|Djalal Khaleghi Motlagh
|Women in the Shahnameh
|Their History and Social Status within the Framework of Ancient and Medieval Sources
Edited by Nahid Pirnazar
Translated from the German by Brigitte Neuenschwander
|The German text of "Die Frauen im Schahname," translated as "Women in the Shahnameh," was written by Professor Djalal Khaleghi Motlagh as his Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Köln in 1971. The original text was published in 1971 by Klaus Schwarz Verlag, Freiburg as No. 12 in the series, Islamkundliche Untersuchungen. The book has been translated from German to English by Dr. Brigitte Neuenschwander, a UCLA graduate in German literature, and edited by Dr. Nahid Pirnazar, a UCLA graduate and current lecturer of Iranian studies at UCLA. Additional updates and commentaries contributed by Professor Khaleghi in Persian have been translated and inserted by the editor. The Content of "Women in the Shahnameh" is divided into three main sections: an introduction, Part A, and Part B.
In the introduction, the author seeks to clarify the role of the female gender within the heavenly mythology of Iran in order to next determine if—and if so, to what extent—it is represented within the Shahnameh. The introduction ends with the story of the creation of man and woman, which the author connects to the story of the first women in the Shahnameh.
Part A summarizes the stories of the most important women of the Shahnameh, comparing them to others from ancient to medieval sources insofar as they were known and accessible to the author at the time of writing. At the end of each paragraph, the author outlines the characteristic traits of each individual. Given the high number of female characters in the Shahnameh, Khaleghi considers all women from the mythical part, but only the most important ones from the historical part, which he then divides into women of the nobility and those belonging to the common people.
Part B examines the positions of the women in the Shahnameh, taking into consideration other ancient and medieval sources. Khaleghi outlines the role, importance, and fate of each female character in the various periods of their lives, e.g. as a girl, wife, and mother, both within the family framework and society as a whole. Since the Shahnameh is not a book on family law, Khaleghi has taken into account other sources in order to fill gaps that would otherwise have existed. Most of the sources used in this analysis—the classical ones as well as the Arabic and Iranian ones—are so well known that a more detailed description is unnecessary.
PART A. On the Individual Women of the Shahnameh
I. Women of the nobility
1. Faranak (Feranek)
2. Arzu, Mah Azadehkhuy, and Sahi (the daughters of Sarv of Yemen)
3. Mahafarid and her daughter
4. Rudabeh and her mother Sindokht
5. The mother of Siyavosh
9. Farangis, Gharireh, and Golshahr
13. Homay and Beh Afarid
14. Homay Chehrzad
16. Gordieh Shirin, and Maryam (the wives of Khosrow Parviz)
17. Purandokht (Boran)
II. Common Women
1. Servants, slaves
2. Female cupbearers
3. Musicians, singers, and dancers
4. Wet nurses, foster-mothers, teachers (dayeh)
5. Typical examples of common women
PART B. The Social Status of the Women in the Shahnameh
I. A girl’s position in her parents’ home
1. Contempt for, and appreciation of, the female gender
II. Wedding Ceremony
1. Marriage as a necessity and a religious act
2. Motive and purpose for marriage
3. Conditions for marriage
b. The father’s permission and the girl’s own choice
d. Social status and wealth
e. Other conditions: good character, virginity, fertility, beauty
4. Wedding rituals
a. The proposal
b. The ritual act
5. The wedding ceremony
III. Various Kinds of Marriage
1. Traces of matriarchy?
2. Polygamy (Polygyny, polyandry, interim marriage)
3. Class differentiation of the marriage law
4. Endogamy and exogamy, next-of-kin marriage (khvetukdas-wedding), incest
IV. The Status of the Woman within Marriage
1. Interpersonal relations and mutual obligations within the family
a. between husband and wife
b. between parents and children
2. Sexual relationship between the spouses
a. Abstinence and moderation in sexual relationships
b. Ban of sexual relationships at certain times
c. Ban of sexual relationships among certain persons
3. The woman as child bearer and puerpera (woman in childbirth)
a. How is the child conceived and who does it take after in appearance and character?
c. During and after childbirth
V. Woman’s Status in Society
1. Maltreatment of women
a. Woman, the embodiment of all evil
b. Abduction of women
2. Positive treatment of women
3. Women’s occupations
a. Amount of social activities among women from the upper classes
b. Leisure activities of women from the upper classes
c. Activities of women from the lower classes in- and outside the home
4. Social expectations of women’s outward appearance
a. The Iranian ideal of beauty
b. Women’s sex-appeal
c. Cosmetics and hygiene
Recent Updates by Djalal Khaleghi Motlagh
Index of Names and Places
|"Women in the Shahnameh" explores the vital role of the female gender as expressed within that great national epic of Iranian culture, the Shahnameh. Viewing the "Shahnameh" for the historical document and cultural cornerstone that it is, Dr. Khaleghi's original work (first published in 1971) sought to shed light on the position and practices of early Islamic women.
Analyzing the variety of female figures and expressions of womanhood throughout the "Shahnameh," Dr. Khaleghi does well to outline notions of gender within the pre-Islamic familial framework and society at large. Undoubtedly, the female characters contained within the "Shahnameh," and brilliantly brought to life by Khaleghi, Dr. Pirnazar and Neuenschwander in "Women in the Shahnameh," appear as a fulcrum upon which the contemporary female may stand proud.
--Dora Levy Mossanen
Huffington Post Book Review.
March 16, 2013
|Djalal Khaleghi Motlagh
Djalal Khaleghi Motlagh was born in Tehran on 11 September 1937. He attended university in Cologne, Germany, earning a doctoral degree in Near Eastern studies, ethnology, and ancient history in 1971. Now an emeritus professor of Persian language and literature at the University of Hamburg, where he has taught since 1971, Khaleghi is a leading authority on the “Shahnameh,” having prepared an eight-volume critical edition based on the Florence manuscript. His research articles on the “Shahnameh” have appeared in scholarly publications such as “Simorgh”, the Ferdowsi University School of Letters and Humanities’ quarterly magazine, “Irannameh”, “Iranshenasi”, “Kelk”, “Nameh-ye Iran-e Bastan” (Journal of Ancient Iran), and “Nameh-ye Baharestan”. Professor Khaleghi is also a contributor to “Encyclopaedia Iranica” and the “Encyclopedia of Persian Language and Literature.” Major collections of his articles include “Gol-e Ranjha-ye Kohan” (The Flower of Ancient Labors) (1983) and “Sokhanha-ye Dirineh” (Old Words) (1992), both published in Tehran, and “Notes on the Shahnameh” (4 vols., 2001-2009, 2nd ed. 2011, New York - Indiana). “Women of the Shahnameh” is an annotated English translation of Khaleghi’s 1971 doctoral dissertation.