij ; 
but who can picture the dismay when the 
horrible truth was known ? 

Poor old Feridun, nearly crazed with grief, 
ordered all his subjects to drape themselves in 
black. The parchment of the cheerful drums 
was broken and the flaunting banners were 
rent asunder, as the monarch interred the 
head of his beloved son, and called on 
Heaven for vengeance. 

And the mighty Gods heard the prayer of the 
agonized father, although perhaps to Feridun 
the day of retribution seemed long in coming. 
67 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

Irij had no son to avenge him, but when 
his little daughter grew up and was married, 
she became the mother of Minuchihr, and her 
child was said by all to greatly resemble both 
Feridun and his ill-fated heir. 

The old monarch adored his great-grandson, 
and did everything to fit him to rule over 
Persia, and the boy was beloved of the whole 
nation, the soldiers frequently telling him that 
they were ready to follow him to the death. 

Feridun had not been idle during all 
these years, for he had collected a vast 
army and had trained it to such a pitch of 
efficiency that his wicked sons became seriously 
alarmed. 

From time to time reports reached them of 
the bravery of the young Minuchihr, and, 
thinking that discretion might be the better 
part of valour, they sent a messenger with 
magnificent presents to Feridun, but the old 
man looked at the costly offerings coldly, and 
68 



KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDUN 

inquired of the envoy with what message he 
was charged by his masters. 

The nobleman then explained that Selim 
and Tur were deeply penitent on account of 
the murder of Irij and begged for pardon, as 
the Evil Spirit had persuaded them to do the 
wicked deed against their will. They asked 
their father, as a proof of forgiveness, to 
send his great-grandson to them ; and, if 
Feridun wished, they would resign their 
kingdoms to him. 

But the aged king was not to be deceived 
by fair words. He bade the envoy tell his 
masters that Minuchihr intended to visit them, 
but at the head of a great army, and, to let 
him see that this was no idle boast, he showed 
the nobleman a host of the mightiest warriors 
of his kingdom, and then sent him and the 
presents away with angry contempt. 

The brothers were much vexed, but, having 
decided to strike the first blow, marched forth 
69 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

at the head of their armies towards Persia. 
Feridun was in nowise perturbed at this move. 
He said that the invaders were but as lions 
walking straight into the traps prepared for 
them, and he exerted himself to see that all 
was ready in his own powerful army. 

And the great forces met face to face, and 
fought desperately from sunrise to sunset, the 
army of Minuchihr winning the day, for the 
Gods were on the side of the Persian host. 
Both Selim and Tur were slain, and after the 
battle the armies of the two wicked brothers 
gave in their allegiance to the conqueror, who 
returned with great triumph to old Feridun. 
And when that monarch died, Minuchihr 
ascended the thrones of Persia, Rum, and 
Turan, and observed all the counsels of his 
great-grandfather, being ever most devout in 
the worship of the Gods who had helped 
him in all his dangers. 

And the Persians see in these tales of olden 
70 



KING ZOHAK AND KING FERIDUN 

days, that however much an evil man may 
prosper at the outset, the Gods will surely 
punish him in the end, while they never for- 
sake those who trust in them and do their 
will. 




71 




Ill 

The Stories of Zal and the 
Childhood of Rustem 

AND now I want to tell you something 
about the two greatest Heroes of Persia, 
whose names at the present day are applied 
to any man who is especially brave or strong. 

1 The most powerful warrior at the court of 
King Minuchihr was called Sam, and he 
longed greatly for a son to carry on his 
mighty name. But when the Gods granted his 
desire, the warrior was much grieved, because 
the child, though beautiful and strong, had 
snow-white hair. 

73 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

All the Persians, who admired Sam for 
his valour, pitied him on account of the boy, 
saying that the child must be of the race of 
the Demons, and would bring his father 
nothing but misfortune. 

And the general, hearkening to the voice of 
the people, fell into much distress and deter- 
mined to make away with the baby, who was 
called Zal. % Accordingly, he took the poor 
child right up to the top of the Elburz moun- 
tains and the?e left him, far from any living 
creatures except the ibex, the hill' leopard, 
the wild sheep, and the birds of the air./ 

1 But the Gods were not minded that Zal 
should perish. The Simurgh, a marvellous 
creature, half bird, half beast, and endowed 
with great wisdom, was flying over the moun- 
tains, and, perceiving a little baby lying on the 
barren rocks, swooped down and carried it off 
to its nest* 

According to the story, a supernatural voice 
74 



ZAL AND THE CHILDHOOD OF RUSTEM 

addressed the Simurgh, telling it to cherish the 
young Zal, who in time would be the father 
of the Champion of the whole world, and 
the worthy Bird in consequence was kinder 
than ever to the deserted child, and taught 
him many languages as he grew up. 
' The years passed by, and old Sam often felt 
very lonely and forsaken, for the Gods had 
not given him another son in place of the one 
whom he had deserted. ^ He thought some- 
times that in spite of all his high position and 
his riches, his life had been a failure, and one 
night he fell asleep in a more melancholy 
mood than usual, and had a strange dream.' 

When he awoke he went straightway to 
the magicians, who told him that the interpre- 
tation of the dream was that his son was alive, 
instead of having been eaten by wild beasts as 
all had supposed, and the father, feeling his 
heart burn with love towards the once despised 
child r sent his servants to search for Zal on 
75 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

the mountains, but they returned to him 
empty-handed. 

And yet again old Sam had a dream. He 
saw a young man of a beautiful countenance 
but with snowy hair, on horseback at the head 
of a great army. At his right hand rode a 
holy man who addressed Sam in reproachful 
accents, saying that the warrior was his 
deserted son, and that Heaven had protected 
him, and would make his name famous 
throughout the world. 

^This time the father himself set off to 
the Elburz mountains, and on their gravel 
slopes knelt in prayer to the Gods, begging 
them to forgive his crime and restore to him 
his son. And as he wept and lamented, the 
Simurgh heard his cries and understood the 
situation at once. -" 

Telling Zal that his father had come to seek 
him, and that he must now go to his own 
people, the marvellous Bird bore him on its 
76 



ZAL AND THE CHILDHOOD OF RUSTEM 

broad wings down to where the broken-hearted 
Sam was weeping. 

It was not without many tears that Zal 
said good-bye to the good Simurgh, which 
had trained him so wisely, but his beloved 
foster-parent consoled him by giving him as a 
parting gift a feather from its wing. *'* When- 
ever thou art in danger burn this token," 7 it 
said, "and I will at once come to thy aid.'^ 

Thus Zal found himself leaving the Simurgh 
and returning to the haunts of men in the 
company of his rejoicing and repentant 
father, who treated him with the utmost 
affection. 

The Persian King was deeply interested in 
the strange upbringing of the young Hero, and 
received him graciously, presenting him with 
a helm and mace of gold, while the wise men 
of the court, being summoned to read his horo- 
scope, foretold that he would be the greatest 
warrior of his generation. This information 
77 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

greatly delighted the monarch, who gave him 
fine horses and much wealth, and appointed 
his father to the government of the provinces 
of Zabulistan, Kabul, and Ind. 

The youth spent his time in improving 
his mind, seeking ever to converse with the 
wisest men of Zabulistan, so that when Sam 
was obliged to go with an army to subdue the 
troublesome Demons of Mazanderan, he found 
that his son was well able to rule over the 
kingdom during his absence. 

And all the people praised the wisdom and 
justice displayed by the young governor, and 
Zal, finding that everything was quiet in Zabu- 
listan, made a tour through the provinces under 
his sway, arriving at last at Kabul, where he 
pitched his camp by a river not far from the 
city. 

Mihrab, King of Kabul, was of the detested 
race of Zohak, but, as his grandfather had sub- 
mitted to Feridun, he was permitted to hold 
78 



ZAL AND THE CHILDHOOD OF RUSTEM 

his kingdom on condition of paying tribute 
every year. 

All the talk of Kabul was of the daughter 
of the king, a wonderfully beautiful maiden 
who had many suitors. Zal soon heard that 
this Princess, with skin whiter than ivory, hair 
dark as the raven's wing, and cheeks rosy as a 
pomegranate flower, was living in the fortress- 
like palace of the town, and very naturally he 
longed to see her. 

But he could not well become friendly with 
her father, as he knew that the King of Persia 
would be angry were he to accept hospitality 
from a descendant of the wicked Zohak. So 
he said to himself that probably there were far 
fairer girls in Persia than this much-praised 
Afghan woman, and resolved to think of her 
no more. 

Mihrab, however, had been wonderfully im- 
pressed with the beauty and bravery of the 
young governor, and he gave his wife and 
79 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

daughter such an account of Zal, that the lovely 
Rudabeh fell straightway in love with the 
Hero, and horrified her maidens by telling them 
of her affection for this- white-haired youth 
whom she had never seen. They did their 
utmost to make her forget him, but everything 
was in vain, for she said that she would die if 
she could not marry Zal, and implored her 
attendants to help her to a sight of the object 
of her affections. 

When they saw that she was really in 
earnest, they determined to assist their beloved 
mistress, and at once went to the camp of 
Zal, and began to gather roses, which were 
growing by the stream close to the tent of the 
Hero. 

Zal did not like this intrusion, and sent a 
servant to ask their business. The man re-- 
turned to his master and told him that they 
were the slaves of the lovely Rudabeh, and 
that should it be found that he was equal in 
80 



ZAL AND THE CHILDHOOD OF RUSTEM 

birth to the Princess, she was ready to be his 
wife. 

All Zal's former desire to meet this beauteous 
lady burned up afresh in his heart, and he 
loaded the slaves with presents and sent them 
back to their mistress. 

Rudabeh was much pleased with the jewels 
and silken garments, but she did not see her 
way to meeting the Hero, for it was impossible 
for him to come to the palace without the 
knowledge of her father and mother. 

Her servants, however, soon arranged a plan. 
Their mistress asked leave of her parents to 
go for a few days to a beautiful castle in the 
country, and to this retreat young Zal came 
after sunset and stood under the balcony of his 
lady-love. Rudabeh leant over the balustrade, 
and they talked together eagerly, but soon the 
darkness of evening fell and they could no 
longer see each other. Then the Princess let 
down her magnificent hair and invited Zal to 
81 F 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

climb up by it to the balcony, and when the 
lovers were together they became lost in ad- 
miration of one another's beauty, their affection 
growing from a small stream into a mighty flood. 

Zal said to the Princess : " Thou alone, oh, 
Rudabeh, shalt be my wife. Our love, alas, 
must be kept secret, for thou art of the hated 
race of Zohak. I must ask advice of my coun- 
cillors, before demanding thee from thy father." 
Rudabeh answered, " My own beloved, all my 
happiness is in thy hands. The mightiest kings 
of the earth shall woo me in vain, for my heart 
belongs in life and death to thee." 

Then Zal, after tenderly embracing her, 
tore himself away, and the next morning 
assembled a council of the wise men of Zabu- 
listan, and told them of his intended marriage. 

They were astounded to hear that their 

young chieftain wished to wed a maiden 

of the hated race of the Serpent King, and 

advised him to send a messenger with a letter 

\ 82 




To face page 82. 



ZAL AND RUDABEH. 



ZAL AND THE CHILDHOOD OF RUSTEM 

at once to his father. Zal was very angry but 
he followed their counsel, and his envoy arrived 
some weeks later, hot and dusty, at Sam's camp 
in far-off Mazanderan. 

The old chieftain was at first thunderstruck 
at the news, but, having called the magicians to 
his aid, he became overjoyed when they told 
him that the Gods would bless the marriage of 
his son with Rudabeh, and would give them 
a child who would be the greatest warrior 
the world had ever known. So he sent a kind 
letter back to the impatient Zal, but said that 
the betrothal must be kept a secret until the 
war with the Demons was over, and he could 
himself lay the matter before King Minuchihr. 

Therefore, the lovers did not venture to meet 
again, but wrote one another letters every day. 

Now this sounds a simple matter, but it is not 

nearly as easy to write a letter in Persian as it 

is in English. It really is quite a serious business. 

First of all the writer has to choose a large sheet 

83 




Tf 



x* I THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

of paper out of a tied-up roll, and when he 
has smoothed it a little, he takes a pair of 
scissors and cuts off a piece the size he wants, 
and then sets to work. As there are no 
tables or chairs in Persia, the scribe sits on his 
heels, holds the paper up in his left hand, and, 
dipping his pen into a tiny bottle of ink on the 
floor, begins to draw in the letters very slowly, 
going from the right to the left, just the 
opposite way to what we do. 

He has an odd habit of writing his letter all 
over the sheet, so that the reader is obliged to 
look at the top, the bottom, and the sides of the 
paper, as well as in the middle ; and even a 
well-educated Persian takes quite a long time to 
read even a few lines of writing. 

The ink stands up on the shiny paper used, 
and does not sink into it. This is convenient 
for the writer if he makes a mistake. He never 
crosses out a wrong word as we do, but he 



^ ? v 
\ W*o < 

p" 

M* 




licks the 



offending letters 
84 



out with his 



VI* ** 



fc) ^ 



ZAL AND THE CHILDHOOD OF RUSTEM 

tongue ; and when the epistle is at last finished, 
it has to be signed with a seal, which is first 
rubbed over with ink, and then pressed down 
on the paper. 

But we must return to Zal and Rudabeh. 
Everyone knows how hard it is to keep a 
secret ; and one unlucky day the Princess' 
mother found out that there was some mystery 
in the air. She went to her daughter's room 
and questioned her, and the girl at once said 
that she was engaged to be married to Zal, and 
that she loved him more than all the world. 

Her mother was not angry when she knew 
that Sam approved ; but when Rudabeh's father 
was informed of the matter, he fell into such a 
passion of t rage that he, might have killed his 
daughter if her mother had not held him back. 

He said that the Persian King would most 

certainly deprive him of his kingdom, and that 

perhaps he would be put to death, all on account 

of Rudabeh's folly. At last, however, his wife 

85 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

soothed him, and he promised not to hurt his 
daughter if she would come into his presence. 
And Rudabeh appeared, proud and without 
fear, in her most costly garments, laden with 
all her jewels, instead of coming in mean 
attire as a penitent. " I am betrothed to the 
noblest man in the world ! " she exclaimed, and 
her face was so full of gladness that her angry 
father hardly dared to blame her for thus giving 
her heart away without his consent. 

But things did not go smoothly for some time. 
When Sam returned in triumph from conquering 
the Demons of Mazanderan, he told Minuchihr 
about his son's betrothal, and the King was greatly 
angered. He explained that all the work of the 
good Feridun would be brought to nought if 
the descendants of the Serpent King got the 
mastery in Persia ; and he requested Sam to 
lead an army against Kabul and utterly destroy 
the city and its inhabitants. 

The chieftain of Kabul heard of the King's 
86 



ZAL AND THE CHILDHOOD OF RUSTEM 

design through spies, and his hatred again rose 
against his daughter, for he knew that he had 
but a small army and could never resist the 
vast hosts of the Persian monarch. 

Again he threatened to kill poor Rudabeh, 
and this time he thought of putting her mother 
also to death. But his wife succeeded in calm- 
ing him, and in the end persuaded him to send 
her to Sam at Kabul with splendid gifts of 
horses, jewels, and beautiful slaves. 

Sam was amazed at the riches brought to 
his feet, but for some time he would not accept 
them, because he feared the anger of King 
Minuchihr. But soon he remembered the 
great love he bore his son, and, saying that 
Zal's happiness was more to him than the 
displeasure of many monarchs, he told the 
anxious mother he would do his utmost to 
arrange the marriage. 

