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Animals Entered Persian Literature More Than 2,000 Years Ago

Tehran, Apr. 11 (CHN) - Animals have always played an important role in Iranian literature and one of the oldest Iranian literary devices has been to use animals symbolically.

According to literature professor of Shiraz University, Manizheh Abdollahi, who has recently compiled an encyclopedia of animals in Iranian literature, the history of using animals in literature goes back to the time when imagination started to play a part in the art. Animals were used in literature maintaining their form but using the human language. The move started at the same time that fetishism, worshiping animals, got popular.

Humans used their imagination to attribute to animals different roles and qualities, for example, according to Abdollahi, spiders were from one point of view the symbol of a savant of unknown secrets, a wizard or prophesier, and from another point of view, their web, despite its geometrical order, is used as the symbol of the ephemeral world because of its being wobbly and unsteady.

The most ancient animal of Iranian literature is a fox who plays the role of a doctor in the fable. The story is told in Soghdi language by Manes (Persian prophet and founder of Manichaeism who professed that the world is a fusion of the equal but opposite forces of good and evil), but it originates from the Parthian era, and is therefore at least 2000 year old.

The story of an Assuric tree, in which a goat engages in a verbal encounter with a palm tree, is meanwhile the most important story with an animal as its protagonist.

Kelileh and Demneh is also an important example of fables which were translated into Persian at the Sassanid time and were recited for children in different eras. After Islam, animals played important parts especially in epic works. During this time, some animal roles were manipulated even reversed based on the new ideas and beliefs entering the Iranian culture.

For example, before Islam, lion was considered a devilish animal in Iran, and as it can be seen in Persepolis engravings, it stands against and fights with man, but after Islam, the animal turned into a symbol of bravery and courage, becoming Iran's main symbol.

In Shahnameh (the Book of Kings) the epic masterpiece by Persian poet, Ferdowsi, there are examples where lions play a negative wild role, and some where the animal finds a positive face, his qualities being used for heroes. Animals also changed roles from positive to negative. For example, pigs were popular among ancient Iranians, but later lost their value due to the influence of the Sami and Arabian cultures, or owls were considered sacred birds but gradually became inauspicious and malignant.

... Payvand News - 4/12/05 ... --

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