Ayadgar-i Zareran (and other approximationscf. [#] of ambiguous Book Pahlavi ʾyʾtkʾr y zryrn), meaning "Memorial of Zarer", is a Zoroastrian Middle Persian heroic poem that, in its surviving manuscript form, represents one of the earliest surviving examples of Iranian epic poetry.
The poem of about 346 lines is a tale of the death in battle of the mythical hero Zarer (< Avestan Zairivairi), and of the revenge of his death. The figures and events of the poem's story are embellishments of mythological characters and events alluded to in the Gathas, which are a set of autobiographical hymns in the Avesta that are attributed to the prophet Zoroaster.
Historically, Iranian epic poems such as this one were composed and sung by travelling minstrels, who in pre-Islamic times were a fixture of Iranian society. Although heroic tales such as the Memorial of Zarer were collected by Zoroastrian priests for the now-lost Sassanid-era Book of Kings, (the Khwaday-Namag, a 5th/6th-century collection of heroic legends), other minstrel compositions were either never written down (and have thus been lost), or are only known of from later translations into Islamic-era languages such as Arabic or Persian. While the Sassanid-era Book of Kings has also been lost, a copy of the Memorial of Zarer was preserved by Zoroastrian priests in Zoroastrian Middle Persian (so-called "Pahlavi", an exclusively written late form of Middle Persian used only by Zoroastrian priests), and it is the only surviving specimen of Iranian epic poetry in that Middle Iranian language.
The surviving manuscripts of the Memorial of Zarer are part of (copies of) the MK Codex, the colophones of which date to 1322, but—like most other "Pahlavi" literature — represents a codification of earlier oral tradition. The language of the poem is significantly older than the 14th century, and even has Parthian language words, phrases and grammatical usages scattered through it. The manuscript came to the attention of western scholarship following Wilhelm Geiger's report of the MK collection in 1890. Following an analysis by Émile Benveniste in 1932, the poem is now generally considered to be a 5th or 6th-century (Sassanid-era) adaptation of an earlier (Arsacid-era) Parthian original.
The story of Memorial of Zarer plays in the time of the mythological Kayanid monarch Wishtasp (< Avestan Vishtaspa), the patron of Zoroaster. The story opens with the arrival of messengers at the Wishtasp's court. The message is from the daew-worshipping king of the Un-Iranianian Khyonas (< Av. Hyaona), Arjasp (< Avestan Arjat.aspa), who demands that Wishtasp "abandon 'the pure Mazda-worshipping religion which he had received from Ohrmazd', and should become once more 'of the same religion'" as himself. Arjasp threatens Wishtasp with a brutal battle if Wishtasp does not consent.
Zarer, who is Wishtap's brother and the command-in-chief of Wishtasp's army, pens a reply in which Arjasp's demands are rejected and a site for battle is selected. In preparation for battle, the army of the Iranians grows so large that the "noise of the caravan of the country of Iran went up to heavens and the noise of the moving swords went up to hell." Wishtasp's chief-minister, Jamasp (< Av. Jamaspa), whom the poem praises as infinitely wise and able to fortell the future, predicts that the Iranians will win the battle, but also that many will die in it, including many of Wishtasp's clan/family. As predicted, many of the king's clansmen are killed in the fight, among them Wishtasp's brother Zarer, who is slain by Bidarafsh/Widrafsh, the wicked sorcerer (the epithet is 'jadu', implying a practitioner of black magic) of Arjasp's court.
Zarer's 7-year old son, Bastwar (< Av. Bastauuairi) goes to the battlefield to recover his father's body. Enraged and grieving, Bastwar wows to take revenge. Although initially forbidden to engage in battle due to his youth, Bastwar engages with the Khyaonas, killing many of them, and revenging his father by shooting an arrow through Widrafsh's heart. Meanwhile, Bastwar's cousin Spandyad (< Av. Spentodata) has captured Arjasp, who is then mutilated and humiliated by being sent away on a donkey without a tail.
Bastwar is subsequently appointed his father's successor as commander-in-chief and given the hand of Wishtasp's daughter, Homai, in marriage.
Although quintessentially Zoroastrian (i.e. indigenous ethnic Iranian religious tradition), the epic compositions of the travelling minstrels continued to be retold (and further developed) even in Islamic Iran, and the figures/events of these stories were just as well-known to Muslim Iranians as they had been to their Zoroastrian ancestors. The 5th/6th-century Book of Kings, now lost, and partly perhaps a still living oral tradition in north-eastern Iran, served as the basis for a 10th-century rhymed-verse version of the Memorial of Zarer by Abu-Mansur Daqiqi. In turn, Daqiqi's poem was incorporated by Firdausi in his Shahnameh. In 2009, these adaptations of Memorial of Zarer became the basis of the stage play Yādegār-e Zarirān written by Qotb al-Din Sadeqi, and played by Mostafa Abdollahi, Kazem Hozhir-Azad, Esmayil Bakhtiyari and others.
- In the colophon of one of the manuscripts (JJ), the Memorial of Zarer is also referred to as the Book of King Gushtasb. (MLKnʾm y Kwstʾsb, whence Shahnama-i Gushtasb and other approximations). This late addition reflects the Arabicized New Persian form of 'Wishtasp'. 'Wishtasp'/'Gushtasb' is only an incidental figure in the Memorial of Zarer.
- Anklesaria, Behramgore Tahmuras (1918), "Introduction to the Ayîbâtkâr-î Zarîrân", in Jamasp-Asana, Jamaspji Minocheherji, trans., The Pahlavi Texts of the MK Codex, (Pahlavi Texts, vol. II), Bombay: K. J. Jamasp-Asana, pp. 14–16.
- Utas, Bo (1975), "On the Composition of the Ayyātkār ī Zarēran", Acta Iranica 5, (=Monumentum H.S. Nyberg, II), Tehran/Liège: Brill, pp. 399–418.
- Boyce, Mary (1987), "Ayādgār ī Zarērān", Encyclopedia Iranica, vol. 3, New York: Routledge, pp. 128–129
- Boyce, Mary (1983), "Parthian Writings and Literature", in Yarshatar, Ehsan, The Seleucid, Parthian and Sassanian Periods, Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 3(2), Cambridge University Press, pp. 1151–1165, ISBN 0-521-24693-8.
- Boyce, Mary (1957), "The Parthian Gōsān and Iranian Minstrel Tradition", Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1/2): 10–45.
- Benveniste, Emilé (1932), "Le mémorial de Zarēr, poème pehlevi mazdéen", Journal Asiatique: 245–293
- Jam-i Jam Online News, "Yadgar-i Zariran comes to the Scene" in Persian, accessed March, 2009 Archived 2011-05-23 at the Wayback Machine.
- Modi, Jivanji Jamshedji, trans. (1899), "Aiyâdgâr-i-Zârîrân", Aiyâdgâr-i-Zârîrân, Shatrôîthâ-i-Airân, and Afdiya va Sakigiya-i-Sistân, Bombay,repr. as Modi, Jivanji Jamshedji, trans. (1917), "Yatkar-i-Zariran", in Horne, Charles Francis, The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, vol. VII, New York: Parke, Austin & Lipscomb, pp. 212–224.