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The myth of Zal, the Great Warrior

Zal is one of the greatest warriors of the Shahnameh ‘’the Book of kings’’ , the national epic of Greater Iran written by the persian poet Ferdowsi around 1000 CE.


When only an infant, Zal was abandoned by his father Sam in the Alborz mountain because he was born albino and his father assumed he was evil. The simurgh took the baby to her nest and raised him as her child.

Zal is Sighted by a caravan, Attributed to Abdul Aziz Iran, Tabriz, Safavid period, ca. 1525 National Museum of Asian Art, Washington

One day, a passing caravan catches sight of the noble youth. When Sam hears about it, he deeply regrets abandoning his son and goes fetch him. Initially reluctant to leave the only home he has ever known, Zal is then convinced by the magical bird to go with his father. The simurgh gives Zal two of her feathers to burn whenever he needs her help.


Zal used one of the feathers when his wife Rudabeh was in a difficult labour. The simurgh appeared and instructed him to run a feather across his wife's belly like a knife (a c-section!) That is how epic warrior Rostam was born.

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