A. BACKGROUND ON THE AUTHOR
Firdausi Tousi, (935–1020) is considered to be one of the greatest Persian poets to have ever lived. Among the national heroes and literary greats of all time, Firdausi has a very special place. His life-long endeavor, dedication and personal sacrifices to preserve the national identity, language and heritage of his homeland put him in great hardship during his lifetime, but won him fame and honor for one of the greatest poetic masterpieces of all time: the Shahnameh. Firdausi was born in the province of Tus, some 12 miles northeast of present-day Meshed. A land that had been controlled by the Islamic religion and the Arabs for about 300 years. It was with the writing of the Shahnameh (Book of Kings) by Firdausi that Persian literary influence began to grow in a nonpolitical way in the Arab world. Firdausi was just the pen name of the poet, his personal name and that of his father, according to al-Bundari, was ‘Mansur ben Hasan’. Firdausi's family was rich enough to be independent. That made him able to study philosophy, astronomy, poetry, and astrology. He was happily married to an educated musician who bore him a son, who died at the age of 37, and a daughter, who survived him. Firdausi began to write his masterpiece, the Shahnameh, at about the age of 40. His main motive in undertaking this great task was to revive the glory of ancient Iran. That is why Ferdausi used only Persian in his masterpiece. As Firdausi himself says "Persian language is revived by this work".
B. BACKGROUND ON THE TEXT
The Shahnameh is structured according to the mythical and historical reign of 50 Persian Kings. The epic can be roughly divided into three parts: the first part tells of the mythical creation of Persia and its earliest mythical past; the second part tells of the legendary Kings and the heroes Rostam and Sohrab which compromises most of the epic poem; the third part blends historical fact with legend, telling of the semi-mythical adventures of actual historical Kings. It is an enormous poetic opus written by the Persian poet Firdausi around 1000AD, is the national epic of the Persian speaking world. The Shahnameh tells the mythical and historical past of Iran from the creation of the world up until the Islamic conquest of Iran in the 7th century, it is rich with exploits of love and betrayal, courage, and valor. Aside from its utmost literary importance, the Shahnameh written in almost pure Persian, had been essential for reviving the Persian language subsequent to the influence of the Arabs. This voluminous work, regarded by Persian speakers as a literary masterpiece, also reflects Iran's history, cultural values, its ancient religions (Zoroastrianism), and its profound sense of nationhood. There were insights that Firdausi's 60,000 couplets epic poem is probably based mainly on an earlier prose version which itself was a compilation of old Iranian stories and historical facts and fables of the kings and heroes of Iran from mythical times down to the reign of Khosrau II (590-628), but it also contains additional material continuing the story to the overthrow of the Sassanids by the Arabs in the middle of the 7th century. However, there is without any doubt also a strong influence of oral literature, since the style of the Shahnameh shows characteristics of both written and oral literature. Firdausi completed the Shahnameh at the point in time when national independence had been compromised. While there are memorable heroes and heroines of the classical type in this work, the real, ongoing hero is Iran itself. There is also this time in Iranian history where they call Shahnameh the "Persian Quran". The Shahnameh is also considered to be one of the longest poems ever composed and recounts the history of Iran from the dawn of time to the Muslim Arab conquests of the seventh century AD. There is no Persian text, in prose or poetry, which has been so frequently and lavishly illustrated....