A Then Zal went to the court of the King of 

Persia to plead his own cause, and when 

87 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

Minuchihr heard that the astrologers were all 
in favour of the wedding, he gladly gave his 
consent, and Rudabeh became the happy wife 
of the white-haired Hero..* 

After all their fears and disappointments they 
belonged to one another at last, and their 
great love seemed only to become stronger 
and stronger as the weeks and months glided 
quickly by. ' 

But, as nothing endures for ever on this 
earth, so Trouble, an ever unwelcome guest, 
once more visited the happy young couple. 
Rudabeh became so ill that all the doctors and, 
magicians could do nothing for her, and her 
husband was in despair at the thought of 
losing his beloved wife. The days passed 
by, and she became ever thinner and paler, 
too weak to move from her couch ; and the 
whole kingdom of Zabulistan mourned her 
approaching end. / 

And one day as Zal sat beside her he burst 
88 



ZAL AND THE CHILDHOOD OF RUSTEM 

into a flood of tears, and beat his breast, and 
tore his rich garments, calling out in his 
anguish: "Ah, why did not the Simurgh 
leave me to starve on the mountains in my 
childhood ! Why did it save my life for such 
a wretched fate!" 

Even as he spoke, the name of the won- 
drous Bird brought back a host of memories 
to his mind, and he suddenly bethought him of 
the feather, its parting gift, which he had kept 
by him unheeded till now. And to Rudabeh's 
astonishment he sprang up and rushed from 
her room like a madman, returning in a few 
moments with something in his hand, which 
he threw upon the fire. , 

And all at once there was a great darkness, 
but Zal held his wife in his arms and told her 
not to be afraid, as the Simurgh, about which 
he had often talked to her, was coming to 
make her well again. And in a moment the 
room seemed to be filled with a huge, winged 
89 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

creature which spoke with the voice of a 
man : " Why give way to all this unmeasured 
grief?" it inquired of Zal. "I can cure your 
wife, and, moreover, you will ere long be the 
happy father of a boy, who will be called 
the Wonder of the World. Follow my advice 
and all will go well." 

1 And after telling the Hero what to do for 
Rudabeh, and presenting him with another 
feather from its wing, the marvellous Bird de- 
parted as mysteriously as it had come, and the 
young Princess soon recovered her health and 
spirits. 

And the prophecy of the Simurgh came true, 
for a child was born to the beautiful Rudabeh, 
so big that he looked a year old on the day 
of his birth, and it is said that at eight years 
of age he was as strong as the most powerful 
warrior in the kingdom.* 

Rustem was his name, and the whole world 
rang with praises of the wonderful boy who was 
90 



ZAL AND THE CHILDHOOD OF RUSTEM 

of such beauty and strength that the Persians 
used to compare him to the Gods them- 
selves. 

Old Sam and Mihrab, his two grand- 
fathers, came in pomp to visit their grandson, 
and were greatly amazed to find that he sur- 
passed all the warriors in their armies in valour 
and might. The boy said to them, " I care 
nought for feasting and wine, for fair women 
and music, but I long to be always on horse- 
back in full armour, leading brave men to 
battle." But as yet all deemed him too 
young to go forth into the world, and 
his fond mother did what she could to keep 
him at her side. 

Now it happened that Zal had charge of 
the great white elephant belonging to King 
Minuchihr. It was a savage beast, and was 
always kept fastened with a heavy chain ; but 
one night it got loose and ran about the town 
killing all whom it met. 
91 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

The cries and shrieks of the poor townsfolk 
woke up Rustem, and, seizing his iron mace, 
he rushed to the castle gate to ask the soldiers 
on guard what was the matter. They told 
him, but implored him not to venture forth ; 
and so angry did he become that he knocked 
one man down, and then broke the heavy lock 
of the door, and ran out into the streets. 

Yells of terror guided him quickly to the 
spot where the elephant was trampling men 
and women in the dust, and in another moment 
the enormous brute charged straight at the boy, 
waving its trunk angrily and roaring aloud. 
Rustem waited until it was quite close to him, 
and then struck it with his iron mace, and, 
to the amazement of the spectators, the huge 
creature, after staggering for a moment, fell 
down dead in a great heap. Then the grateful 
people returned fervent thanks to the Gods 
who had sent them such a Champion in their 

need. 

92 



ZAL AND THE CHILDHOOD OF RUSTEM 

Zal now felt that after such an achievement 
it was high time for Rustem to begin his 
public career as a Hero. So he told him to 
go and take a fort on Mount Sipund, held by 
evil men who had slain the father of Sam. 
This castle, besides being well-nigh impreg- 
nable, was surrounded by a vast desert, and 
the warrior Sam, try as he might, had never 
been able to get possession of it. But Rustem 
and his men determined to accomplish by guile 
what force had failed to do. They disguised 
themselves as merchants, and, loading a string 
of camels with bags of salt, set out for the fort. 

The inhabitants of Sipund were luckily in 
want of salt at the time, and they welcomed 
the caravan warmly, buying largely from the 
pretended merchants, and giving them lodging 
for the night. 

But as soon as it was dark, the Persian 
warriors threw off the long robes .which they 
wore as merchants, and advanced to the house 
93 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

of the governor. The alarm was given, and a 
desperate fight ensued between the townsfolk 
and Rustem's followers ; but the son of Zal did 
such marvellous deeds that not a man escaped 
from the fortress, everyone from the gover- 
nor downwards being destroyed. The Persians 
found wealth beyond their wildest dreams in 
the palace, and, loading up their camels with it 
in place of the salt, they burnt the castle down 
to the ground, and returned home to Zabu- 
listan. 

Thus did Rustem avenge the death of 
his great grandfather, and Zal and Rudabeh 
welcomed their son with exceeding joy, for 
they felt that this was but the first of many 
mighty deeds that the young Hero would per- 
form. 

And now you have heard what Rustem did 
as a boy, and if the story has pleased you, I 
will tell you another time what he did after he 

was grown up. 

94 




IV 

Rustem, the Champion of 
the World 

IN my last story I related how young Rus- 
tem killed a furious elephant, and, indeed, 
it was well for Persia that the Hero was 
growing up, for very soon she would have 
sore need of his strength and valour. Pious 
King Minuchihr, at the age of a hundred 
and twenty years, passed away, and his son, 
Nauder, reigned in his stead. In spite, how- 
ever, of all the wise advice of his father, the 
new monarch ruled so unjustly that the nation 
i/nearly rose in revolt, and, to make matters 
95 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

worse, the King of Turan, seeing how badly 
things were going in Persia, raised a large 
army to invade the country, and put his son, 
Afrasiyab, in command. 

The Turanians marched across their frontier 
in high spirits, because they heard that old 
Sam, the invincible warrior, had just been 
summoned by the mighty Gods to his last rest, 
and they knew that the white-haired Zal was 
hardly equal in prowess to their own General, 
Prince Afrasiyab. 

Their hopes of victory were realized, for a 
terrible engagement soon took place, in which 
the Persians were utterly routed, their King, 
Nauder, falling into the hands of Afrasiyab, who 
put him to death at once, thus becoming 
monarch of Persia. 

Zal, however, had no intention of letting 

the Turanian conqueror have everything his 

own way, and, hearing that a descendant of 

s" the good Feridun was living in retirement on 

96 



RUSTEM, THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD 

the slopes of the Elburz mountains, he sent 
Rustem to offer him the crown. This Prince, 
Kai-Kobad by name, was endowed with every 
virtue. He was not at all surprised at the 
object of Rustem's visit, because the Gods had 
sent him a curious dream on the previous night. 
He dreamt that two white Persian hawks had 
flown down to him, carrying a golden diadem 
in their beaks, which they had placed upon 
his head, thus signifying that he was to reign 
over Persia. Accordingly, he accompanied Rus- 
tem to Zabulistan, where Zal had gathered a 
large army, and the soldiers received him with 
great enthusiasm, hailing him as their king 
with loud acclamations. Kai-Kobad at once 
appointed young Rustem one of his generals, 
ajrid__the boyish Hero was highly delighted 
at the honour, but told his father that he 
must have a mace and a horse before 
he could feel properly equipped for his new 
post. Zal, therefore, gave him the enormously 
97 G 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

heavy iron club always used by old Sam in 

his battles, and told him to take his choice 

of a steed. But this was not an easy matter, 

/for none of Zal's horses could bear the weight 

A of the Hero when armed with his mace, and 
Rustem spent several days in roaming about 
the grassy uplands where the steeds fed, but 
found no animal that would suit him. 

At last his eye fell on a beautiful roan foal, 

\ following its mother, but the grooms advised 
him to proceed with caution, as the mare 
killed anyone who attempted to seize the 
young one, which had Demon blood in its 
veins. Rustem, however, paid no attention to 
their warnings, and, swinging his lasso, soon 
caught the roan Rakush by the neck. As he 
did so, the mare rushed at him in a fury, 
biting and kicking wildly, and the beholders 
thought that his last hour was at hand. 

But the Hero, who had faced a raging 
elephant, was not to be dismayed by a mare, 
98 



RUSTEM, THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD 

however infuriated, and with one blow of his 
clenched fist the animal dropped dead at his 
feet. 

Then Rakush, bounding about wildly, half- 
mad with fear, and so strong that he pulled 
Rustem along after him, had to be subdued, 
and this is the way in which Rustem got his 
famous horse. The Persians tell almost as 
many tales about this marvellous animal as 
about the Hero himself, indeed they hardly 
ever speak of one without mentioning the 
other. 

Perhaps some of you may like to know 
how Rustem looked when he rode with Kai- 
Kobad at the head of the Persian army to" fight 
against Afrasiyab. 

t He was much taller and broader than any- 
one in Persia, and the only man who could 
compare with him in size was the Turanian 
prince. He had straight features, a white skin 
and gleaming teeth, while his black hair hung 
99 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

down to his shoulders in silky locks. In face, 
indeed, he was much like any handsome, well-born, 
young Persian of the present day. But though 
nearly everybody in Persia possesses a pair of 
fine dark eyes, yet no one has such flashing eyes 
as those of Rustem. 

The soldiers used to say that they shot out 
sparks of fire when the Hero was in the midst 
of battle, and that they expanded to nearly 
double their ordinary size, striking the foe with 
as much terror as did the blows of the great 
iron mace. 

The young warrior disdained to wear armour 
when fighting, and always dressed himself in 
silks as gorgeous as those worn by bride- 
grooms going to their weddings. His coats 
and full trousers were usually of striped tissues 
from Bokhara, rivalling the rainbow in their 
colours, and round his jewelled skull-cap he 
wound a gay scarf as a protection against the 
sun. 

100 



RUSTEM, THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD 

Rakush was equally fine, as his harness was 
encrusted with gold, and his saddle-cloth of 
richest Resht embroidery. His master usually 
guided him by means of golden shovel-shaped 
stirrups, leaving the reins over the high 
pommel of the peaked saddle, which was 
covered with exquisite needlework made by 
the fair Rudabeh and her maidens. 

Rustem was naturally very eager to engage 
Afrasiyab himself in single combat, and in 
spite of Zal's remonstrances he singled out the 
huge leader of the Turanian army. Afrasiyab, 
clad all in black chain armour, riding a great 
sable charger, and with his black banner 
carried before him, was an alarming figure, 
but Rustem at once spurred Rakush towards 
him, waving old Sam's battle-mace in a 
threatening manner. 

The two Heroes fought for nearly an hour, 
and Fortune seemed to smile on Rustem, 
who felt that his foe was given into his 
101 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

hand, As he caught Afrasiyab's belt and 
lifted the Prince right out of his peaked saddle. 
But the time for Afrasiyab to die had not 
come as yet. The girdle broke, and he was 
rescued by his warriors, the battle going on 
with renewed fierceness. 

And no words can tell of the deeds of the 
youth, Rustem. 

Wherever he rode, brandishing his sword, 
the Turanians were slain in scores. It is even 
affirmed that he slew more than a thousand 
men on that day, and old Zal hailed him with 
joy as the Champion of the whole world 
when, towards evening, the enemy fled back 
to their own country. 

Then ensued a period of profound peace. 
Kai-Kobad ruled wisely for a hundred years, 
which must have seemed very dull to Rustem, 
but on his death the Hero had plenty of em- 
ployment again. Kai-Kaus, the new monarch, 
was a vain and foolish man. His pride was so 
102 



RUSTEM, THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD 

great that he deemed there was no one in the 
whole earth equal to him, and so became an 
easy prey to the wiles of the Demons who 
hated mankind. 

One day an Evil Spirit, disguised as a 
minstrel, sang before the king, and gave such 
an alluring description of Mazanderan, the 
country of the Demons, that the monarch 
determined to set forth and conquer it at once. 

" It is the abode of spring, oh, mighty 
sovereign!" chanted the Div. "We never 
know the great heat of summer which forces 
the dwellers in Persia to take refuge in the 
hills, nor have we ever the intense cold during 
which snow lies upon the ground, and everyone 
huddles round the iron pots of burning charcoal. 
The roses and tulips bloom the whole year 
round, and the bulbul never ceases to pour 
forth its little soul in ravishing melodies. 
Believe me, that he who has never been to 
Mazanderan does not know what happiness is." 
103 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

As he ceased Kai-Kaus sprang up, and, with 
a mighty oath, swore that before many moons 
were set he would be a truly happy man, for 
that kingdom should be his. 

His warriors looked at one another in dismay, 
for the Demons were greatly dreaded as foes ; 
but as the foolish Kai-Kaus considered that 
he was far greater than King Jemshed or the 
good Feridun, he paid no attention to anyone, 
and even old Zal's words of warning fell on 
his ears in vain. 

Therefore, in a short time, the monarch and 
his army set out on the long journey to 
V' Mazanderan, leaving Zal and Rustem to guard 
Persia during their absence. 

Things went smoothly at first. The Persians 
defeated the army of the King of Mazanderan, 
and were about to enter his capital in triumph, 
when the White Demon and his myrmidons 
emerged from their caves in the Elburz 
mountains. After this the whole campaign 
104 



RUSTEM, THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD 

failed disastrously. A pitchy darkness enveloped 
the Persian army, and such huge hailstones fell 
upon the soldiers that thousands of them were 
killed. The rest with their monarch were 
taken captive by the Demons, who, depriving 
them of sight, gave them to the King of 
Mazanderan to be locked up in his dun- 
geons. 

When the sad news of the overthrow of the 
Persians reached Zal and Rustem, the latter at 
once saddled Rakush and started off alone to 
/Mazanderan to free his King. The way he 
chose was short but full of dangers, and 
while he slept in a forest on the first night, he 
was awakened by a great noise and hurly-burly, 
and starting up he found that the faithful 
Rakush had been attacked by a huge lion, 
which, however, he had killed with his hoofs 
and teeth. Rustem was angry with his beloved 
horse for having run such a risk by fighting 
the lion alone, and told him in future to neigh 
105 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

in his ear so as to awake him at the first sign 
of danger. 

During the next three days the two friends 
painfully toiled across a trackless desert. The 
fierce Eastern sun glared down upon them 
from a cloudless blue sky ; there were no trees, 
no water, and, as the slow hours passed, the Hero 
and his steed were at the point of death from 
thirst. Kneeling on the burning sand Rustem 
besought the Gods to assist him in the work 
of rescuing his King, and, even as he prayed, 
the Dwellers in the High Heavens sent him an 
answer of hope. 

A wild sheep trotted by, and the warrior, 
taking it to be a good omen, followed it and 
caught it up at last as it drank from a pool of 
brackish water in a little grassy oasis. Night 
was coming on apace, and after the Hero had 
slain and devoured a wild ass, which came to 
drink at the pool, he wrapt himself up in his 
long mantle and prepared to go to sleep on the 
106 



RUSTEM, THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD 

sand, first, however, bidding Rakush awake 
him if any evil thing should approach. 

