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Abu Mansur Ali ibn Ahmad Asadi Tusi (Persian: ابومنصور علی بن احمد اسدی طوسی) (born: Tus, Iranian province of Khorasan - died: 1072 Tabriz, Iran) is arguably the second most important Persian poet of the Iranian national epics after Ferdowsi, also from the town of Tus. He was a poet, a linguist and a writer of ancient manuscripts.
The information on Asadi's lifetime is scant. During Asadi's era, and for some time after, most of the Khorasan province was under violent attacks from various rival Turkish groups. Many native intellectuals left Khorasan as a result of these conflicts, while many of those who remained lived in seclusion. As a result of the violence, Asadi, who spent the first twenty years of his life in Khorasan, left Khorasan for the Iranian province of Azarbaijan where he stayed until he died. He first served as a poet in the court of the Daylamite Abu Nasr Jastan. Later he went to Nakhjavan and in 1065-1066 completed his seminal work, the Garshapnama. He dedicated this work to Abu Dolaf, the ruler of Nakhjavan. Later on, he went to serve at the court of the Shaddadid king Manuchehr who ruled over Ani. His tomb is located in the city of Tabriz.
Asadi's most significant work is Garshāsp-nama (The Book (or Epic) of Garshāsp). His other important contribution is a lexicon of the Modern Persian language (فرهنگ لغت فرس). Five of his Monāẓarāt (Debates in the form of poetry between two people or objects or concepts) are also extant.
Garshaspnama (The epic of Garshāsp)
The Garshaspnama epic is the major work of Asadi Tusi containing 9,000 couplets. The hero of the poem is Garshāsp, the father of Kariman, and great grandfather of Sam) Šam, who is identified in the Shahnameh with the ancient Iranian hero, Kərəsāspa- (Avesta). In Avesta he was the son of Θrita- of the clan Yama. The poet took the story from a book called The Adventures of Garshāsp and he states that it is a complement to the stories of the Shahnameh. The poem is thus based on written sources although it was part of the folklore of the common people and the poet invokes the Dehqan mentioned in Avesta was killed by Garshāsp the son of Yama.
The story starts with Yama or Jamshid, the father of Garshāsp who was overthrown by Zahak and flees to King Ghurang, the King of the country called Zabolistān, the region expended from modern Quetta including the provinces of Zabul, Kandahar, and central region Helmand all the way to edge of small Iranian Sistan, which still holds the name Zabol, combined as part of Balochistan province. In Zabulistan Jamshid falls in love with the King's daughter and gives birth to Garshāsp. However, Jamshid was forced to flee again despite King Ghorang's promise to her daughter --that King Ghurang will support Jamshid and will give him an army and money and face Zehak if he has to-- but Jamshid knew that Zehak's army was strong and he wanted the country of Sistan to be destroyed, so he went to Ind (India) and then to Chin (China). Garshāsp's mother takes poison and kill herself, Garshāsp spends much of his life with his grandfather and grows to be one mighty warrior like Jamshid himself. After the death of Ghurang, Zahak was to become king --although the secret remains until birth of Kariman-- and he sends his son to help Fereydun the enemy of Zahak. Kariman comes with sorrow and reads Garshāsp's letter which states that country of Zabulistan, Kabul had sided with Fereydun and that Fereydun shared same blood as Garshāsp making him the only son of Yama the great, therefore unity between the army of Kabulistan, and Fridon means defeat to Zahak. For the next many generations, the son of Nariman as well as grandson of Kariman Sam became supporters of Fridon's administarion.
When Garshāsp is born, Zahak is still the King and pays a visit to Zābolestān. Zahak's eye is captured by the enemy of Garshāsp and challenges him to slay a ferocious dragon. Equipped with a special antidote against dragon poison, and armed with special weapons, Garshāsp succeeds in killing the monster. Impressed by the child's prowess, Zahhāk now orders Garshāsp to (Kabul)India, where the king – a vassal of Zahhāk's – has been replaced by a rebel prince, Bahu, who does not acknowledge Zahhāk's rule. Garshāsp defeats the rebel and then stays in India for a while to observe its marvels and engage in philosophical discourse. Garshāsp then proceedes to Sarandib (Ceylon) where he observers the footprint of the Buddha (in Muslim sources identified with the footprint of Adam). Asadi then conveys many legends about Adam, the father of mankind. Garshasp then meets a Brahman, whom he questions in detail about philosophy and religion. The actual words Asadi Tusi relates from the Brahman's mouth are related to his Islamic Neo-Platonism. Garshasp visits some of the islands of India afterwards and observes supernatural wonders, which are described at great length in the story. India has always been a place of marvel for Muslim authors.
The hero then returns home and pays homage to Zahak, who was still the ruler at the time. Garshāsp then goes on to woo a princess of Rum, restores his father Eṯreṭ to his throne in Zābol after the King of Kābol defeats him, and builds the city of Sistān. He has further anachronistic adventures in the Mediterranean, fighting in Kairouan and Córdoba. In the West, he meets a "Greek Brahman" and again indulges in philosophical discourse with the wise-man. Returning home after his father passes away, Garshāsp now becomes the king of Zābolestān.
When he returns to Iran, his father dies, and Garshāsp becomes king of Zābolestān. Although he has no son of his own, he adopts Narēmān as his heir, who would become Rostam's great-grandfather. During this era, Ferēdūn defeats Zahak and becomes king of Iran, and Garshāsp swears allegiance to Ferēdūn. Garshāsp and his nephew then adventure unto Turan and defeat the Faghfūr(Iranian title for the ruler of Central Asia and China probably of Sogdian origin) of Chin. They take him as a captive to Ferēdūn thereby showing their allegiance to the King of Iran. Nariman, who has a son, Sām, who is the grandfather of Rostam. Garshāsp then fights one final battle with the king of Tanger and slays another dragon. He then returns home to Sistān and Zābolestān where he passes away.
Loḡat-e fors (The Khorasani-Persian lexicon)
This Lexicon was written in order to familiarize the unfamiliar phrases found in Eastern Persian (Darī) poetry for the people of Arran and Azerbaijan. It is the oldest existing Persian dictionary based on examples from poetry. It also preserves information concerning the names of some of the poets of the 4th/10th century. Several very different manuscripts exist in Iran and elsewhere. The oldest existing manuscript seems to be at the Malek Library in Tehran (dated 722/1322) although the manuscript written in Safina-yi Tabriz is also from the same period. The manuscript of 1302 states that Asadi composed it at the request of his son.
Five of these have survived and they are in the Persian poetic form of Qasida. Such a form of poetry is unprecedented in Arabic or New Persian, but it is part of the Middle Persian (Pahlavi) tradition. The Pahlavic poetic debate Draxt i Asurik shows that this form of debate has had a long history. The five surviving debates are called "Arab o 'Ajam" (The Arab vs the Persian), Mogh o Mosalman (the Magian vs the Muslim), Shab o Ruz (the night vs the Day), Neyza o Kaman (the spear vs the Bow) and the Asman o Zamin (the Sky vs the Earth). In the Persian vs Arab debate, the Persian wins while in the Muslim vs Zoroastrian debate, the Muslim Wins. Asadi, seem to have reasoned that an Iranian Muslim was superior to an Arab Muslim, but a Muslim, whatever his nationality, was superior to a Zoroastrian.
- Encyclopedia Iranica, "Asadi Tusi", Dj. Khaleghi-Motlagh
- Encyclopedia Iranica, "GARŠĀSP-NĀMA", FRANÇOIS DE BLOIS