ORIENTAL ROMANCE [a]
The pure and simple religion of ancient Persia, onginating, it is said, with a pastoral and hunting race among the lofty bills of Aderbijan, or, as others think, in the elevated plains of Bactria, in a region where light appears in all its splendour, took as its fundamental principle the opposition between light and darkness, and viewed that opposition as a conflict. Light was happiness; and the people of Iran, the land of light, were the favourites of Heaven; while those of Turan, the gloomy region beyond the mountains to the north, were its enemies. In the realms of supernal light sits enthroned Ormuzd, the first-born of beings; around him are the six Amshaspands, the twenty-eight Izeds, and the countless myriads of Ferohers. [b] In the opposite kingdom of darkness
Aherman is supreme, and his throne is encompassed by the six Arch-Deevs, and the numerous hosts of inferior Deevs. Between these rival powers ceaseless warfare prevails; but at the end the prince of darkness will be subdued, and peace and happiness prevail beneath the righteous sway of Ormuzd.
From this sublime system of religion probably arose the Peri- [c] or Fairy-system of modern Persia; and thus what was once taught by sages, and believed by monarchs, has shared the fate of everything human, and has sunk from its pristine rank to become the material and the machinery of poets and romancers. The wars waged by the fanatical successors of the Prophet, in which literature was confounded with idolatry, have deprived us of the means of judging of this system in its perfect form; and in what has been written respecting the Peries and their country since Persia has received the law of Mohammed, the admixture of the tenets and ideas of Islam is evidently perceptible. If, however, Orientalists be right in their interpretation of the name of Artaxerxes' queen, Parisatis, as Pari-zadeh [d] (Peri-born), the Peri must be coeval with the religion of Zoroaster.
The Peries and Deevs of the modern Persians answer to the good and evil Jinn of the Arabs, of whose origin and nature we shall presently give an account. The same Suleymans ruled over them as over the Jinn, and both alike were punished for disobedience. It is difficult to say which is the original; but when we recollect in how much higher. a state of culture the Persians were than the Arabs, and how well this view accords with their ancient system of religion, we shall feel inclined to believe that the Arabs were the borrowers, and that by mingling with the Persian system ideas derived from the Jews, that one was formed by them which is now the common property of all Moslems.
In like manner we regard the mountains of Kaf, the abode alike of Jinn and of Peries and Deevs, as having belonged originally to Persian geography. The fullest account of it appears in the Persian romance of Hatim Tai [e] the hero of which often visited its regions. From this it would seem that this mountain-range was regarded as, like that of the ancient Greek cosmology, surrounding the flat circular earth like a ring, or rather like the bulwarks of a ship, outside of which flowed the ocean; while some Arab authorities make it to lie beyond, and to enclose the ocean as well as the earth. [f] It is said to be composed of green chrysolite, the reflection of which gives its greenish tint to the sky. According to some, its height is two thousand English miles.
Jinnestan is the common appellation of the whole of this ideal region. Its respective empires were divided into many kingdoms, containing numerous provinces and cities. Thus in the Peri-realms we meet with the luxuriant province of Shad-u-kam (Pleasure and Delight), with its magnificent capital Juherabad (Jewel-city), whose two kings solicited the aid of Caherman against the Deevs [g] and also the stately Amberabad (Amber-city), and others equally splendid. The metropolis of the Deev-empire is named Ahermanabad (Aherman's city); and imagination has lavished its stores in the description of the enchanted castle, palace, and gallery of the Deev monarch, Arzshenk.
The Deevs and Peries wage incessant war with each other. Like mankind, they are subject to death, but after a much longer period of existence; and, though far superior to man in power, they partake of his sentiments and passions.
We are told that when the Deevs in their wars make, prisoners of the Peries, they shut them up in iron cages, and hang them from the tops of the highest trees, exposed to every gaze and to every chilling blast. Here their companions visit them, and bring them the choicest odours to feed on; for the ethereal Peri lives on perfume, which has moreover the property of repelling the cruel Deevs, whose malignant nature is impatient of fragrance. [h]
When the Peries are unable to withstand their foes, they solicit the aid of some mortal hero. Enchanted arms and talismans enable him to cope with the gigantic Deevs, and he is conveyed to Jinnestan on the back of some strange and wonderful animal. His adventures in that country usually furnish a wide field for poetry and romance to expatiate in.
The most celebrated adventurer in Jinnestan was Tahmuras, surnamed Deev-bend (Deev-binder), [i] one of the ancient kings of Persia. The Peries sent him a splendid embassy, and the Deevs, who dreaded him, despatched another. Tahmuras, in doubt how to act, consults the wonderful bird Seemurgh, [j] who speaks all languages, and whose knowledge embraces futurity. She advises him to aid the Peries, warns him of the dangers he has to encounter, and discloses his proper line of action. She further offers to convey him to Jinnestan, and plucks some feathers from her breast, with which the Persian monarch adorns his helmet.
Mounted on the Seemurgh, and bracing on his arm the potent buckler of Jan-ibn-Jan. [k] Tahmuras crosses the abyss impassable to unaided mortality. The vizier Imlan, who had headed the Deev embassy, deserting his original friends, had gone over to Tahmuras, and through the magic arts of the Deev, and his own daring valour, the Persian hero defeats the Deev-king Arzshenk. He next vanquishes a Deev still more fierce, named Demrush, who dwelt in a gloomy cavern, surrounded by piles of wealth plundered from the neighbouring realms of Persia and India. Here Tahmuras finds a fair captive, the Peri Merjan, [l] whom Demrush had carried off, and whom her brothers, Dal Peri and Milan Shah Peri, had long sought in vain. He chains the Deev in the centre of the mountain, and at the suit of Merjan hastens to attack another powerful Deev named Houndkonz; but here, alas! fortune deserts him, and, maugre his talismans and enchanted arms, the gallant Tahmuras falls beneath his foe.
