Student of the epic literature of Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mohammad Bayani said in an interview with ISNA, “Shahnameh has another aspect of epic and heroic, Shahnameh has been a historical document of Iranian history and culture in the few past centuries, and the view of epic genre and a certain weight of poetry cannot be clearly seen in the historic epic treasures. It is clear that when a book like Shahnameh finds such a situation, how much it can be bound to culture and people beliefs”.
Here is the full text of Mohammad Bayani’s interview with ISNA:
The main point of familiarity with Shahnameh and mainly Persian language among Western scholars started in India. When the country was occupied by the British government, the British and West met with the precious treasure of the Persian literature, especially the Shahnameh, and they began their research.
Shahnameh is not the only Iranian epic book. But we have the first place in the world in the epic text volume, and our epic treasure is more than any countries in the world. The Shahnameh is the greatest epic book of the world in terms of volume. Another great epic book is "Borzu-Nameh" which some of its copies have more than 38,000 distiches. If we put all these epic texts together, we might say that we have as much epic text in the world.
The main idea of Shahnameh is based on Zoroastrian thought, and it has multi aspects; the first aspect is a good speech, good deeds and good mentality, these are the Zarathustra slogan, which can be clearly found in any story of Shahnameh. Another aspect is the battle between good and evil.
One of the characteristics of Zoroastrian thought is duality: one part of the soul is the place of evil and another part is for goodness.
Demon as the creator of evil beings and Ahura Mazda as the creator of goodness referred to as dualism. These two sides are always fighting with each other, but ultimately, the victory belongs to the Ahura Mazdas positive forces. We can see the effect of this thought in the realm of Shahnameh and under the title of Iran and Turan.
The point of difference in Shahnameh and other great epics of Iran is the struggle between good and evil by reliance on wisdom.
“Afrasiab” is a symbol of the devil and the king of Iran, "Rustam" and his troops are the symbol of goodness. This is clearly seen in the epic book and the consequence of this collision is one of the most significant aspects of the Shahnameh.
Moral themes emphasized in Shahnameh, such as the battle of evil and good or the emphasis on rationality cannot be found in other epics of the world and the main characteristic of the Shahnameh cannot clearly found in other epic texts.
Ferdowsi made moral deductions from any stories in of Shahnameh and convinces people. After every long story or every important event, he conveys a moral point and this is a continuation of the ancient Iranian culture, especially in the Sassanid era, which is the culmination of this kind of literature, that’s named Didactic literature.
During the Sassanid period, Ferdowsi has narrated that in the Sassanid kings court, especially Anooshirvan, all the walls and clothes, ring, belts, utensils, and so on have been written with pleasurable and moral words, and what we can see today on some clothes and t-shirts are the poems which is reminded of the Sasanian tradition.
One of the traditions in Shahnameh is that Ferdowsi constantly gives advice to the audience and always says, be cautious to stay in the right side.
This is the product of the great personality of Ferdowsi who is truly wise, the wise person is the one who is intellectual and speak just by morality, and his actions are based on thinking, and what he has done or said is based on moral acceptance.
Invitation to wisdom and savant can also be understood from the effects of the Ferdowsi era, since Nasser Khosrow, who stayed almost near Ferdowsi, emphasizes goodness and wisdom has been rooted in the personality of Ferdowsi.
But what we can clearly found in epics treasure of other countries are more likely rely on fighting, rebelliousness, championship, defeat and assault. It happened occasionally among the stories, that the creator of the book praises the gladiators who have done a good job.
For example, the British national epic "the Beowulf" narrates a story that Beowulf has gone to the battle with Granger's mother, and Unferth, the Danish hero, gives his sword to Beowulf to take advantage of Granger's mother. But the given sword was not affected in the battle and finally he destroyed the opponent without the given sword.
Beowulf returns his sword after the fight. He thanks him and says that your sword has been very useful. Then the creator refers to being "Beowulf" with morality and introduces him as a symbol of moral approach. Thus, such a thing is rarely found in other epics, and it’s not as vivid as what we can clearly found in Shahnameh.
The West has been discussing more of its epic than us and this approach is an attractive and appealing aspect.
One of the contemporary scholars of Shahnameh is Dick Davis. He says in the introduction of Epic and Sedition, “I taught English literature in Iran in the 1970s, when I returned to England, some students presented me with a nine-part book of Shahnameh”.
After reading the book, he was fascinated, and his study path was completely based on Shahnameh. He has done his doctoral thesis on the Persian literature - which is the same book - focused on Shahnameh. He also translated the entire Shahnameh into English poetry. Most English translations have returned the summary of Shahnameh's stories in English.
The reason is the high volume of the poems of Shahnameh, which is about 50,000 distich and it is very difficult to restore the whole of it in English with all the details, and the life of the person may not be responsive. But Dick Davis tried to keep the text intact in the heart of the Shahnameh.
The most famous English translations are made by “Warner Borders” and “Helen Zimren”, and "Dick Davis" is the latest and best translation of the Shahnameh.
Shahnameh stories are also translated into German, Polish and French. Hegel has some ideas about the Shahnameh, which shows the antiquity of translation of Shahnameh into German and the spread of Shahnameh beyond the borders of Iran. The Polish translation has not yet been fully edited and only part of it has been printed. Joule Mol is a well-known French interpreter of the Shahnameh who translated it into his own language.
Among the prominent non-Iranian scholars in the area of Shahnameh and Iran's mythology, we can mention the American woman, Olga Davidson, and Anna Krasnaulskaya, Poland. Also, Danish scholar Arthur Christine Sen has done interesting research on mythology and history of Iran and Shahnameh, and his works, written about 100 years ago, still have scientific credence. One of the most important researches in the German language is Theodore Noldek, who first used the composition of "The National Epic of Iran," and translated by the great Alavi and Saeed Nafisi.
We can extract New tips and point from the heart of Shahnameh. For example, in Shahnameh, Sam, an Iranian champion after being born to his son Zal, considers him as a devil because of his whiteness and his hair, leaving him on the mountain to feed the birds, but he has been found by Simorgh and this ancient bird show mercy to the child and nourishes him. Sam later regretted his killing and returned Zal to his city and countryside. This story can be one of the best examples to promote anti-racist ideas because it emphasizes the lack of superiority of skin colour.
It's been said that Ferdowsi saved the Persian language from the downfall. If we want to know only Ferdowsi as a factor in preserving the Persian language, it does not seem very good. But, of course, he should be regarded as one of the most important factors in keeping the language alive. In his Shahnameh, he used very little no Persian words and it clearly showed that he has done it deliberately. Because he was very fond of the Persian language and the culture of his ancestors, and if he didn't write this book, the document would not be proud. That is why the lack of alien words in Shahnameh can be attributed to Ferdowsi's intention.