A collection of biggest mythological stories of the world from the heart of history that has come from mouth to mouth and generation to generation has been gathered in Shahnameh Ferdowsi. This book, which is more than a thousand years old, is the biggest collection of world’s mythologies along with Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey. The legend of Zahhak and Fereidun is one of the most interesting parts of the book.
Kingdom of Merdas
In the past there used to be a just and fair king with whom the filthy devil had decided to fight.
This just king whose name was Merdas, was a god-fearing and pious man.
The king has been enticed by the devil many times to stop doing good deeds, but the king had remained by his faith and goodness through patience and effort.
One day the devil thought to himself, and then turned into a young man and went to the castle of the king to entice him. When he got to the castle, the king’s son, Zahhak, was laying on a bed and resting. Zahhak was very ignorant and naïve and the devil was able to entice him easily with interesting words.
Days past and the friendship between Zahhak and the devil got stronger, to the point that Zahhak would ask devil’s opinion in any decision he wanted to make. One day the devil turned to Zahhak and said, “I know your father has made a lot of efforts for this castle, kingdom, and your people, but the truth is the people want to have a young ruler such as yourself, since your father has become old and weary. Zahhak replied, “no, my father is still alive and this cannot happen.”
The devil replied, “the important thing is that you like the idea of being a king and you should strive to get there, and if the only barrier between you and your kingdom is your father, then you can kill him.”
“He is old anyhow, and if you don’t kill him, he will die of natural causes any day now, and in this regard I will do whatever I can for you.”
The ignorant Zahhak gave in to the enticement of the devil and accepted his suggestion. The devil dug a huge hole on the path of Merdas and covered it with dried leaves, then climbed up to the wall and awaited Merdas. Merdas stepped on the leaves while crossing the hole and fell into it and dies.
Thousand-Year-Old Reign of Zahhak
Zahhak sat on the throne instead of his father, but did not have any of the characteristics of his father. He was a selfish and ignorant man and only cared about his own pleasure, and so from the moment the throne was given to him he started being cruel to the people. To hold his ceremonies and feasts he needed a skillful cook and so the devil turned himself into a cook and earned the interest of Zahhak by cooking him delicious dishes and colorful feasts. One day Zahhak called the cook and said, “I am very content by what you do, tell me your wish and I shall grant it.”
Cook, waiting for this opportunity, said, “my only wish is your happiness and wish to kiss your shoulders and show my kindness to you in this way.” Zahhak accepted and put aside his clothes and exactly when the cook kissed Zahhak’s shoulders two frightening serpents appeared where he had kissed and then the cook disappeared.
Zahhak who was very scared ordered to have the serpents cut down, but after the serpents were cut new ones appeared in their places.
Some times this happened but to no avail, because as soon as the serpents were cut down new serpents would replace them.
Zahhak invited many doctors for help to his court but they all were unable to help him.
One of these days the devil, who had turned himself into a skilled doctor, went to the court of the king and said to him, “the serpents will get weaker if you feed them human brain.” And so the king decided to execute two people each day to feed their brains to the serpents in order to rid himself off of them.
Days past and the king would sacrifice two people each day for his selfishness, until one day the crew in charge of preparing the human brains decided to use animal brains and flee the prisoners sentenced to execution.
Kaveh’s Popular Uprising and Fereidun’s Armies
Zahhak at the end of his thousand-year reign demands that everyone sign a scroll saying that he was the fairest king in the world. This is where a character named Kaveh as the popular hero enters the story.
Kaveh had only one son in the world, whom the royal guard had taken as the food for serpents. Kaveh went to the court of the king for petition the release of his son and his roars put fear in the heart of Zahhak who was talking in the presence of dignitaries of his fairness for people. Then Zahhak ordered his son to be released to him provided that he signs the scroll.
This made Kaveh angrier than before, and he tore the scroll and went to the bazar and put his leather apron on a stick and people gather around his flag and exit the town to gain justice and join the army of Fereidun comprised of young people who had fled the slaughterhouse of Zahhak.
Fereidun, a hero whose father was killed by the hand of Zahhak, rose against him and defeated him and rescued the helpless people and thus the devil became sad and desperate.
Zahhak the serpent king was imprisoned in a cave in the Damavand mountain and there were no brains to be fed to the serpents and thus he himself became the bait. The devil who had misguided Zahhak himself would torture him with his evil laughs, but he was unable to corrupt King Fereidun because Fereidun applied the power of his mind.
Сергей Рязанский (Sergey Ryazansky)
Сергей Рязанский (Sergey Ryazansky), the RKA Cosmonaut has taken this photo and wrote this in his twitter page:
Stratovolcano Damavand is the highest peak in Iran and the highest volcano in Asia. It is one of the main symbols of Iran, and it has a special place in Persian mythology and folklore. According to one of legends, an evil figure Zahhak was chained in a cave in Mount Damavand.