Wednesday, 13 August 2008


The upper image shows Sam finding Zal in the Simourgh's nest and is from the British Library. The image underneath shows the simourgh carrying Zal off to his nest and is a miniature from a 17th C. manuscript. The image is from the Wellcome Library.

Simurgh or Simorgh(Persian: سیمرغ), sometimes spelled Simurg or Simoorg, also known as Angha(Persian: عنقا), is the modern Persian name for a fabulous, mythical flying creature. The figure can be found in all periods of Greater Iranian art and literature, and is evident also in the iconography of medieval Armenia, Byzantium.

The Simorgh made its most famous appearance in the Ferdowsi's epic Shahname (Book of Kings), where its involvement with the Prince Zal is described. According to the Shahname, Zal, the son of Saam, was born albino. When Saam saw his albino son, he assumed that the child was the spawn of devils, and abandoned the infant on the mountain Alborz.

The child's cries were carried to the ears of the tender-hearted Simorgh, who lived on top this peak, and she retrieved the child and raised him as her own. Zal was taught much wisdom from the loving Simorgh, who has all knowledge, but the time came when he grew into a man and yearned to rejoin the world of men. Though the Simorgh was terribly saddened, she gifted him with three golden feathers which he was to burn if he ever needed her assistance. Which he did require later in life when his wife almost died in child birth.

Iranian legends consider the bird so old that it had seen the destruction of the World three times over. The Simorgh learned so much by living so long that it is thought to possess the knowledge of all the Ages. In one legend, the Simorgh was said to live 1700 years before plunging itself into flames (much like the phoenix).

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