At midnight a monstrous dragon of ap- 
palling aspect crept silently up to the Hero. 
Rakush neighed loudly, the dragon retreated 
swiftly, and Rustem, springing to his feet, saw 
nothing. Exactly the same thing happened 
again as soon as the warrior had dropped off 
to sleep, and Rustem became exceedingly angry 
with his horse, because he had roused him on 
two occasions when there was no danger. He 
even threatened to kill his faithful friend should 
he disturb him again unnecessarily, and poor 
Rakush was grieved to the heart at his master's 
unkindness. Dawn was breaking when the 
monstrous dragon made its third appearance. 
The noble horse woke up his master once 
more, expecting a torrent of abuse, but, luckily, 
this time Rustem perceived his foe, and rushed 
at it with drawn sword. The conflict was so 
terrible, that had it not been for the aid given 
107 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

by Rakush, who tore at the dragon's hide with 
his teeth, and kicked it violently, the Hero might 
have fallen a prey to the fearsome beast. 
However, the Gods helped him ; the dragon 
was at last overcome, and Rustem offered up 
hearty thanks for their protection before he 
proceeded on his way. 

He had now to cross the Elburz Range by 
difficult and stony passes. Sometimes Rakush 
had to clamber up places almost as steep as 
the sides of a precipice, and Rustem would 
walk behind holding on to the horse's tail. 
And here and there the steed and his 
master slid down long gravelly slopes, stopping 
themselves at intervals on little projections of 
rock which jutted out. Once poor Rakush went 
over the side of an abyss, but his fall was 
checked by a patch of tamarisk scrub, and 
he lay without any movement, neighing to his 
master for help. Rustem quickly unwound the 
long silk cummerbund or waistcloth which 
108 



RUSTEM, THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD 

every Persian wears, and in which he carries 
money and all sorts of things, and managed to 
slip it round Rakush and then haul his faith- 
ful comrade up to firm ground again. 

Luckily there was plenty of food for both 
man and beast in these mountains, as the ibex 
and moufflon roamed about in small herds, and 
easily fell victims to the unerring aim of 
Rustem's bow, while in the valleys were 
patches of grass and plenty of little streams. 

It was a very tiring ascent with constant 
climbing, and it was indeed a pleasant change 
to be free of the mountains at last, and to drop 
down into the charmingly wooded country of 
Mazanderan. 

That evening the Hero found a meal ready 
cooked and a flask of wine, together with a 
mound of barley laid on the bank of the 
stream where he halted for the night. Natu- 
rally, both he and Rakush were highly de- 
lighted, and as they ate and drank their fill, 
109 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

a beauteous lady approached, and sat down 
close to Rustem. 

Wondering whether it was to her bounty 
that he owed the appetizing food, he handed 
her a cup of the ruby-coloured wine, asking 
a blessing on it in the name of the mighty 
Gods as he did so. To his horror and amaze- 
ment his lovely companion was at once turned 
into a Demon, jet black in colour, which, luckily, 
he slew before it had time to vanish. And 
by this Rustem knew that he had now crossed 
the frontier of the haunted country of Mazan- 
deran, and, when he had struggled with Rakush 
through a region where darkness reigned both 
by day and night, he emerged into a beautiful 
district, rich with waving corn. 

Here he came into conflict with Aulad, the 
governor of the province, and, having routed 
his troops and seized their leader, he demanded 
that Aulad should lead him to where King 
Kai-Kaus was imprisoned, and should show 
110 



RUSTEM, THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD 

him the entrance of the cavern inhabited by 
the great White Demon. 

Aulad was amazed at the idea of a single 
\ man daring to fight with the White Demon 
and his hordes, but, thinking to punish the 
Persian for his boldness, he led Rustem to the 
fatal battlefield just outside the capital, on 
which the chivalry of Persia had been routed 
so disastrously. Some hundreds of the Demon 
warriors were still encamped on the ground, 
and the Hero, having now somewhat rested 
from the fatigues of his long journey, chal- 
lenged their general to single combat. 

Whenever Rustem put his hand to anything 
he usually succeeded, and this instance was no 
exception to the rule. The Demon chieftain 
was slain, and his terrible-looking followers 
fled to the mountains, leaving the city ' un- 
guarded. 

The conqueror at once passed through the 
great gateway of the town in triumph, Rakush 
111 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

being so much pleased with his master's prowess 
that he neighed incessantly with joy. And the 
blind King and his warriors heard the voice 
of the mighty war-horse even in their dun- 
geons, and, knowing that Rustem had come to 
free them, shouted with all their might to 
guide their deliverer to where they lay, bound 
in chains. And the inhabitants, fearing Rus- 
tem's heavy mace, led the warrior to the 
underground vaults where Kai-Kaus and his 
soldiers had been locked in, and helped him to 
break down the doors of their prisons. 

A great crowd of pale, haggard-looking men 
rushed out, and surrounded him with cries of 
joy, but the Hero was horrified to perceive 
that every one of them, from the King down- 
wards, was stone blind. Was this the re- 
sult of all his perils and hard fighting? Of 
what use to Persia would a blind monarch and 
a blind army be? And he, who had never 

flinched from any foe, however terrible, wept 
112 



RUSTEM, THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD 

from sheer despair and sorrow. Kai-Kaus 
now spoke, and the Hero, listening to his 
words, took hope again. " Rustem," he said, 
"you who are rightly named the Champion of 
the World, we call upon you for yet another 
deed of prowess. The great White Demon 
has deprived us of sight, and the only way in 
which we can see again is by bathing our 
eyes in the blood of the monster. He lies hid 
in a vast cave on the side of Mount Dema- 
vend. Son of mighty Zal, grandson of Sam the 
invincible, we call upon you to slay our foe ! " 

The Persians upon hearing this broke forth 
into shouts, and Rustem, ever ready to fight, 
and never so happy as when the odds were 
a hundred to one against him, salaamed to his 
sovereign, mounted Rakush and galloped off to 
the mountains. At last he found the entrance 
to a dark cavern which seemed to lead into the 
very heart of the awe-inspiring volcano, Dema- 
vend. 

113 H 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

This was filled with Demons of fearsome 
aspect, but the Hero rushed among them, slay- 
ing as he went, until he passed right through 
the cave and stood on the brink of a seem- 
ingly bottomless abyss. When his eyes became 
accustomed to the gloom, he saw a huge 
monster below him, covered with white hair 
and fast asleep. It was the White Demon, 
and Rustem knew that the fate of Persia was 
now about to be decided. " Come forth and 
meet thy doom ! :> he shouted, clanging his 
sword upon his brazen shield, and suddenly the 
enormous creature stood before him armed with 
a great millstone. 

"Art thou tired of life," the Demon retorted, 
"that thou darest to invade my lair? Tell me 
thy name, so that I may know from whence 
comes the rash being I am about to destroy." 

But when Rustem spoke of his mighty 
grandfather, Sam, the subduer of the Demons, 
the monster was terrified, and for a moment 
114 




To face page 114.; 



RUSTEM AND THE WHITE DEMON. 



RUSTEM, THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD 

staggered back at the dreaded name. When 
he recovered himself, he hurled the millstone, 
which fell short of its aim, and in another second 
he and Rustem were struggling together in 
mortal combat, the Hero calling again and again 
upon the Gods to aid the right. 

Of that fearful conflict the Persians talk 
to this day, for such a fight never raged since 
the world began. Now the Persian Hero and 
now the Demon appeared to get the mastery, 
and both man and monster received many 
wounds, until it seemed as if both must die. 

But the Gods did not desert their faithful 
worshipper. Miraculous strength was vouch- 
safed to Rustem, just as he began to feel that 
he must give up the combat from exhaustion. 
Once more he seized his savage foe in his 
arms, and this time hurled him with such terrific 
force on to the stone floor of the cavern that the 
monster expired, rending the air with shrieks. 

Thereupon many hundreds of lesser Demons, 
115 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

that owed their existence solely to the White 
Demon, dropped dead in the cavern, and the 
rest fled far away from the haunts of man- 
kind. 

Rustem now offered up fervent thanksgivings, 
and, collecting in his helmet some of the blood 
of the White Demon, he made his way back 
to King Kai-Kaus and his warriors, triumphantly 
giving them the horrible fluid, with which they 
bathed their eyes, and all saw as well as ever 
they had done in their lives. 

Before the soldiers could return to fair 
Persia, a battle had to be fought against the 
King of Mazanderan, who was a sorcerer, and 
had the Demon hosts in his employ. It is 
said that the armies struggled with one an- 
other for seven days, and at the end of that 
time neither was victorious. 

However, on the eighth day, Rustem made 
up his mind to attack the King, because he 
felt that if that great Magician were destroyed 
116 



RUSTEM, THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD 

his followers would have no more heart for 
fighting. 

Therefore, he specially singled out the 
monarch and made a fierce attack upon him 
with his drawn sword. Just as he was about 
to pierce him to the heart, Rustem and all the 
Persians saw with amazement that the King 
of Mazanderan was quickly turning into a 
great mass of rock. 

So heavy was it that even a hundred 
soldiers could not move it, and, as usual, 
Rustem had to come to the rescue. Amid 
ringing cheers he lifted up the enormous 
boulder, and staggered with it to the tent of 
King Kai-Kaus, and then addressed it thus: 
" Return to thy human form at once, oh, 
King of Magicians ! If thou refusest to do so 
I will break thee into a million atoms, fine as 
dust, and scatter thee to the four winds of 
Heaven." Upon this the King resumed his 
human shape, and Rustem bound and led 
117 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

him to Kai-Kaus, who commanded his instant 
execution. 

And then, laden with treasure, the army re- 
turned home in triumph ; and if you care to 
hear more of the doings of mighty Rustem, 
you have only to look at the next page and 
begin a new story. 




118 




V 

Rustem and Sohrab 

IN my last story I told you that Rustem went 
home after his great exploit of killing the White 
Demon, and he and everyone else thought that 
Persia would now be at peace for a con- 
siderable time. 

But Kai-Kaus was such a stupid king that 
he was perpetually falling into trouble of one 
kind or another, and you will scarcely believe me 
when I tell you that before long he was taken 
prisoner again. It happened in this wise. He 
conquered the King of Hamaveran, and cap- 
tured his lovely daughter for his wife, and 
119 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

after doing these things, he was foolish enough 
to go and stay with his father-in-law, who at once 
threw him into a deep dungeon. His beautiful 
Queen, who had done her best to dissuade him 
from partaking of her father's hospitality, was 
cast into the same cell as her husband, as she 
declared that she would rather die than be sepa- 
rated from him. 

You can hardly imagine the terror and com- 
motion caused in Persia by this second imprison- 
A ment of the monarch, for Afrasiyab at once 
seized this opportunity to- invade the kingdom 
with a large army. 

Everyone felt that Rustem alone could save 
his King and country, and that Hero, remarking 
that he did not fear meeting a host of a hundred 
thousand men as long as he had the Gods on 
his side, mounted his faithful Rakush and started 
off to the rescue. 

As usual, the great Champion of the World 
was assisted by the Dwellers Above, and soon 
120 



RUSTEM AND SOHRAB 

set Kaus at liberty, routed the armies of 
Afrasiyab, and replaced his King on the throne. 

But, indeed, Kai-Kaus was not worth all the 
trouble he gave to his faithful warriors, for no 
sooner was he delivered from the fear of wars 
and invasions than his heart swelled with 
foolish pride. The wily Iblis, Spirit of Evil, 
pondered for long how he could take ad- 
vantage of the ambition and vanity of the 
King, and one day sent a Demon to him, dis- 
guised as a servant, who persuaded him to fly 
in order to explore the secrets of the heavens. 

The magicians, after much consultation, hit 
upon a novel plan of flying balloons not having 
been invented in those days. They fixed four 
javelins in an upright position at the corners of a 
light raft, and put a piece of meat on the point 
of each javelin, and the monarch sat in the 
middle. Four strong and hungry eagles were 
then tethered to the corners, and, as each bird 
flew upwards to seize the meat, the Persian King 
121 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

was carried higher and higher into the air and 
far away from his kingdom. 

At last, however, the poor eagles became ex- 
hausted, and King, birds, and raft all fell down 
together, and found themselves in a dreary 
desert. Here the monarch was discovered by 
Rustem and some of his warriors when he was 
at the point of death from starvation, and 
their plain speaking brought him to a sense 
of his folly. After spending forty days in 
seclusion and penitence, he became a changed 
man and ruled wisely and piously all the rest 
of his life. 

X Now that Persia was free from wars, Rustem 
had but little to do, and employed his leisure 
in hunting the wild ass in the salt desert. 

On one of these expeditions he came to the 
far-off, little kingdom of Samengan, and during 
his mid-day sleep, while the sun was at its height, 
his beloved Rakush was stolen from him. All 
the inquiries he made were in vain, the frightened 
122 



RUSTEM AND SOHRAB 

peasants affirming, just as Persians do to-day, 
that they had not even "seen the colour" of 
the horse. 

Accordingly the Hero went in high indigna- 
tion to complain to the King of the country, 
who received him with great honour, begging 
him to spend the night in the palace, while men 
scoured the neighbourhood for the missing steed. 

When Rustem was alone, to his astonish- 
ment the curtain at the entrance to his room 
was raised, and a most lovely maiden entered, 
attended by a slave. The great warrior, who 
had never cared for women, and had never 
wished to marry, was much taken aback at this 
vision of beauty, and inquired of the lady what 
she wanted. "Is there some gallant feat of arms 
to be done ? " he asked ; " do you wish me to free 
some prisoner from the power of the Demons ? " 

"No," she replied, " I want none of those 
things. I am Tamineh, the daughter of the 
King, and have heard so much of Rustem's 
123 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

mighty deeds that I am resolved either to marry 
that great Hero, or die unwed. I, it is, who 
stole mighty Rakush, hoping to lure you to 
the palace." She then fell on her knees and 
besought Rustem to demand her hand in 
marriage on the morrow. 

y./ The Persian Hero could not help being 
touched at her extreme beauty and earnestness, 
and, promising to wed her if her father would 
give his consent to the match, sent her away 
rejoicing. And on the next day the lovely 
Tamineh became his bride, and there was great 
gladness throughout the kingdom for many days. 

s But Heroes do not care to spend much time 
A 

in ease, and Rustem, hearing that the Demons 

were invading Zabulistan, left his fair wife, at an 

hour's notice, in order to go to the help of Zal. 

' As he parted from her he gave her a talisman, 

telling her to bind it round the arm of her boy, if 

the Gods should grant them a son, and to give 

him news of her welfare as often as possible. 

124 



RUSTEM AND SOHRAB 

Poor Tamineh was very unhappy at first 
when her husband left her, but rejoiced greatly 
when her son was born a child strong and 
mighty, who grew up the very image of his 
Hero-father. The boy was everything in the 
world to the Princess, and when Rustem sent 
her presents and asked whether the Gods had 
granted him a son, the neglected mother said 
that a daughter had been given to them, so 
afraid was she that her husband would take 
young Sohrab from her if he knew the truth. 

The Hero was at first disappointed to hear that 
he had no son to follow in his footsteps as 
the Champion of the World, but very soon he 
nearly forgot all about his visit to Samengan, 
and how he had wedded beauteous Tamineh. 
Indeed, before many years had past, he mar- 
ried a second wife, as was permitted by his 
religion, and a son was born to him, Feramurz 
by name, who became a mighty warrior when 
he was grown up. 

125 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

But young Sohrab grew stronger day by day, 
and when his mother used to tell him about 
the mighty deeds done by his renowned father, 
the boy's eyes blazed with pride, and he said 
that he must go to Rustem to seek his 
blessing. The tears and entreaties of the 
Princess could not keep him long by her side, 
and as soon as he could master every man 
and every horse in Samengan, the youth, 
mounted on a steed of the race of Rakush, 
rode out into the world to find his father, 
announcing that he intended to conquer Persia 
and put Rustem on the throne. 

