An albino, Zāl was born with white hair. Because of this, his parents called him Zāl. In the Persian language, "Zal" refers to those who have albinism. Zāl was the son of Sām and the grandson of Nariman, both heroes of ancient Persia and protectors of "Motherland Iran" or "Iran-zamin." Because of his defect, Zāl was rejected by his father. He was left when only an infant; upon the mountain Damavand, which has the highest geographic peak in Iran. The mythical Simurgh (a very large and wise bird which darkens the sky when flying, said to be related to the phoenix) found the baby and took him to her nest. Then after a time, passing caravans saw a noble young man, his chest a mountain of silver, his waist a reed, in the bird's nest. Rumor of this remarkable presence finally reached Sam, who was encouraged by his wise men to hasten to the scene. There, looking up, he saw his son, but when he tried to climb toward him, he could find no way to the lofty perch. He then prayed to God, asking forgiveness and help. When the Simurgh saw Sam, she knew that he had come for her charge. The devoted bird gave the youth a plume, saying: "Burn this if ever you have need of me, and may your heart never forget your nurse, whose heart breaks for love of you."
Zal and Rudabeh
After reuniting with his son, Sam made every effort to redress past wrongs. Manuchehr, too, gave the young man due regard. When Sam went off to wage war in Mazandaran, Zal, recommended to the elders, was given Sam's kingdom.
Setting forth on a royal progress to view his eastern provinces, Zal at every stage held court and called for wine, harp, and minstrelsy. In Kabul, Mehrab, a vassal King descended from the evil Zahhak, paid homage with gifts of horses and slaves.
Learning of Rudabeh, Mehrab's beautiful daughter, Zal lost his heart in love. But the affair was to progress slowly. Once even, Zal came near Rudaba's palace where Rudaba gave her tresses to Zal as a rope and he immediately climbed from base to summit.
Zal rightly feared that his father and Manuchihr would disapprove his marrying a descendant of Zahhak, and while Mehrab generally approved of the young prince, some of Zal's actions made him bristle. Zal accordingly wrote a letter to his father and requested him to agree to his marriage,reminded him of the oath he had made to fulfill all his wishes.
Sam and the Mubeds, knowing that Rudaba's father, chief of Kabul, was Babylonian from the family of Zahhak, did not approve of the marriage.
Finally, the ruler Sam referred the question to astrologers, to know whether the marriage between Zal and Rudaba would be prosperous or not and he was informed that the offspring of Zal and Rudabeh would be the conqueror of the world. When Zal arrived at the court of Manuchihr, he was received with honour, and the letter of Sam being read, the Shah approved of the marriage.
The marriage was celebrated in Kabul, where Zal and Rudaba had first met each other.
After a while, Zal and Rudabeh get married. Rostam, the great Persian hero, is born from their wedlock.
One of the feathers Simurgh gave Zal, he used when his wife Rudaba was in a difficult labour and it looked like she would lose her life as well as the unborn baby. The Simurgh appeared and instructed him to run a feather across his wife's belly like a knife. That is how Rustom was born.
- Davidson, Olga M. (1994). Poet and hero in the Persian Book of kings (Digitized May 14, 2008 ed.). Cornell University Press. p. 76. ISBN 0-8014-2780-0.
- A History of All Nations (Digitized Nov 23, 2005 ed.). Original from the University of Michigan. 1864.
- Rosenberg, Donna (1997). "page 116-118". Folklore, Myths, and Legends: A World Perspective. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 536. ISBN 0-8442-5780-X.
- Reed, Elizabeth Armstrong (1893). "XI". Persian Literature: Ancient and Modern. Original from Harvard University (Digitized Feb 5, 2007 ed.). S. C. Griggs and company. p. 419.
- Khayyam, Omar; Edward FitzGerald (1900). "The Sha Nameh, pages 50-67". In Translated by Herman Bicknell, James Ross. Persian Literature... Original from the University of Michigan 1. Ḥāfiẓ, Saʻdī (revised ed.). The Colonial press. p. 50-.
- Zal Featured in Rostam Comic Book
- A king's book of kings: the Shah-nameh of Shah Tahmasp, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Zal