Shah Nameh/Zál, the Son of Sám

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Shah Nameh by Hakīm Abol-Qāsem Firdawsī Ṭūsī, translated by James A. Atkinson
Zál, the Son of Sám


According to the traditionary histories from which Firdusi has derived his legends, the warrior Sám had a son born to him whose hair was perfectly white. On his birth the nurse went to Sám and told him that God had blessed him with a wonderful child, without a single blemish, excepting that his hair was white; but when Sám saw him he was grieved:

  His hair was white as goose's wing,
  His cheek was like the rose of spring
  His form was straight as cypress tree--
  But when the sire was brought to see
  That child with hair so silvery white,
  His heart revolted at the sight.

His mother gave him the name of Zál and the people said to Sám, "This is an ominous event, and will be to thee productive of nothing but calamity; it would be better if thou couldst remove him out of sight.

 "No human being of this earth
  Could give to such a monster birth;
  He must be of the Demon race,
  Though human still in form and face.
  If not a Demon, he, at least,
  Appears a party-coloured beast."

When Sám was made acquainted with these reproaches and sneers of the people, he determined, though with a sorrowful heart, to take him up to the mountain Alberz, and abandon him there to be destroyed by beasts of prey. Alberz was the abode of the Símúrgh or Griffin,[4] and, whilst flying about in quest of food for his hungry young ones, that surprising animal discovered the child lying alone upon the hard rock, crying and sucking its fingers. The Símúrgh, however, felt no inclination to devour him, but compassionately took him up in the air, and conveyed him to his own habitation.

  He who is blest with Heaven's grace
  Will never want a dwelling-place
  And he who bears the curse of Fate
  Can never change his wretched state.
  A voice, not earthly, thus addressed
  The Símúrgh in his mountain nest--
  "To thee this mortal I resign,
  Protected by the power divine;
  Let him thy fostering kindness share,
  Nourish him with paternal care;
  For from his loins, in time, will spring
  The champion of the world, and bring
  Honour on earth, and to thy name;
  The heir of everlasting fame."

The young ones were also kind and affectionate to the infant, which was thus nourished and protected by the Símúrgh for several years.