Afrasiyab, Persia's deadly enemy, heard of 
the young Hero and his intentions, and sent 
an army to help him, saying that his greatest 
wish in life was to subdue King Kaus. 

But Afrasiyab had no intention whatever of 
handing over Persia to Rustem if his soldiers 
succeeded in conquering that country, for he 

wanted to rule over the land himself. He, 
126 



RUSTEM AND SOHRAB 

therefore, told the two generals of his army 
that they must on no account let Sohrab know 
which of the Persian warriors was his mighty 
father, as he hoped that the two Champions 
would kill one another in ignorance, and that 
he himself would then be able to seize the 
kingdom. 

Accordingly, the vast Turanian army set out 
to invade Persia, and on its way passed a 
great fortress guarded by a mighty warrior. 

This doughty soldier sallied forth to test 
young Sohrab, of whose prowess he had heard, 
saying that he would very soon lower his pride, 
but the result of the fight was not what he ex- 
pected, as he was speedily thrown from his horse 
and taken prisoner. However, the daughter 
of the governor of the fortress, a maiden 
brave as a lioness, was so angry at seeing 
the downfall of her Champion that she herself, 
clad all in armour, issued from under the stone 
portcullis of the castle and challenged Sohrab. 
127 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

Rustem's son thought that a mere boy was 
defying him, and, rushing towards his foe, he 
flung his noose round her neck and pulled 
the lady from her horse. But what was his 
amazement to see masses of beautiful black hair 
as the supposed boy's helmet fell off! Before he 
had recovered from his astonishment the maiden 
implored him to let her go free. " Noble Hero," 
she said, " I beg of thee to release me. I am 
as the apple of my father's eye. He will give 
thee much gold and many jewels for my ransom, 
if thou wilt let me return to the fortress." 

Sohrab consented, but was sorry for his 
good-nature, for the entire garrison slipped away 
during the night, and at daybreak when the 
young Hero went to demand the ransom, no one 
was to be seen, for the party had fled in haste 
to the Persian court, and told such tales of 
Sohrab's wonderful valour that King Kaus sent 
for Rustem to come at once to the aid of Persia. 

The Persian monarch had not treated the 
128 



RUSTEM AND SOHRAB 

v Champion of the World well of late years. 
He seemed to have forgotten how the warrior 
had delivered him from the power of the White 
Demon, had also rescued him from death by 
starvation in the dungeons of the King of 
Hamaveran, and again had found him in the 
desert, where the eagles which carried him 
thither had dropped him. 

/, He gave no further honours to Rustern, 
almost ignored him when he came to court, 
and heaped benefits upon unworthy favourites, 
who would never strike a blow in their King's 
defence were he in peril. 

x The Hero, though deeply hurt at this ingrati- 
tude, was far too proud to complain, and spent 
his days in far Zabulistan, where he and old 
Zal instructed the young Feramurz in all the 
arts that make a mighty warrior. 

However, when the messenger galloped into 
the courtyard of Zal's palace with the news of 
Persia's danger, Rustem never hesitated for a 
129 i 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

moment. He called to his grooms to saddle 
Rakush, and bidding a servant ride with him, 
and lead a third horse on which were wraps 
and provisions, the great Champion bade good- 
bye to those dearest to him and mounted his 
beloved steed. 

In the days of his youth, the Hero was wont 
to ride into battle, clad all in gay silken 
attire, but now that age was creepjng^ upon him, 
he did not disdain armour, and on this occasion 
was equipped from head to foot in black mail. 

When he arrived at the Persian camp, he 
was greatly interested in the descriptions of 
Sohrab, and wondered sometimes if the youth 
could possibly be his son, and whether Tamineh 
might perchance have deceived him. 

Indeed, when the two armies came in sight 
of one another, and halted for the night, 
Rustem, in_ disguise, made his way into the 
Turanian camp, and managed to catch a glimpse 

of young Sohrab as he banqueted in a fine tent 
130 



RUSTEM AND SOHRAB 

with the generals. For a moment, he was 
astonished at the likeness of the youth to old 
Sam, but he soon felt that the resemblance 
must be merely due to his own imagination, 
and he made up his mind to kill his rival as 
speedily as might be. 

The youthful Hero, on his side, was keenly 
anxious that Rustem's tent should be pointed 
out to him, and the Turanians having captured 
a Persian soldier, who had foolishly lingered 
behind the main body of the army, Sohrab 
eagerly questioned this man. He asked him to 
tell him to which warriors the different pavilions 
belonged, but when the prisoner observed how 
interested he appeared to be as to the position 
of Rustem's encampment, he assured him that 
the Champion of the World had not as yet 
arrived from Zabulistan. This he did fearing 
that Sohrab might slay the Persian Hero by sub- 
tilty if he knew that he were in the Persian camp. 



131 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

On the morrow, the drums beat and the 
trumpets brayed as a signal that battle was 
about to commence, and when the Persian and 
Turanian hosts stood fully armed opposite one 
another, young Sohrab stepped into the open 
space between them, and loudly challenged 
King Kai-Kaus to single combat. 

Everyone was thrown into a panic at Sohrab's 
boldness, for, indeed, it was well known that 
the Persian monarch, as a consequence of the 
life of pleasure he led, could not bend the bow 
or draw the sword as in former years. 

Moreover, Kai-Kaus, caring only for luxury, 
had not encouraged his warriors to excel in 
feats of arms, so that one and all feared to 
lose his life if he went forth against the youth- 
ful Champion. 

f\ Therefore, everyone cried out that Persia was 
lost unless Rustem would come to the rescue. 

Now there is a Persian proverb regarding 
friendship, which says that if broken it can be 
132 



RUSTEM AND SOHRAB 

mended again like a piece of string that has 
been cut, but that the knot will ever remain. 

And so it was with the King and the Champion 
of the World. Rustem had not delayed for an 
hour to go to the help of his country, but when, 
mounted on Rakush, he arrived at the Persian 
camp, there was such a feeling of constraint be- 
tween him and Kai-Kaus, in spite of the monarch 
showing him every kind of favour, that the Hero 
soon retired to his tent, which he ordered to be 
pitched at the rear of the army. Here he lay 
on the quilts, padded with cotton, which formed 
his bed, as they do the couch of every Persian 
nowadays, and he smoked countless kalians or 
water-pipes while awaiting events. 

A confused murmur of voices reached him 
after awhile, and a crowd appeared to be 
coming in the direction of his tent, which was 
easily recognized because of the huge Simurgh 
embroidered on its curtain by Rudabeh. 

" Rustem ! Rustem ! " he heard voices calling, 
133 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

" Champion of the World, come forth to the 
rescue of thy country ! " 

And as he emerged from the pavilion, 
wondering at the excited cries, he was sur- 
rounded by an eager throng begging him to 
hasten and save the honour of Persia, as 
Sohrab was taunting the King with cowardice. 

The Hero had not intended to fight so soon, 
but when he understood that there was not a 
single warrior who dared to face the youthful 
Sohrab, he quickly donned his black suit of 
mail, and, telling everyone on no account to let 
the enemy guess his name, he went forth, 
followed by Rakush. 

But when he stood face to face with his boyish 
" opponent, he was touched with pity at his extreme 
youth, and urged him to give up the combat. 

" I will yield at once if thou art Rustem," 
young Sohrab replied. " Tell me, I beseech thee, 
if thou art he." 

The Champion replied, " I am but the servant 
134 



RUSTEM AND SOHRAB 

of that mighty Hero. He himself would never 
stoop to fight with such a boy as thou." When 
the youth heard this taunt, he rushed towards 
Rustem, and the fight began. 

So fierce was the encounter that their spears 
were broken, their swords bent, their chain 
armour torn, and they themselves bled from 
many grievous wounds. But neither would give 
way, and after awhile they threw aside their 
shattered clubs and their bows, having shot away 
all their arrows, and began to wrestle together. 
But neither could get the smallest advantage, 
and, as night was fast approaching, they agreed 
to postpone the combat until the next day, 
both Heroes being somewhat weary with their 
twelve hours' struggle. 

Rustem thought of the morrow with deep 
foreboding, feeling that his youthful foe was 
superior to him as a warrior, and Sohrab im- 
plored the Turanian generals to tell him 
whether his enemy were Rustem or not, as if 
135 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

it were that Champion he would be fighting 
against his father. But the generals obeyed 
the commands of Afrasiyab, and insisted that 
the Persian warrior was not Rustem at all. 

Therefore, as soon as day broke, the two 
Champions met face to face, but Sohrab felt 
such an overwhelming affection for his adver- 
sary that he begged him to be his friend and 
talk with him in peace. 

This, however, Rustem declined to do, and 
the two began to wrestle mightily, and after 
awhile the youth hurled his foe down upon the 
desert sand. He was about to despatch him 
when Rustem called out, "It is jagainst the 
customs of Persia to kill an enemy until he 
has been thrown to the ground twice." Sohrab 
at once stayed his hand, moved by a strange love 
for his adversary. As it was now the hour of 
sunset the combatants decided to finish their fight 
on the morrow, and retired to their different 
camps for the night. 

136 



RUSTEM AND SOHRAB 

The Turanian generals were very angry 
with Sohrab for having spared his opponent 
when he had him in his power, saying that the 
Persian would by no means have been as for- 
bearing had the cases been reversed, and, 
indeed, they were right. 

Old Rustem passed many hours in fervent 
prayer to the Gods that night, imploring their 
help, for he perceived that the Turanian 
Champion was stronger and more active than 
he was. Age was slowly taking from the Hero 
his once boundless strength, and little by little 
was stiffening his limbs, so marvellously supple in 
former years. He understood all too well that 
the renewal of the combat would be the end of 
his life, unless supernatural help were granted him. 

And he, who had never failed in devotion to 
the Dwellers Above, was not forsaken in his 
dire distress. 

When the two Heroes stood face to face again 
in the early morning, suddenly a marvellous 
137 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

strength flowed into Rustem and he felt even 
stronger than he had ever done in the old days. 
With a glad outcry of gratitude to the Gods 
he fell upon Sohrab, and the combatants swayed 
this way and that, interlocked in a deadly embrace. 
Now one seemed to get the advantage and 
now the other, and the two armies watched this 
wrestling match with bated breath, knowing that 
on its result hung the fate of two kingdoms. 

At last Rustem noted that his enemy's 
grasp was getting weaker, so, putting forth all 
his strength in one stupendous effort, hejhurled 
Sohrab to the ground, and at once drove his 
dagger into his side. 

A cry of terror and indignation rose from 
the Turanians, while the Persians shouted and 
yelled with joy, but Rustem noted none of 
these things, for he was suddenly overcome 
with shame for his unchivalrous deed. 

What was his horror when he heard the 
dying youth murmur, " I invaded Persia solely 
138 




To face page 138. 



RUSTEM AND SOHRAB. 



RUSTEM AND SOHRAB 

to find my mighty father, Rustem. He will 
most assuredly avenge my death. Remember," 
young Sohrab continued, " that the Champion 
of the World is the soul of honour, and he 
will kill you for having ended my life before 
you had thrown me a second time to the 
ground as is the rule of Persia." 
, When the awful truth dawned upon the old 
Hero, he, who had never shed a tear and never 
known pity, fell fainting to the earth with the 
horror of it all. 

After a time sense returned to him, and he 
asked Sohrab whether he had any token to 
show that he was the son of Rustem, and then 
confessed he himself was that great Hero. 
The young Champion, faintly murmuring that 
he had felt a strange love for his father from 
the moment he saw him first, besought him to 
strip off his coat of mail, and he would find on 
his son's arm the amulet given long ago to the 
Princess of Samengan. 

139 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

And when Rustem knew by the token that 
his child lay before him, and that he himself 
had killed him, he exclaimed, " I can live 
no longer! My sword shall end my miserable 
life." But this Sohrab would not permit. " Des- 
tiny," he said, " has ordained that things should 
thus fall out. Thou, oh, father, must live to be 
the bulwark of Persia." 

When the armies saw their Champions lying 
prone on the desert sand, they believed that both 
were dead, and a bitter wail of woe arose into the 
still air, mingled with the sad neighs of Rakush. 

After awhile some of the Persian warriors 
galloped to the scene of the fight, and found 
Rustem supporting Sohrab's head and weeping 
terribly. The boy was trying to console his. 
father, but was himself filled with bitterness at 
the thought of how short his life had been. 
" I came like the lightning and I go like the 
wind! I have been torn from the Banquet of 
Life before I have been permitted to do more 
140 



RUSTEM AND SOHRAB 

than sip of the Wine of Existence," he said, 
sadly ; but his last words were for others. 
"Father," he gasped, slowly and painfully, "let 
the Turanian army depart in peace and un- 
molested. It was owing to my burning desire 
to seat you upon the throne of Persia and not 
to the wish of Afrasiyab that it came hither. 
Mine, and mine alone, was the fault." 

This Sohrab said in ignorance of the guile 
of the Turanian King, who had hoped to 
obtain the fair Persian land for himself, and 
had used the young Hero merely as his tool. 

And when Rustem had given his promise, 
the youth drew the dagger from his side 
and breathed his last. 

There was no further thought of fighting. 
The two camps broke up, and everyone re- 
turned to his own home, while Rustem, after 
burning his armour and weapons, carried his 
son back to far Zabulistan to be buried with 

great pomp and lamentation. 
141 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

And when the sad news arrived at Samen- 
gan poor Tamineh was nearly mad with grief, 
feeling that her son owed his death to her 
deceit. Day and night she wept and made 
moan for her cherished child, until at last the 
Gods in mercy took her to rejoin him whom 
she had so fondly loved. 

# # * * # 

This is the famous story of Rustem and 
Sohrab, and there is not a boy or girl in all 
Persia who has not heard it often and often ; 
and I hope you will enjoy it as much as they 
do. 




142 




VI 

The Story of Byzun and 
Manijeh 

DURING the reign of good King Kai-Khosrau, 
who succeeded the foolish Kai-Kaus, a depu- 
tation of the inhabitants of Aman came to the 
Persian court to beg for assistance. They told 
the sovereign that their country was over- 
run by herds of wild swine, which trampled 
down and devoured their crops of barley and 
millet, and were reducing the population to a state 
of famine. Moreover, the boars were exceed- 
ingly fierce, with long tusks, and would at once 
attack and kill any one who attempted to drive 
143 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

them from the fields. Kai-Khosrau was ever 
ready to assist those in distress, his heart being 
open to all his subjects, so at once he called 
a council of his nobles to discuss what would 
be the best way of helping the unfortunate 
Armanians. 

While the matter was under consideration, 
the heroic young Byzun, grandson of mighty 
Rustem, started impulsively to his feet and 
begged leave to speak. " Mighty Kai-Khosrau, 
Shelter of the Universe ! " he began, " will you 
permit me, the humblest of your servants, to 
undertake this adventure? I am, as all know, 
among the youngest of your Majesty's warriors, 
but the blows of my arm have sometimes been 
compared, not unfavourably, with those of my 
mighty grandsire." 

The King smiled kindly upon the enthusi- 
astic youth, but a murmur of anger rose among 
the older warriors, who thought Byzun over- 
bold and presumptuous. However, after a good 
144 



THE STORY OF BYZUN AND MANIJEH 

deal of discussion, the young noble was given 
leave to go, but, as he was inexperienced and 
rather rash, the tried old warrior, Girgin, was 
commanded to accompany him. 

So off they started at daybreak the next 
morning, riding their mettlesome horses with 
flowing tails and manes, while their servants 
jogged along behind on mules, which carried 
provisions for the journey and the lahafs, 
or thickly-padded quilts, in which they would 
roll themselves up during the nights spent 
in the open air. 