The great Deev-bend, or conqueror of Deevs, of the Shah-Nameh [m] is the illustrious Roostem. In the third of his Seven Tables or adventures, on his way to relieve the Shah Ky-Caoos, whom the artifice of a Deev had led to Mazenderan, where he was in danger of perishing, he encounters in the dark of the night a Deev named Asdeev, who stole on him in a dragon's form as he slept. Twice the hero's steed, Reksh, awoke him, but each time the Deev vanished, and Roostem was near slaying his good steed for giving him a false alarm. The third time be saw the Deev and slew him after a fearful combat. He then pursued his way to the cleft in the mountain in which abode the great Deev Sefeed, or White Deev. The seventh Table brought him to where lay an army of the Deev Sefeed's Deevs, commanded by Arzshenk, whose head he struck off, and put his troops to flight. At length he reached the gloomy cavern of the Deev Sefeed himself whom be found asleep, and scorning the advantage he awoke him, and after a terrific combat deprived him also of life.
Many years after, when Ky-Khosroo sat on the throne, a wild ass of huge size, his skin like the sun, and a black stripe along his back, appeared among the royal herds and destroyed the horses. It was supposed to be the Deev Akvan,who was known to haunt an adjacent spring. Roostem went in quest of him; on the fourth day he found him and cast his noose at him, but the Deev vanished. He re-appeared; the hero shot at him, but he became again invisible. Roostem then let Reksh graze, and laid him to sleep by the fount. As he slept, Akvan came and flew up into the air with him; and when he awoke, he gave him his choice of being let fall on the mountains or the sea. Roostem secretly chose the latter, and to obtain it he pretended to have heard that he who was drowned never entered paradise. Akvan thereupon let him fall into the sea, from which he escaped, and returning to the fount, he there met and slew the Deev. Roostem's last encounter with Deeva was with Akvan's son, Berkhyas, and his army, when he went to deliver Peshen from the dry well in which he was confined by Afrasiab. He slew him and two-thirds of his troops. Berkhyas is described as being a mountain in size, his face black, his body covered with hair, his neck like that of a dragon, two boar's tusks from his mouth, his eyes wells of blood, his hair bristling like needles, his height 140 ells, his breadth 17, pigeons nestling in his snaky locks. Akvan had had a head like an elephant.
In the Hindoo-Persian Bahar Danush (Garden of Knowledge) of Ynyet-ullah, written in India A.D. 165O, [n] we find the following tale of the Peries, which has a surprising resemblance to European legends hereafter to be noticed. [o]
[a] see D'Herhelot, Richardson's Dissertation, Ouseley's Persian Miscellanies, Wahl in the Mines de l'Orient, Lane, Thousand and One Nights, Forbes, Hathn Tai, etc., etc.
[b] Ormuzd employed himself for three thousand years in making the heavens and their celestial inhabitants, the Ferohers, which are the angels and the unembodied souls of all intelligent beings. All nature is filled with Ferohers, or guardian angels, who watch over its various departments, and are occupied in performing their various tasks for the benefit of mankind.--Erskine on the Sacred Books and Religion of the Parsis, in the Transactions of the Literary Society of Bombay, vol. ii. p. 318. The Feroher bears in fact a very strong resemblance to the Genius of the ancient Roman religion: see our Mythology of Greece and Italy.
[c] This word is pronounced Perry or rather Parry.
[e] translated by Mr. Duncan Forbes. It is to be regretted that he has employed the terms Fairies and Demons instead of Peries and Deevs.
[f] see Lane, Thousand and One Nights, i. p. 21, seq.
[g] the Caherman Nameh is a romance in Turkish. Caherman, was the father of Sam, the grandfather of the celebrated Roostem.
[h] it is in the Cahermtn Nameh that this circumstance occurs
[i] and [j]
The Seemurgh probably belongs to the original mythology of Persia. for she appears in the early part of the Shah Nameh. When Zal was born to Sam Neriman, his hair proved to be white. The father regarding this as a proof of Deev origin, resolved to expose him, and sent him for that purpose to Mount Elburz. Here the poor babe lay crying and sucking his finger. til he was found by the Seemurgh, who abode on the summit of Elburz, as one was looking for food for her young ones. But God put pity into her heart, and see took him to her nest and reared him with her young. As he grew up, the caravans that passed by, spread the fame of his beauty and his strength, and a vision having, informed Sam that he was his son, he set out for Elburz to claim him from the Seemurgh. It was with grief that Zal quitted the maternal nest. The Seemurgh, when parting with her foster-son, gave him one of her feathers, and bade him, whenever he should be in trouble or danger, to cast it into the fire, and he would have proof of her power; and she charged him at the same time strictly never to forget his nurse.
[k] see Arabian Romance.
[l] a pearl. Life, soul also, according to Wilkins.
[m] Ferdousee's great heroic poem. It is remarkable that the Peries are very rarely spoken of in this poem. They rarely appear in it with the birds and beasts among the subjects of the first Iranian monarchs.
[n] Chap. xx. translation of Jonathan Scott, 1799.
[o] see below, Shetland.