After some days they reached the outskirts of 
the forest where the wild boars dwelt, and were 
about to set to work when Girgin unluckily met 
with an accident. A huge boar suddenly 
dashed out at them from behind a tree, 
and Girgin's horse, taken by surprise, 
shied violently away from the alarming- 
looking animal, throwing the old warrior to 
the ground. Byzun galloped to the res- 
145 K 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

cue with his spear, and killed the boar, but not 
before it had torn Girgin's leg so badly with 
its tusks that the servants had to carry the 
veteran to a booth of boughs, and lay him down 
upon a couch of lahafs. 

As poor old Girgin could not move, Byzun 
had perforce to do all the work. He was so 
excited at the prospect of distinguishing himself 
that he sometimes rose with the "false dawn," 
or "tail of the wolf" as the Persians call it, 
though, of course, he soon saw his mistake 
when darkness fell again upon the world, until 
the first gleam of the real dawn heralded in 
the day. Armed with a great spear and his 
bow and arrows, he waged a deadly war 
against the savage beasts until sunset. These 
creatures were accustomed to inspire such dread 
that they had no fear of any man, and would 
rush to the attack as soon as they saw Byzun 
approaching them. But now they had found 
their match, and discovered to their cost that 
146 



THE STORY OF BYZUN AND MANIJEH 

one of the bravest warriors in Persia was a 
very different opponent to the terrified and 
unarmed peasants. 

So hard did Byzun work that in the course 
of a short time most of the herds were exter- 
minated, and, in order to destroy them utterly, 
the forest which they inhabited was burnt to 
the ground, hundreds of boars perishing in the 
flames. 

Those that escaped are probably the ances- 
tors of the herds that are to be seen in the 
north of Persia at the present day, and which 
increase and multiply, because the Persians look 
upon pork as an unclean food, and will never 
eat it on any account. 

Naturally, the young Hero wanted to give 
Kai-Khosrau a proof of what he had done, so 
he commanded the grateful peasants to cut off 
the heads of all the boars he had slain, and 
told Girgin that he was going to take this 
huge trophy to the King. 
147 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

The old warrior's temper had not been 
improved by the enforced idleness, while his 
junior was doing the work and getting all the 
glory, and he felt that he would be the butt 
of countless sneers and jibes at the Persian 
court, when everyone knew that he had not 
killed a single boar. 

Therefore he did his best to persuade Byzun 
to leave the heads where they were, and, when 
the young warrior refused, his jealousy grew to 
such a pitch that he determined, if possible, to 
get him out of the way. 

That evening as they sat on their heels in 
their leafy tent, eating their fill of savoury 
pillau and drinking goblet after goblet of 
the wine of Isfahan or Shiraz, Girgin seized 
his opportunity. " Have you ever heard of the 
glorious Manijeh, the best-loved daughter of 
Afrasiyab?". he began. "The poets of Turan 
hail her as the most beautiful woman in exist- 
ence. Tall as a cypress, with skin white as 
148 



THE STORY OF BYZUN AND MANIJEH 

ivory and eyes glowing like the narcissus, she 
captivates all hearts, and he who has never 
seen her does not know what the word loveli- 
ness really means." 

Byzun set down the silver cup which he 
was raising to his lips, and inquired of Girgin 
whether it would be possible to get a sight of 
this paragon among women. 

" Nothing is easier," the wily old warrior 
answered. " Here, as you know, we are almost 
on the frontier of Turan, and the peasants tell 
me that it is Manijeh's custom to spend the 
spring months in a fair garden very few 
farsakhs (leagues) from this place. Let us 
ride there to-morrow, bribe the servants to 
allow us to have a glimpse of her sur- 
passing beauty, and then make our way back 
to Persia." 

This Girgin said, hoping to lure Byzun to de- 
struction, for he well knew that King Afrasiyab 
would kill any Persian who might dare to 
149 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

make love to his daughter, which thing he 
hoped the young Hero would do. 

On the morrow, therefore, they rose early, 
and rode off towards Turan, bidding their 
servants load the mules and wait for them at 
a certain stage on the road to Persia. 

Before many hours were past, they reached 
the camp of the Princess, pitched in a grove 
of huge walnut trees, and noticing one tent 
larger than any of the others, and made of 
scarlet cloth embroidered with peacocks, they 
boldly advanced towards it. This was, of 
course, the pavilion of Manijeh, and as the two 
Persians passed the entrance at a foot's pace, 
they saw a most beautiful woman reclining on 
a pile of silk carpets. She glanced at them 
inquiringly, and Byzun, bowing low from his 
saddle, gazed into her wondrous eyes with a 
look of adoration, and rode on slowly with 
Girgin. 

Now the young Persian noble was the hand- 
150 



THE STORY OF BYZUN AND MANIJEH 

somest man at the court of King Kai- 
Khosrau, so perhaps it is not surprising that 
the fair Manijeh loved him at first sight, 
and calling for her old baji or nurse, she 
told her to follow the stranger and inquire 
who he was. On his side Byzun, directly he 
saw the Princess, knew that she was the only 
woman in the world for whom he could ever 
care, so he answered all the nurse's questions 
fully, and gave the old woman precious jewels, 
on condition that she would allow him to 
speak to the beauteous Manijeh. 

The lovers met that same day, and were 
secretly married by a mollah or priest, be- 
cause the Princess greatly feared the wrath of 
Afrasiyab if he were to discover that she were 
wedded without his leave, and, above all, to 
one of the hated Persian race. 

Girgin rejoiced greatly that Byzun would, in 
all probability, return no more to Persia, but 
he was somewhat alarmed when the young 
151 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

noble came to the side of his couch in the 
cold grey dawn of the next morning, saying 
that he had something to confide to him. Be- 
fore he could speak another word, Girgin 
started up, and began to sneer at him. "You 
look afraid, oh, Byzun," he began. " Does 
your heart fail you at the thought of the wrath 
of Afrasiyab, who has slain so many of Persia's 
bravest warriors? Do you dread an adventure 
which would have rejoiced the heart of King 
Jemshed or the good Feridun ? How your com- 
rades at court will mock when I tell them 
that you have won the heart of the fairest 
woman in the world, and then was afraid 
to hold her as your own ! " 

The young warrior was stirred to anger at 
this speech, and replied that he had never had 
the least intention of giving up his beloved 
wife. He merely wished to entrust Girgin 
with messages for the King and his parents, 

because he felt that his joy in the love of 
152 



THE STORY OF BYZUN AND MANIJEH 

Manijeh might have a tragic ending, and it 
was possible that he might never see Persia 
again. 

The old warrior, therefore, bade farewell to 
his companion, and went off on his way re- 
joicing, while the honeymoon passed in great 
happiness in the grove of walnut trees. At 
last, the day arrived when it was neces- 
sary for the Princess and her retinue to return 
to the court of Turan. Byzun, who saw clearly 
that by this move he would be walking into 
the very jaws of the lion, as it were, begged 
his wife to let him go back to Persia, and try 
and arrange matters with King Afrasiyab from 
there. 

But Manijeh could not bring herself to part 
from her husband, and that evening, during the 
interminable dinner, which often began at nine 
o'clock and did not end till midnight, she offered 
him a draught of wine from her own goblet. 
"Drink to our happiness, Light of my soul!" 
153 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

she exclaimed. " May our love endure strong 
as now until the grave closes over us. May 
we have one life and one death ! " And she 
gave him a long look of deep affection as he 
drained the cup to the dregs. 

Almost immediately he became very drowsy, 
as the wine was drugged, and he slept hour 
after hour, while the tents were struck, and 
the caravan journeyed through the summer 
night to the city of Turan. 

He woke the next day to find himself in 
the anderoon or women's apartments of the 
palace, and at once sprang to his feet in a 
terrible rage, reproaching Manijeh loudly for 
her treachery. 

But she bore all his hard words so patiently, 
and looked so beautiful as she knelt weeping 
at his feet, saying between her sobs, " I could 
not let you return to Persia. You might have 
forgotten your wife, and have never come back 
to her. If you forsake me I shall die! I 
154 



THE STORY OF BYZUN AND MANNER 

cannot live without you ! " that he was forced 
to forgive her. 

But, indeed, Byzun had good cause for his 
anger, because as soon as Afrasiyab learned 
that his favourite daughter had married a 
Persian youth, he sent his soldiers to seize 
him. 

When the young warrior was led, bound 
with chains, into the presence of the King, 
Afrasiyab's rage knew no limits. " Son of a 
dog," he shouted, "you whose ancestors have 
been jackals from remote ages, how dared 
you raise your eyes to the fairest flower of 
my kingdom ? Do you not know that I 
slay without mercy any of the accursed Persian 
race who venture here without good reason, 
and how much more you who have thus 
presumed to insult me ? Prepare, therefore, to 
die before an hour be past." 

But the fear of death did not make Byzun 
quail before the anger of the King of Turan. 
155 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

He drew himself up to his full height, and, 
looking boldly into the face of the monarch, 
he answered, " Kill me if you will, but 
remember that I am the grandson of mighty 
Rustem, who will not fail to avenge my death." 

By this speech Afrasiyab was made yet 
more furious, for he looked upon the Champion 
of the World as his deadliest enemy. He 
beckoned to the executioners, who were standing 
near at hand, and commanded them to hang 
Byzun without delay from a great tree that 
grew opposite the palace. 

And the sentence would have been carried 
out if one of the wisest of the King's councillors 
had not happened to pass by just at that 
moment, and pleaded urgently with Afrasiyab 
for the life of his captive. "Oh, mighty 
monarch," he said, "your kingdom is now at 
peace, and all your subjects enjoy prosperity. 
But if, in your righteous anger, you take the 
life of this descendant of great Rustem, you 
156 



THE STORY OF BYZUN AND MANIJEH 

will bring war on Turan. The Persians will 
immediately despatch a large army to avenge 
young Byzun's death, and remember, oh, King, 
that among all the warriors of Turan there is 
none to compare with the Champion of the 
World and his son, young Feramurz." 

These words made Afrasiyab resolve to 
imprison poor Byzun, but when you hear what 
his captivity was like you will perhaps think 
that hanging would have been better. 

He was chained, head downwards, in a deep 
pit, so that he might never see the sun or 
the moon again, and over the mouth of the 
chasm the Demons placed an enormous mass 
of rock. 

At first Afrasiyab said that Manijeh should 
share the punishment of her husband, but all 
her maidens implored the King so piteously to 
have mercy on their beautiful mistress, that 
she was only stripped of all her jewels and 
left beside the horrible pit. 
157 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

Fortunately, there was a hole in the stone 
placed over the chasm, so that Many eh could pass 
down food to Byzun, and she did her best to 
comfort him, promising that she would never 
forsake him as long as life lasted. 

Perhaps some of you may have wondered 
what sort of a story Girgin invented when he 
returned to the Persian court without young 
Byzun. 

He feared to tell the truth, lest the King 
should say that he ought to have prevented 
the young warrior from such a dangerous 
adventure, so he made up a wonderful tale 
about a Demon Wild Ass. He averred that 
they came across this creature on their home- 
ward journey, and that it had hoofs of steel, 
the strength of a lion, and the swiftness of 
lightning. He said that he advised Byzun to 
have nothing to do with so uncanny an animal, 
but the headstrong Hero at once threw his 
lasso and caught the Demon by the neck. 
158 



THE STORY OF BYZUN AND MANIJEH 

Thereupon a terrific storm arose, the sky 
became dark as ink, thunder boomed, lightning 
flashed, mocking voices were heard, and, when 
the heavens were clear again, Byzun was no- 
where to be found. 

Girgin went on to relate- that he and the 
servants searched for many hours, and only 
came across the young noble's horse, which 
was galloping about wildly and neighing in a 
very frenzy of terror. 

But when the old warrior made up this false 
story, he had quite forgotten that King Kai- 
Khosrau possessed a Magic Cup, in which he 
could see everything and everybody in the 
whole world. This wondrous Goblet had for- 
merly been the property of King Jemshed, 
and had been made for him by the Demons. 
You can imagine Girgin's dismay when the 
monarch sent for his magicians, and commanded 
them to make suitable incantations, while he 
gazed into the enchanted Bowl ! In a flash 
159 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

Kai-Khosrau saw poor Byzun, bound with 
chains, in the horrible pit, and unhappy Manijeh 
weeping beside the Demon-stone. 

The whole Persian court rejoiced to know 
that the brave young noble was still in the 
land of the living ; but the King commanded 
Girgin to be imprisoned in a deep dungeon, 
there to stay until poor Byzun was free once 
more. 

Then he commanded Rustem to come to the 

rescue, and the old Hero hastened to the 

court from his retirement in Zabulistan. He 

told Kai-Khosrau that he did not need an 

army, but would go in disguise with a thou- 

sand warriors, all of them pretending to be 

! merchants and camel-drivers. This was an old 

f ruse of Rustem's, who captured the fortress of 

[ Sipund many many years ago in this manner. 

Therefore, a great troop of camels was laden 

with jewels, silks, embroideries, and carpets, the 

animals divided into long strings, the tail of 
160 



THE STORY OF BYZUN AND MANl'jEH 

the leading camel being tied to the head of the 
next, and so on. 

The caravan made a great stir when it 
reached the city of Turan, as such rich mer- 
chandise had never been seen there before, and 
all the inhabitants were very eager to buy. 

When Manijeh heard of its arrival, she be- 
came greatly excited, and thinking that Rustem, 
from his appearance, was the chief merchant, 
she| asked him whether King Kai-Khosrau 
knew that one of his bravest warriors was 
cruelly imprisoned in Turan. 

But the Champion of the World did not 
want to disclose his plans too soon, so he 
answered the Princess, roughly : " What do I, 
a mere merchant, know about the Persian 
court ? I have never even heard the name of 
Byzun, so how can his fate matter to me ? " 

But at this downfall to her hopes, Manijeh 
wept so bitterly that Rustem's heart was soft- 
ened, and he said to her, kindly, " Poor maiden, 
161 L 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

I perceive that you are in some great trouble. 
Perchance I may be able to help you, though 
I am neither a warrior nor a courtier." 

The unlucky Princess caught at the sym- 
pathy in her misery and desolation, and told 
her whole story with many a tear. 

Rustem listened with much interest, and 
gave Manfjeh a roast fowl to take to the 
prisoner, for the Demons, who watched over 
him, allowed him only bread and water. 

In the body of the bird was concealed 
the Hero's own signet-ring with his name 
engraved upon it, which, when Byzun saw, he 
gave an exclamation of joy. 

" Beloved, what is it ? Why do you smile ? " 
inquired the Princess, as she peered at him 
through the hole in the stone, but at first 
Byzun would not tell her. 

All Persian boys are taught their lessons by 
the mollahs or priests, and these men usually 
give their pupils one particular piece of advice. 
162 



THE STORY OF BYZUN AND MANIJEH 

They say, " Never trust a woman with a 
secret on any account. If she gives you 
counsel, always do the contrary thing to what 
she advises, and never be guided by her in 
anything." 

Now, of course, every girl who reads this 
will see at once how wrong and stupid the 
mollahs must be to say such things, and 
no one will wonder that Manijeh thought so 
too. 

She reproached her husband for his unkind 
conduct, saying that in all his misery she had 
never forsaken him, and had done her utmost 
for him ; therefore it was hard that he would 
not trust her when she had proved her love^so 
thoroughly. 

Byzun thereupon felt quite ashamed of 
himself, and, having begged for her forgiveness, 
said: "Let us rejoice! It was Rustem with 
whom you spoke. He is come to release me. 
Go to him in haste and ask of him his plans." 
163 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

The Princess, now filled with hope, betook 
herself to the Champion of the World, who 
told her to light a fire beside the pit as soon 
as it was dark, in order to guide him and his 
soldiers to the spot. She, on her side, bade 
him beware of the Demon-guards, and, above 
all, of their leader, who cherished a terrible 
hatred against Rustem, the slayer of his father, 
the White Demon. 

Then she returned to her husband, and they 
beguiled the time until nightfall with talk of 
all that they would do when Fortune smiled 
upon them again, and Manijeh also collected a 
big heap of camel-thorn for the bonfire. 

When the time came for it to be lit, she 
stood beside it in fear and trembling, feeding 
it at every moment, for camel-thorn blazes up 
fiercely and goes out quickly. 

At last she heard the tramp of Rustem and 
his warriors, and the fight that ensued between 
them and the Demons was such a fierce one that 
164 



THE STORY OF BYZUN AND MANIJEH 

at times it almost seemed as if Byzun might 
never be released. Rustem and his followers 
fought with swords and spears and bows and 
arrows, flinging their nooses round the necks 
of the Demons whenever they could. 

In the midst of all the tumult of the fight, 
a terrific roar was suddenly heard, and the 
leader of the Divs, a monster most hideous to 
look upon, sprang to the front and rushed at 
the Champion of the World. " Murderer of 
my father, thy last hour is come ! " it yelled, 
and, armed with a great tree torn up by the 
roots, it challenged Rustem to single combat. 
Oh, how poor Manijeh prayed ! How she im- 
plored the Gods for their help, and how she 
shuddered when the Demon vanished again 
and again, just when the Champion seemed 
about to get the better of it. 

At last, however, the rage of the Div grew 
to such a pitch that it forgot all caution, and 
made a headlong dash at Rustem with the 
165 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

tree trunk. The old Hero leapt nimbly aside 
to avoid the charge, and plunged his sword 
deep into the side of the monster as it passed, 
and the victory was to the Persians. 

They pursued the vanquished Demons for 
some miles, and then Rustem managed, by a 
great effort of strength, to push away the Demon- 
stone over the mouth of the pit, and to haul 
up poor Byzun by means of his lasso. 

The whole release had been done so secretly 
that King Afrasiyab had no idea of what was 
going on outside the city during that night, 
and was much alarmed when he heard a voice, 
loud as thunder, shouting through the palace, 
" Awake, oh sovereign ! Byzun is free, and 
Rustem is here to avenge him ! " The Persians 
had slain all the guards, and were swarming 
into every room, killing all who resisted them, 
and gathering up jewels and gold and fair 
maidens. 

Afrasiyab, without losing a moment, fled 
166 



THE STORY OF BYZUN AND MANIJEH 

through a secret passage which led from his 
chamber to the barracks of his soldiers, and 
hastily summoning his army he encountered 
the invaders at daybreak. 

Certainly the Persians only numbered a thou- 
sand, but, with Rustem at their head, it was 
as if they were a host tenfold that strength, 
and the Champion of the World never distin- 
guished himself more than on that day. 

Of course, the Turanians were utterly routed, 
and their conquerors returned to Persia laden 
with spoil. 

Byzun and Manijeh were received with great 
honour at the court, King Kai-Khosrau feeling 
that he could hardly do enough to make up to 
them for all their sufferings, and it is related 
that they lived happily together all the rest of 
their days. 





VII 

Some of the Feats of Rustem 

AFTER the mournful death of young Sohrab, 
Rustem retired for a long time to his own 
kingdom of Zabulistan, telling everyone that 
he had quite done with fighting and intended 
to dwell henceforth in peace with all men. 

But while King Afrasiyab lived, the services 
of the great Hero could not be dispensed 
with, and again and again he was called from 
his retreat to do battle with the Turanian 
forces. 

A new King, Kai-Khosrau by name, had 
succeeded the foolish Kai-Kaus, and this 
169 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

monarch's father had been cruelly put to death 
by Afrasiyab, therefore the enmity between the 
two kingdoms was unquenchable. 

But even when no wars were on hand, 
Rustem's services were frequently required. 
One day, for example, the King's grooms were 
in the utmost terror, as a creature in the form 
of a wild ass had burst into the royal stables 
and had killed or seriously injured many of the 
best horses. Everyone agreed in thinking that 
this disagreeable visitor must be an evil spirit 
in disguise, and the courtiers and officials ad- 
vised the king to send for Rustem at once, 
as, from the fact of having killed the White 
Demon, he had had considerable experience 
of such monsters. 

Rustem arrived in haste, and searched the 
neighbouring forest for the pretended wild ass, 
but found that he had no easy task before him, 
for whenever he came in sight of the strange 
animal and galloped up to it, it invariably 
170 



SOME OF THE FEATS OF RUSTEM 

vanished immediately, and even Rustem could 
do nothing against an enemy which took such 
an unfair advantage of him. 

For three days and three nights the great 
Champion pursued a shadow as it were, and 
he and his horse, Rakush, became completely 
exhausted with the chase and despaired of 
success. 

Thoroughly tired out at last, Rustem lay 
down near a stream to take a little much- 
needed rest, and as soon as he had fallen 
asleep, the Demon appeared in the form of a 
monstrous giant, and, digging up the earth 
round him, took up the soil and the Champion 
together and marched off with this strange 
burden poised on his head. 

The Hero presently awoke to find himself 
in this perilous position, and was not greatly 
re-assured when the Demon offered him the 
choice of two modes of death. "Wouldest 
thou prefer to be left on the summit of Great 
171 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

Demavend, far from any human habitation," said 
his captor, "or wilt thou be thrown into the 
waters of the Caspian Sea ? " 

Now the wily Rustem knew that the Evil 
Spirits loved to act by contraries, and that if 
a mortal begged them to do a special thing 
they would at once do the opposite. There- 
fore, considering that it would be better to risk 
drowning than starvation, he besought and 
implored the Demon to leave him to the 
mercy of the wild beasts on the mountain, as 
he had a horror of being devoured by the 
denizens of the deep. 

The result was just what Rustem hoped. 
The Demon flung him headlong into the sea, 
and down he went into unsounded depths. 

The Champion of the World was no mean 
swimmer, however, and when he rose to the 
surface, he knew that he could soon reach the 
shore. He had to contend with various mon- 
sters (none of which are to be found in the 
172 



SOME OF THE FEATS OF RUSTEM 

Caspian to-day), all exceedingly eager to make 
a meal off him, but his good sword speedily 
rid him of these enemies, and he came safely 
to land and found faithful Rakush waiting for 
him on the shore. His first act was to gallop 
back to the haunts of the Demon, who appeared 
in his giant shape, and was greatly surprised 
at seeing the Hero again, scofHng at him for 
his folly in braving the anger of a Demon 
twice. 

Rustem, however, had the laugh on his side 
this time. He threw his lasso as the Evil 
Spirit spoke, and the monster, entangled in its 
coils, became an easy prey. Then the Cham- 
pion cut off its head and sent it as a trophy to 
King Kai-Khosrau, who was amazed at its 
size and terrific expression, and who lavished 
yet further honours and riches on Rustem, the 
bulwark of his realm. 



King Afrasiyab often felt bitterly that as 
173 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

long as Rustem lived he himself could never 
be secure in his kingdom, but one day a gleam 
of hope fell across his path. In passing 
through a village not far from Turan, he was 
astonished to see a young peasant of extra- 
ordinary stature and of a most awe-inspiring 
countenance, and at once thought that he 
might employ this youth to slay Rustem in 
single combat and so rid the world of that 
mighty Champion. 

The young villager said that his name was 
Barzu, but that his parentage was surrounded 
by a mystery which his mother had always 
refused to reveal. He was, of course, greatly 
flattered when Afrasiyab loaded him with 
presents and promised him all kinds of honours 
and riches if he would only overthrow Rustem 
in battle, and the Turanian King on his side 
was well pleased with his bargain, when he 
found that Barzu could easily overcome eighteen 
of his strongest warriors at once. 
174 



SOME OF THE FEATS OF RUSTEM 

Afrasiyab, therefore, got together an army 
to invade Persia, and put Barzu at the head 
of the vanguard, which speedily engaged the 
Persian forces under Tus, and routed them 
utterly. 

In this emergency Rustem was sent for as 
usual, and at once came to the rescue, fired 
with hatred against Afrasiyab, his life-long 
enemy. And when the morrow dawned, and 
Barzu stalked out from the Turanian host, 
defying the Persian generals to single combat, 
Rustem came forth to encounter the youth. 
Hour after hour they fought together without any 
result, until Barzu managed to strike Rustem 
such a terrific blow that his arm was completely 
disabled. The wily Champion, however, con 
cealed the intense pain that he was suffering, 
and remarking that as the sun was about to 
set, it would be better to postpone the combat 
until the next day, he returned to the Persian 
camp. Here he fell into despair, as his wound 
175 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

was too severe to allow of his fighting on the 
morrow, and all night long besought the Gods 
with many tears that they would come to the 
assistance of Persia in her dire need. 

And even as dawn broke he received an 
answer to his fervent petitions. His son, the 
young Feramurz, who was almost, if not quite, 
equal to his mighty father, arrived unexpectedly, 
and at once proposed to wear Rustem's armour 
and pretend to be the warrior with whom Barzu 
had fought on the previous day. 

The Turanian Champion had some doubts 
as to whether Feramurz was his adversary of 
the day before, although he was wearing the 
same armour and using the same weapons and 
horse. The Persian, however, did not allow 
any discussion on this point, but rushing upon 
him with an indescribable fury, so confused 
Barzu with the blows of his battle-axe that he 
easily secured him with his lasso and dragged 
him in triumph to Rustem. 
176 



SOME OF THE FEATS OF RUSTEM 

And, strange to say, it was revealed to the 
Champion of the World that Barzu was none 
other than his own grandson, the child of 
the ill-fated Sohrab. Thereupon the would-be 
destroyer of Rustem became one of his dearest 
friends, and accompanied him and Feramurz 
back to their kingdom in far Zabulistan. 

Afrasiyab, naturally, was bitterly grieved at 
the ill-success of his plan for ridding the world 
of Rustem, which had only resulted in the loss 
of Barzu, his own Champion. But one day, 
as he lamented, a beautiful woman was brought 
before him and requested to speak with him 
quite alone. 

She then told him that she was a wonderful 
sorceress, and was confident that her witchcraft 
would soon bring Rustem into the King's power, 
as no living man could resist her charms. 
Afrasiyab consented to the plan she proposed, 
gave her plenty of money, and sent her off to 
Zabulistan in company with Pilsam, his bravest 
177 M 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

warrior, the witch giving out that she was the 
wife of a rich merchant. She bought a large 
house and fortress close to Rustem's palace, 
and offered food and wine to all who passed by 
her dwelling. Before very long a day arrived 
on which three of Persia's bravest warriors 
entered her hall. Her beauty was so great 
that these Heroes gazed at her with rapture 
and joyously drank enchanted wine from 
the golden goblets which she handed them. 
Thereupon they all sank helpless at her feet, 
and Pilsam bound them with stout ropes and 
locked them up in the fortress. 

The aged Zal came by not long after 
this, and, being curious to know who this lady 
might be, he accepted her pressing offer of 
hospitality and entered her house. 

But the spells of the fair sorceress had no 

effect upon him, because the image of fair 

Rudabeh, now in her grave, was seldom absent 

from his mind. He had loved his wife so 

178 



SOME OF THE FEATS OF RUSTEM 

well that he never cared to look upon the face 
of any other woman, therefore the enchanted 
wine did him no manner of harm. 

He left the lady after awhile, with a courtly 
thanks and a khoda hafiz-i-shuma, which is the 
Persian way of saying good-bye. However, 
he was stopped outside her gate by a water- 
carrier who had been resting in the shade, as 
the skin he bore, filled with water, was a heavy 
one. " Deliverer of the poor," so the man 
began, " may I, unworthy son of a dog, speak 
to your Highness?" And when Zal bade him 
tell what was in his mind, he said that he had 
noted how the beautiful lady had lured three 
warriors into her dwelling, and that they had 
never come out again. This aroused Zal's 
suspicions, for he had not seen the warriors in 
the house, and he had, moreover, noted how a 
narrow flight of stone steps led up to the fort- 
ress, and had been surprised to see a couple of 
Persian helmets lying near by. 
179 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

He rushed back to capture his hostess, but 
when she perceived him on her threshold, she 
fled up the staircase and so into the tower. 
Zal pursued her hotly, and breaking down the 
door with mighty blows, he found Pilsam be- 
hind it, and entered into a terrific combat with 
him. Things might have gone badly if the 
water-carrier had not summoned Rustem to 
come to the help of his aged father, and the 
Persian Hero speedily killed Pilsam and re- 
leased the three prisoners. The sorceress, the 
cause of all the mischief, escaped during the 
fighting, so you see she never had the chance 
of trying her spells on the Champion of the 
World. 

She did not dare to return to Afrasiyab to 
tell him of her ill-success, but took the money 
he had given her and went to live in one of 
the great cities of India. 

When Afrasiyab heard that his mightiest 
warrior had been killed by Rustem, and that 
180 



SOME OF THE FEATS OF RUSTEM 

his plan to entrap the latter had come to 
nought, he fell into a terrible rage. Indeed, so 
angry was he that his servants feared to 
approach him, lest he should order their in- 
stant execution. He refused to eat or drink, 
flung his beautifully-jewelled kalians or water- 
pipes at the fretted ornaments of his hall, 
tortured many of his slaves, and threatened 
to kill his once beloved wife and the sons 
of whom he was so proud. 

After three awful days, during which no one 
in the palace felt that his head was safe on 
his shoulders, Afrasiyab became a little calmer, 
and summoned his doctors and magicians to a 
council. 

When they were all standing in their long 
robes and white turbans with bent heads before 
his throne, he thus addressed them : " Learned 
men, who for long years have been nourished 
by my gracious bounty, now is the time to 
show your gratitude to your monarch. All of 
181 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

you know that I have a deadly enemy. All of 
you know that this kingdom of Turan is 
never safe from invasion while Rustem lives. 
I have summoned you here in order that you 
may, with the aid of divination and having con- 
sulted the course of the planets, predict the 
death of the Champion of the World. You 
must inform me whether I, the King, or 
whether Rustem departs first to the Lower 
'World, and you must also tell me in what 
manner it is ordained that we make our several 
exits from this life." Here Afrasiyab ceased 
for a moment, and then, waving them away 
haughtily, he cried : " Begone now to your 
studies, and return at this time three days 
hence to tell me the result!" 

The learned men were by no means happy 
during the interval allotted to them; for, read 
the stars as they might, they always saw the 
same evil prediction written, which was that 
Afrasiyab would be fleeing for his life but a 
182 




page 183. 



THE COUNCIL OF THE WISE MEN. 



SOME OF THE FEATS OF RUSTEM 

few weeks hence, and would meet a violent 
death. When they turned to the horoscope of 
Rustem, they found that a long span of life 
and much honour and riches awaited that 
Hero, though his latter days were clouded 
with sorrow and ended in blood. 

On the morning of the third day, the trem- 
bling magicians met in secret as the dawn 
broke, and nervously whispered together. 
Their lives hung in the balance, for they well 
knew if they told Afrasiyab the truth that not 
a man among them would in all probability see 
another sun rise. 

At last he who was the boldest amongst them 
spoke out. "Brothers," he began, "it is written 
in the stars that our royal master is to die. 
Nought that we can do or say will save him. 
Who can set aside the decrees of Destiny? 
Let us, therefore, conceal the truth, for of a 
surety our lives will be sacrificed, and that 
speedily, if we do not do so. Shall we not all 
183 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

agree that Rustem is to die by the sword be- 
fore another moon has waned, but that our 
monarch is to be the light of his faithful sub- 
jects for uncounted years ? " 

The speaker had but put into words what 
each man felt in his heart, and he was 
answered by a murmur of khub ast (it is 
good), while one old grey-beard said, solemnly, 
"Kismet (it is fate)." 

Afrasiyab was naturally much pleased at 
the predictions of the magicians when they 
came into his presence. He was particularly 
curious to know the exact manner of the sup- 
posed death of Rustem, and could not be satisfied 
until the learned man, who had counselled the 
others to deceive, declared that he had had a 
vision of the Champion of the World dying of 
wounds in the midst of battle. 

This decided the Turanian monarch to invade 
Persia yet once again and for the last time. 

But things by no. means turned out as he ex- 
184 



SOME OF THE FEATS OF RUSTEM 

pected, for his army was utterly routed by 
Rustem and he himself captured. He was led 
in chains to King Kai-Khosrau, who at once 
put him to death, thus avenging the cruel 
murder of his father, who had formerly married 
Afrasiyab's daughter. 

Now that the Turanian monarch was dead, 
Kai-Khosrau felt that the work of his life was 
done, therefore he announced to his sorrowing 
people that he intended to leave the kingdom to his 
son-in-law, and devote himself entirely to prayer. 
He said, moreover, that he had seen a certain 
fountain in a dream, and knew that when he 
should find it the Gods would take him to them- 
selves. Accordingly, he set the affairs of his 
empire in order, and, accompanied by many of 
his warriors, went forth into the desert in search 
of this water. 

The party rode across a trackless waste for 
some days, but were in no fear of losing the 
way because a chikor or partridge ran ever 
185 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

in front of them acting as a guide, and seeming, 
by its incessant cry, to be telling them to follow 
it. At last, to the astonishment of everybody, 
except Kai-Khosrau, they came to a very large 
and deep pool of water, which the King told 
them was the spot he had seen in his dream. 

Here Zal, Rustem, and all the other warriors 
dismounted and fell on their faces before their 
monarch, weeping bitterly at his approaching 
departure, so greatly was he beloved by all. 

Kai-Khosrau himself was moved at saying 
good-bye to so many faithful friends, but begged 
them earnestly to start on their homeward 
journey ^as soon as he should disappear from 
their eyes. It had been revealed to him, he 
said, that a most terrible storm would shortly 
arise, which would overwhelm any who re- 
mained in the vicinity of the fountain, and 
which would, moreover, cause the pool to vanish 
away, so that it would never be seen again. 

After these words he stepped into the water 
186 



SOME OF THE FEATS OF RUSTEM 

and immediately sank from their view, leaving 
not even a ripple on the surface, and all wept 
for a time, quite overcome with grief. 

Zal, however, roused himself before long, 
and urged a speedy departure, as he noted 
black clouds beginning to gather in the sky, 
and thought on the storm which Kai-Khosrau 
had predicted. 

Accordingly, he and Rustem, with the greater 
part of the warriors, mounted their steeds and 
rode off in haste, calling on the others to 
follow them. 

But several of the generals and many soldiers 
were so overcome with grief that they could 
not tear themselves away from the mysterious 
spot, and, sad to tell, were all frozen to 
death by the terrific snow-storm which shortly 
broke upon them. 

***** 

It is related that at this time Rustem was 
four hundred years old. He felt, therefore, that 
187 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

it was fitting for him to give place to younger 
Heroes, among whom was his son Feramurz, 
and, accordingly, he left Persia and went to 
reside for the remainder of his days with old 
Zal in their kingdom of Zabulistan. 

Things, however, did not go so smoothly 
with the Champion as one would have wished. 
Perhaps he had lived too long, or perhaps, 
and I myself believe that this was the cause, 
he had become so puffed up with all his pros- 
perity that he had forgotten the Gods to whom 
he owed everything. 

Be that as it may, a King ruled over Persia 
who recked nothing of the great deeds done 
by Rustem in former years, and endeavoured 
to subject him to cruel insult ; but you must 
read the next story to understand how it all 
came about. 





VIII 

The Story of Isfendiyar 

ISFENDIYAR, the son of King Gushtasp, was a 
youth of surpassing valour, and, what was per- 
haps more uncommon in that age, he was pro- 
foundly pious. 

It was at this time that the Persians adopted 
a new religion, and called themselves henceforth 
Fire Worshippers. The sun was now the object 
of their adoration, which was not perhaps sur- 
prising, as they saw how its light and heat 
brought life and health to the whole world. 

They thought that the Earth, Air, Fire, and 

Water were all sacred and must never be 
189 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

polluted, therefore they did not bury their dead 
in graves as we do, but placed them on the 
tops of high towers. 

Moreover, they feared to defile the Fire if they 
blew out a flame with their breath, therefore 
they always extinguished a candle with their 
fingers. 

And the Fire Worshippers in Persia have 
these customs at the present day, and many 
others which perhaps you will read about when 
you are grown up. 

Isfendiyar wished all the nations on the 
borders of Persia to adopt this religion, but, 
as he knew that persuasion would not be of 
much use, he asked his father to give him 
command of a large army. 

Then began a sort of Holy War. The young 
Prince conquered kingdom after kingdom, and 
even the King of India, who came out against 
him with hundreds of elephants, was forced, like 
all the others, to become a Fire Worshipper 
190 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

and accept the Sacred Book or Zenda- 
vesta. 

King Gushtasp was so delighted at the vic- 
tories of his son that he made a solemn promise 
that he should succeed him on the throne of 
Persia. 

But, unluckily, the Prince had an enemy. 
This was one of the generals of the army, who 
was such a cowardly soldier that Isfendiyar 
refused to take him on his Holy War, and 
left him behind in the capital. 

The warrior was deeply offended, and thought 
day and night how he might do some injury 
to the Prince, and his opportunity was not long 
in coming. 

While Isfendiyar was gaining victory after 
victory, this man kept on telling King Gushtasp 
that his son was plotting to take the crown 
of Persia from him, and had even resolved 
to murder him as soon as he returned home. 

Of course, none of you can possibly under- 
191 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

stand how a father could think that his children 
were trying to harm him, but it is one of the 
commonest things in the East, even nowa- 
days. 

The Shahs or Kings of Persia are usually 
afraid of their sons, and keep them as ignorant 
as possible. They never allow them to travel, 
and surround them with spies in order to dis- 
cover whether they are plotting to seize the 
throne. They are particularly alarmed if they 
hear that one of their sons is gathering many 
soldiers around him, or interesting himself in 
military matters, and, in such a case, they at 
once send a message to the Prince, command- 
ing him to adopt more peaceful pursuits. 

Therefore, you see that it was not so very 
strange for Gushtasp to believe all that the 
general told him, although he ought to have 
known that his son was far too honourable a 
man to have even thought of such things. He 
became at last so frightened that when Isfen- 
192 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

diyar returned home after all his victories, he 
ordered him to be bound with chains, and cast 
into a deep dungeon. 

However, it is well known that a person who 
does a wicked act can never be really happy, 
and so it was with Gushtasp. 

On all sides he heard murmurs of reproach 
from his subjects, who were very angry at the 
cruel way in which he had treated his son. As 
he rode through the Bazaars on a horse with 
golden trappings, followed by his nobles in 
magnificent clothing, he would hear voices cry- 
ing: "Give us back Isfendiyar! Release our 
heroic young general ! " but he never could 
find out who spoke, because the crowds were 
too great. The people did not give vent to 
loud "bah! bah's" of admiration, as they had 
hitherto done when they saw him, and he 
noticed that their low tones and prostrations 
proceeded from fear and not from love. In the 
army matters were even worse, and the King 
193 N 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

saw discontent, if not hatred, written plainly 
on every soldier's face, for the men idolized 
their heroic leader. 

All this made life somewhat unpleasant, and 
Gushtasp, thinking he would like a change, put 
the kingdom in charge of his Vizier, and went 
off on a visit to old Rustem in far-away Zabu- 
listan. 

X The Champion of the World received his 
King with great joy, and everything was done 
to show honour to the royal guest. 

One day camels, laden with tents and every 
possible luxury, would be sent off across the 
vast plains towards the mountains, and when the 
King and his followers rode out from Zabul 
on their fleet horses late in the afternoon, they 
would find the camp pitched by some running 
water, and all made ready for their reception. 

The next morning, shortly after daybreak, 
they would go off to hunt the gazelle. 

These pretty creatures still roam about the 
194 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

plains in small herds, and the riders try to 
surround them at a long distance and then 
draw closer and closer in upon .'them. When 
the antelopes see that the horsemen are getting 
nearer they become much startled and try to 
escape by rushing between them. 

The hunters now gallop wildly after them, 
shooting right and left, and their comrades 
run great risk of being wounded instead of the 
gazelle. Moreover, it is very easy to have a 
bad fall, as the horses go at a great pace 
over the stony plains, and the riders are too 
busy using their weapons to be able to guide 
their steeds. 

Gushtasp, however, killed many antelopes and 
had no falls, and had also good luck in pur- 
suing the fleet wild ass across the Kavir or 
Salt Desert. He spent a few days at intervals 
in climbing about the barren mountains, and 
brought down many a fine ibex or moufflon 
with his bow and arrows, and when he needed 
195 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

less fatiguing sport, he would roam among the 
low hills, shooting the pretty kabg or partridge. 

But you must not think that these were 
the only amusements provided for Gushtasp. 
Magnificent banquets were laid on silken 
carpets under the trees of fair gardens ; beauti- 
ful girls were always ready to sing and dance 
before the King ; feats of wrestling and horse- 
manship were performed in his presence, and 
clever Dervishes were ever at hand to relate 
long stories, some so sad that all who heard 
them wept, and others so merry that the 
sovereign and his courtiers laughed till their 
sides ached. 

As all these pleasures delight the Shahs 



of Persia at the present day, you will be able 
to judge how little change there has been in 






j the land since the time of King Gushtasp. 

* l The weeks passed so quickly in this round 

ft ^s<i 

of enjoyment that the monarch actually stayed 

two years with Rustem, and there is no saying 

196 

-> :? ' 






THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

how much longer he might have stopped if 
bad news from Persia had not forced him to 
return home in haste. 

In those turbulent days it was not prudent 
for a king to leave his kingdom for long, and 
no one can be surprised that Arjasp, one of 
the sovereigns whom Isfendiyar had conquered 
and compelled to become a Fire Worshipper, 
thought it an excellent opportunity to take his 
revenge. 

He entered Persia with a large army, slay- 
ing and burning in all directions, and Gush- 
tasp's soldiers could not withstand him, but were 
routed in every battle. Arjasp even got pos- 
session of the capital of Persia, and carried off 
the two Princesses, the King's only daughters, 
to a brazen tower in his dominions. 

Gushtasp in despair called a hasty council of 

his magicians and astrologers, and asked them 

what was to be done. They cried out as with 

one voice : " Release thy son Isfendiyar, oh 

197 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

King! Put him at the head of thy army and 
all will go well." 

The poor Prince was at once brought forth 
from his dungeon, and it is said that he was 
so weakened by all his sufferings that he could 
hardly stand. 

Gushtasp felt very penitent when he saw 
him, and promised that he should succeed him 
on the throne of Persia if he could drive 
Arjasp from the country. He also put to 
death the wicked general who had caused 
him to believe such false stories of his son. 

Isfendiyar let bygones be bygones, and 
when he saw his faithful soldiers, and heard 
their shouts of joy at his appearance, he 
seemed to get back his former strength, and 
performed such feats of valour as made the 
Persians compare him with mighty Rustem, 
and all yelled " shahbash!" till they were hoarse. 

He soon drove Arjasp from the land, and 
King Gushtasp begged him to take the crown 
198 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

forthwith, and said he would go into retirement 
and spend the rest of his days in prayer. 

It would have been a good thing for 
Isfendiyar if he had agreed to his father's re- 
quest, but he became quite indignant at the 
idea. " Continue, oh, noble monarch, to be the 
Shelter of the whole Universe," he said. "As 
for me, your unworthy son, I desire neither 
thrones nor diadems. My one wish in life is 
to invade Arjasp in his own kingdom, and to 
deliver my dear sisters from their captivity." 

These words greatly pleased Gushtasp, who 
fondly embraced his son, and told him to start 
for the territory of Arjasp as soon as he and 
the soldiers were sufficiently rested. 

This expedition is always spoken of as 
the Heft- Khan or " Seven Stages " of Isfen- 
diyar. 

^ Rustem had accomplished his seven feats 

of valour when he made his famous journey 

into Mazanderan to deliver King Kai-Kaus 

199 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

from the White Demon, and now the young 
Prince was following his example. 

During the campaign against Arjasp, the 
Persians had captured a gigantic Demon war- 
rior called Kurugsar, and Isfendiyar promised 
this creature his liberty if he would help to 
rescue the poor Princesses. 

The Demon explained that there were three 
roads to the stronghold of Arjasp. The best 
would take three months, the next two ; but 
the third, the Heft-Khan, was only seven 
stages in length. "This is by far the shortest 
way, oh, noble Prince," said Kurugsar ; " but on 

/ each day some fearful obstacle must be over- 
come. Wild beasts of every kind, monstrous 
dragons, death-dealing enchantresses, and the 
dread Simurgh all haunt this district ; and so 

^ full of perils is the path that no mortal has 
ever passed along it in safety." 

Isfendiyar, following the example of mighty 
Rustem, betook himself to fervent prayer, and 
200 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

finally announced, that come what might, he 
would go by the short road. Kurugsar there- 
upon implored to be left behind, saying that 
the Prince could never reach the kingdom of 
Arjasp, and would involve himself and all his 
followers in a common destruction. This greatly 
displeased Isfendiyar who imagined that the 
Demon meant to betray him. Accordingly, he 
ordered him to be bound, and forced him to 
act as guide to the great army of twelve , 
thousand men which now set out on this jour- 
ney so full of danger and horror. 

As soon as the soldiers had crossed the 
Persian frontier, they reached a dreary desert, 
and Kurugsar bade them advance cautiously, 
because the place was infested by two enor- 
mous wolves, larger than elephants, and with 
poisonous teeth over a foot in length. 

The Demon had scarcely spoken when the 
monsters made their appearance, rushing upon 
the Persians with indescribable fury, and caus- 
201 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

ing a regular panic. Man after man fell 
wounded and dying, and it seemed as if the 
thousands of arrows shot by those who stood 
firm had no effect at all. 

At last Isfendiyar saw his opportunity, and 
with a blow of his battle-axe cleft open the 
skull of one gigantic beast, and, after a terrible 
struggle, managed to pierce the heart of the 
other with his sword. 

Kurugsar was amazed exceedingly at this 
feat of arms, which did not please him however, 
because he hoped that the Prince would have 
lost his life in the encounter with the wolves, 
and that he himself would then have been set 
free. However, he feigned great joy, and said: 
" Now, oh royal general, I will accompany you 
with a light heart, for I see clearly that the 
Gods have bestowed their favour upon you 
and that they are guiding your steps." 

The Demon-guide repeated these same words 
on the second day, when Isfendiyar, quite un- 
202 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

aided, slew a lion and lioness of supernatural size 
and ferocity. 

But he warned the young Hero that the 
fearsome Dragon, that haunted the third stage, 
would be a far harder creature to subdue than 
the wolves and lions. It was a fire-breathing 
monster, with a mouth so vast that it swallowed 
men and horses whole, and a roar so appall- 
ingly loud that it made the earth vibrate, and 
caused avalanches of stones to come tumbling 
down the sides of the mountains. 

Isfendiyar perceived at once that this mon- 
ster was not to be overcome by ordinary 
means, but, being full of resource, he soon 
found out a way. He ordered his takht-i-ravan 
or litter to be brought out. This is a kind of 
long box, in which women and sometimes men 
of rank are carried in Persia when travelling. 
It has a pair of shafts at either end, to which 
a couple of stout mules are harnessed, and, as 
they jog along, the whole thing sways to and 
203 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

fro in a most uncomfortable manner to anyone 
who is not a good sailor. 

Isfendiyar commanded this litter to be 
studded all over with sword-blades, javelins, and 
spear-heads, and when they reached the country 
of the Dragon, he got inside it, shut-to the 
little door, and somehow managed to guide 
the mules by means of ropes which he held. 
He had no easy task to induce the poor 
animals to approach the monster, which gave 
a terrific bellow when it saw them, and rushed 
forward, great flames bursting from its nos- 
trils. 

In less time than it takes to write, this 
terrible creature had taken the mules and takht 
into its enormous mouth, but it sorely repented 
of its haste. The sword-blades and spear-heads 
wounded it so cruelly that it spat everything 
out again in its dying agony. 

Isfendiyar then leapt out of the litter and 
finished off the Dragon with his battle-axe, 
204 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

while the mules galloped away quite unhurt, I 
though in a terrible fright. 

The young Prince himself was nearly 
drowned in the great stream of the monster's 
blood, but was fortunately rescued by his 
brother, and thanked the Gods heartily for 
this third great deliverance. 

The Demon-guide was the only one who was 
not pleased at Isfendiyar's success. He said, 
with a scarcely-concealed sneer, " To-morrow, 
royal Champion, a harder task than any that 
you have accomplished hitherto awaits you. A 
most beautiful Sorceress will appear who can 
turn herself into any shape she pleases, and in 
a moment can change this desert into a 
stormy sea or a lovely garden, according to her 
caprice. Moreover, she is attended by a huge 
Ghoul of malignant aspect." 

"He who puts his trust in the Gods has no 
fear," answered Isfendiyar, and when, on the 

next day, the beautiful Enchantress advanced 
205 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

towards him, he met guile by guile, and invited 
her to sit beside him on a pile of silken carpets 
from the looms of Kashan. 

And as they talked, he caught the Sorceress 
suddenly round the waist with his running 
noose, and held her fast, though she turned 
into different animals, and even into a very 
aged man who begged for mercy. " Kill her, 
as you value your life ! " shouted Kurugsar. 
" She will turn this place into a deep lake and 
drown us all if you hesitate." Therefore, Isfen- 
diyar slew the Enchantress, and had then to do 
battle with the enormous Ghoul. The flames 
which burst forth from this monster were so 
fierce that they burnt the young Prince badly ; 
but, in spite of all his pain, he persevered and 
managed to despatch this adversary, thus com- 
pleting his fourth labour. 

" So far success has attended you," remarked 
the Demon-guide ; " but I have many fears as 
to the result of the morrow ! Your way lies over 
206 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

the mountain-pass, where dwells the dread 
Simurgh, half-bird, half-beast, and as large as 
the monstrous Dragon." 

Isfendiyar, nothing daunted, determined to 
try the cunning plan that had succeeded so 
well with the Dragon. 

He again ordered the mules to be harnessed to 
his litter, which was stuck all over with sword- 
blades and spear-heads, and, getting inside, went 
on up the pass, ahead of his army. As 
soon as the Simurgh espied the takht it 
swooped down upon it, with beak and claws, 
intending to carry it off bodily to its nest in 
the mountains. It is hardly necessary for me 
to tell you that the sharp points injured the 
bird so terribly that Isfendiyar was able to kill 
it quite easily, and then, amid the cheers of 
the whole army, he told the Demon-guide 
that he was ready for whatever might befall 
on the next stage. " Do not be too sure of 
yourself," Kurugsar made answer. " To-morrow 
207 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

you will encounter a fall of snow so heavy that 
you and your warriors will lose the way, and 
a wind so bitter that it will chill all of you 
to the very heart, thousands perishing from 
the intense cold. How can you venture 
to fight against the elements ? It is as if you 
braved the great Gods themselves. Have you 
forgotten how many nobles and soldiers were 
overwhelmed by a snowstorm when they 
lingered by the fountain in which King Kai- 
Khosrau disappeared ? Why must we all 
suffer from a like fate ? " 

These words excited the whole army, which 
implored Isfendiyar to return. Up to now the 
soldiers had not been greatly dismayed by any 
of the perils of the road, as they saw from the 
first that their brave young general bore the 
whole brunt of them. But this sixth stage 
was a very different matter, because everyone 
would have to share the danger. 

The Prince, addressing the army, said that 
208 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

through the favour of the Gods, he had over- 
come five of the obstacles on the road, therefore 
he was convinced that the Dwellers on High 
would enable him to pass the last two stages in 
safety. " Comrades in arms ! " he exclaimed, 
" I have pledged my honour to deliver my sisters 
from the Brazen Fortress. Rather than break 
my oath I will go alone. Farewell ! Return in 
safety to fair Persia, and tell King Gushtasp 
that his son did his utmost." 

These words made the soldiers ashamed of 
themselves, and with one voice they said that 
they would follow Isfendiyar to the death. 
They had no great reason to repent of their 
decision, for they reached the shelter of some 
great caves in the mountains before the storm 
began. Though it lasted for three days with- 
out ceasing, yet the fervent prayers of the en- 
tire army prevailed with the Gods, so that on 
the fourth day the Heavens were again clear. 

The Demon-guide, however, made one last 
209 o 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

effort to dissuade Isfendiyar from attempting the 
seventh stage. He said it lay across a waterless 
desert, the sands of which were red-hot and would 
burn-up anyone who ventured upon them, and, 
moreover, discharged such poisonous vapours that 
even the vultures never dared to hover over them. 

But the Prince was not to be daunted, for he 
and all his men had soaked their boots in the 
blood of the Simurgh. Isfendiyar had com- 
manded this, knowing that the precaution would 
enable them to pass through fire unhurt. So 
in due time the Persians reached the Brazen 
Tower, where the poor Princesses were im- 
prisoned, and Isfendiyar inquired of the Demon 
the best way of entering the fortress. 

He was astounded when the guide replied 
in a burst of rage : " May you never succeed 
in your attempt ! May the Demons repulse 
your onslaught, and drive you into the desert 
to perish miserably! Curses on my head that 
I have shown you the way hither ! " 
210 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

On this, Isfendiyar immediately slew Kurugsar, 
and then approached the castle cautiously to 
try and discover its weak points. As it was 
made entirely of brass, he saw that he must 
use guile instead of force, especially when he 
heard that it had abundance of food and water 
and was garrisoned by thousands of warriors. 

Remembering some of the feats of mighty 
Rustem, he resolved to try the well-worn plan 
of introducing himself and his men, disguised 
as merchants, into the tower. 

He loaded twenty camels with rich merchan- 
dise, and eighty with two big chests apiece, in 
which he stowed his picked warriors. A hun- 
dred soldiers, clad in blue cotton shirts and full 
trousers and felt skull-caps, acted the part of 
camel-drivers, keeping their weapons carefully 
hidden. 

King Arjasp at once allowed this caravan to 
be admitted, and was so much pleased with the 
splendid gifts which Isfendiyar presented to 
211 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

him that he gave the merchants leave to visit 
the palace whenever they liked. 

Isfendiyar soon found his poor sisters, who 
were forced to do all kinds of rough work 
in King Arjasp's kitchens. He was afraid to 
discover himself to them, lest -they should, in 
their joy, betray him, and when they addressed 
the supposed merchant with a glad " khosh 
amadid" of welcome, and asked whether no 
plan was afoot in Persia for their rescue, 
he replied in a feigned voice. 

But the elder Princess recognized him directly, 
so he was forced to unfold his design, but bade 
them do their work as usual in order not to 
excite suspicion. 

That night he invited the King and his war- 
riors to a grand banquet, saying that when 
darkness came on he would light a huge 
bonfire which would give as much illumination 
as a thousand torches. 

This he said, because he had arranged with 
212 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

his brother, who was with the army, that when 
he saw flames rising from the fortress he was to 
attack the tower without delay. 

Everything fell out as Isfendiyar hoped. 
The King and his nobles drank so much of 
the strong Persian wine that they became sleepy, 
and when the Prince had released his eighty 
warriors from the chests, and had lit the bonfire, 
he opened the gate of the fortress to the Persian 
soldiers lying in wait outside. 

After a long fight, in which Arjasp and his 
entire army were slain, Isfendiyar with his sisters 
and soldiers returned to Persia by the Heft-Khan 
or Seven Stages, now a perfectly safe road. 

King Gushtasp received them with much honour, 
and was greatly interested in their wonderful 
adventures. You will, however, hardly believe 
me when I tell you that very soon the monarch 
became again so jealous of his noble son that he 
told his magicians and astrologers to find out in 
what manner Isfendiyar should meet his death. 
213 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

After much consulting of the oracles, the 
learned men Jnformed Gushtasp that his son 
would very shortly perish miserably, transfixed 
in the eye by an arrow from the bow of 
Rustem. This news was a great relief to the 
wicked father, who bade the Prince go without 
delay to Zabulistan, and bring the old Champion 
of the World back to Persia in chains. Isfen- 
diyar was greatly astonished and most indignant 
at being sent on such a shameful mission, and 
at first refused to perform it. The King, how- 
ever, threatened to have him thrown into a 
deep dungeon if he disobeyed, therefore he was 
obliged, though most unwillingly, to set out. 

When only a league from the city of Zabul, he 
was received with a great istakbal, or procession 
of men on horseback leading riderless horses, the 
whole headed by Shughad, Rustem's brother, and 
young Feramurz his son, and was conducted with 
royal honours to the spot where the aged Hero 
awaited him. 

214 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

This splendid reception so overwhelmed Is- 
fendiyar with shame that he could hardly deliver 
his message, and you will understand that he 
was not at all surprised when the Champion of 
the World utterly declined to be bound on any 
pretext whatever. 

Rustem, in a voice choked with indignation, 
related how well he had served all the Persian 
sovereigns from King Kai-Kobad downwards, 
and asked what he had done to merit such 
undeserved disgrace and degradation. 

Isfendiyar felt very sorry for the old 
Champion, but he dared not return home 
without him, so at last the two resolved to 
fight one another and thus settle the question. 

Rustem's loyal soul was extremely averse to 
taking the life of the heir to the throne of 
Persia, but as there did not seem to be any 
other way out_pf_the difficulty, he put on his 
armour and rushed to the attack. 

During the whole of one day, the combatants 
215 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

fought with all their might, but when dark- 
ness came on after sunset, neither had got the 
mastery ; therefore they separated, intending to 
renew the struggle at sunrise the next morning. 

Both were terribly exhausted, but the aged 
Rustem was so desperately wounded by the 
arrows of Isfendiyar, that he told his father 
his fighting days were ended, and that at last 
ruin had come to the proud house of Sam. 

Zal, however, did not lose hope so easily. 
Suddenly he bethought him of the long-hoarded 
feather of the Simurgh, and when he had thrown 
it upon a pot of burning charcoal, the miraculous 
Bird made its appearance, greatly pleased to 
see its foster-son again. 

The enormous creature speedily healed Rus- 
tem's wounds, but declared that it could not 
help the Champion to conquer Isfendiyar, because 
on the fifth stage of the Heft-Khan, the young 
prince had killed a Simurgh, and thus rendered 
himself invulnerable. It, therefore, advised 
216 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

the Hero to give up the contest. "This, 
oh wondrous Bird, I cannot do," answered old 
Rustem. " If I, the bulwark of Zabulistan, be slain, 
my father and my son will be dragged down to 
destruction, for I see plainly that King Gushtasp 
is resolved to exterminate our race, and seize 
all our possessions." Hearing this the Simurgh 
begged Zal and Rustem to be silent for a 
quarter of an hour, and it folded its wings over 
its head and pondered deeply, the two Heroes 
hardly daring to breathe, so anxious were they not 
to disturb it. At last it spoke : " Far, far from 
here, in a remote corner of the Chinese Empire, 
grows a certain tree. From remote ages it has 
been known to our race that an arrow made from 
its wood will kill without fail the person at whom 
it is shot. I will now go to seek this tree, and 
bring you back a branch ere daylight dawns." 

In the flash of an eye the Simurgh vanished 
into the darkness, and Zal and his son waited 
patiently and full of hope. Sure enough, 
217 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

with the first streak of red in the East, they 
saw it again, bearing a small branch in its beak. 
"Fashion this into an arrow," it said to Rustem, 
"and it will pierce Isfendiyar in the eye,and 
cause his death. It rejoices me to have been 
of service to you in your need, but I must 
hasten back to my home on Great Demavend ere 
the sun springs into the Heavens. Farewell ! " 
and the Simurgh became in a second a mere 
speck in the grey sky. 

Everything happened as the wondrous Bird 
had foretold. When Rustem fitted the magic 
arrow to his bow, it flew straight into the eye 
of Isfendiyar, and the young Prince sank to the 
ground mortally wounded. 

But he bore no anger against Rustem, and, 
with his dying breath, besought him to be as 
a father to his son, saying he would far rather 
trust him to the Champion of the World than 
to King Gushtasp. 



218 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

It was not very long before Rustem himself 
followed the noble Isfendiyar to the grave. 

Terrible to relate, it was his own brother, the 
wicked Shughad, who compassed his destruction. 

Shughad had always been very jealous of 
Rustem, who was so much stronger and braver 
than he was, and he hated to hear all the 
people of Zabulistan applaud the Champion of 
the World, while no one ever took any notice of 
him. 

This feeling grew and grew as the years 
went by, until one day he discovered that his 
cousin, the wicked King of Kabul, disliked 
Rustem as much as he did, and longed to do 
the old Hero some deadly injury. Thereupon, 
the two conspired together, and laid a cunning 
plot to kill the greatest warrior that the world 
has ever known. 

The King invited Rustem to hunt with him, 
and he ordered great pits to be dug across the 
road and filled with swords, the points of which 
219 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

were sticking upwards These were covered 
over lightly with earth and grass so as to look 
like solid ground, and, when the party came to 
the fatal spot, the King arranged that the Cham- 
pion should ride on a little ahead of the others. 

Rakush, however, who on this occasion was far 
cleverer than his master, refused to go on, and 
stopped dead, neighing and snorting violently. 

Rustem, getting into a rage, gave his faith- 
ful horse several hard blows, and the poor 
animal, starting forward in its pain, fell with its 
rider right into the first pit. Terribly wounded 
as both of them were, yet they struggled out 
of the first pit, only, alas, to fall into another. 
Again they managed to get out, but the Gods 
did not come to the aid of Rustem as in the 
days when he was young and pious. Blinded 
with pain and faint from countless wounds, he 
and Rakush fell from one death-trap into 
another, and at last both lay dying, the King of 
Kabul and Shughad watching them with cruel glee. 
220 



THE STORY OF ISFENDIYAR 

The old Champion requested his treacherous 
brother as a last favour to hand him his bow 
and arrows in order that he might scare away 
the wild beasts, which would otherwise tear 
him and his horse to pieces. 

Shughad gave him the weapon with a mock- 
ing laugh, and the expiring Hero, making one 
mighty effort, drew the bow and pierced his 
wicked brother to the heart. Then he turned 
to his faithful horse, and said, " Farewell Rakush, 
thou and I have lived and toiled together for 
many years. We have tasted of the joy of 
battle and the excitement of the chase. We 
have been friends as were never man and horse 
before. It is meet that we should die together." 
Thereupon, he fell back quite dead, and his 
beloved steed drew its last breath at the same 
instant. 

This was the sad ending to the life of mighty 
Rustem, the Hercules of Persia. 

In spite of all his great deeds and his 
221 



THE STORY BOOK OF THE SHAH 

honours and riches he perished miserably, his 
death compassed by the foulest treachery, 
instead of taking place in the rush and excite- 
ment of battle as he would have wished. 

Now all my stories are finished, and those 
who have cared to read them know almost as 
much as do the Persian boys and girls about 
the Heroes of that far-off land. 

I hope that my boy readers may be as brave 
and loyal as Rustem, the Champion of the 
World, and the girls as beautiful and faithful as 
Rudabeh, his lovely mother, and I will bid you 
all Khoda hafiz-i-shuma, the Persian for good-bye, 
and the little bird below is saying the same thing. 




222 




THE HEAVENLY TWINS. 



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