Iranian folklore

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Iranian folklore encompasses the folk traditions that have evolved in Greater Iran.

Oral legends[edit]

A storytelling performance of the stories of Šāhnāme, the Iranian national epic, in Qazvin, Iran.


Storytelling has an important presence in Iranian culture.[1] In classical Iran, minstrels performed for their audiences at royal courts[1] and in public theaters.[2] A minstrel was referred to by the Parthians as gōsān in Parthian, and by the Sasanians as huniyāgar in Middle Persian.[2] Since the time of the Safavid dynasty, storytellers and poetry readers appeared at coffeehouses.[3]

The following are a number of folktales known to the people of Iran.

  • Kadu Qelqelezan ("Rolling Pumpkin")[4]
  • Māh-pišāni [fa] ("Moon-brow")[5][6]
  • Nāranj o Toranj ("Bitter Orange and Bergamot Orange")[7]
  • Sarmā ye Pirezan ("Old Woman's Cold"), a period in the month of Esfand, at the end of winter, during which an old woman's flock is not impregnated. She goes to Moses and asks for an extension of the cold winter days, so that her flock might copulate.[8]
  • Šangul o Mangul ("Shangul and Mangul")[9]
  • Xāle Suske ("Auntie Cockroach")[10][11]

Below are a number of historical tale books that contain Iranian folktales.


The statue of Arash the Archer at Saadabad, Tehran.

Heroes in Šāhnāme[edit]

  • Arash the Archer (Āraš-e Kamāngir), who shot his arrow from the peak of Damavand to settle a land dispute between Iran and Turan. The festival of Tirgan is linked to this epic, besides having roots in the ancient myth of archangel Tishtrya.
  • Garshasp (Garšāsp), a dragon-slaying hero in Iranian legends, now honored as jahān-pahlavān ("chief hero").[20]
  • Gordafarid (Gordāfarid), praised for her daringly martial role in the tragedy of Rostam o Sohrāb ("Rostam and Sohrab").
  • Rostam, a celebrated marzbān ("border-guardian"), best known for his mournful battle with his son Sohrab. He was the son of Dastan.

Other heroes[edit]

Characters in jokes[edit]


A Šāhnāme miniature painting, depicting a demon (div) throwing Rostam into the sea.
Griffin-like column capital statuary, from about 500 BC Persepolis, Iran. In local popular interpretation, the figures on these columns are perceived as representations of the Huma bird
  • Āl, a scrawny old woman with a clay nose and red face who attacks pregnant women when they are alone and interferes with childbirth. It is believed that she carries a basket in which she puts the liver or lung of the mother,[24] although a variety of other descriptions exist as well.[25]
  • Night hag (baxtak), a ghost or an evil creature that causes sleep paralysis.[26] It is believed that the creature knows about hidden treasures, and one would be told of one of them by grabbing the creature's nose. One can rescue themself from the creature by wiggling their fingers.
  • Himantopodes (davālpā), an evil creature that uses its flexible, leather-like legs as tentacles to grip and capture human beings. The captives will be enslaved and forced to carry the creature until they die of fatigue.[27]
  • Huma ,Griffin-like mythical bird said to never come to rest, living its entire life flying invisibly high above the earth, and never alighting on the ground (in some legends it is said to have no legs)[28]
  • Demon (div; from Avestan daēva), an evil being, devil, ogre, or giant.[29]
  • Ghoul (ğul), a hideous monster with a feline head, forked tongue, hairy skin, and deformed legs that resemble the limp and skinny legs of a prematurely born infant.[30]
  • Genie (jenn), a supernatural creature, comparable to the elves and the goblins, that is believed to be created from smokeless fire and to be living invisibly alongside the visible world.[31]
  • Manticore (mardxâr, from Middle Persian martyaxwar), a man-eater with the head of a human and the body of a lion, similar to the Egyptian sphinx.
  • Amen Bird (morğ-e āmin), a mythical bird in Persian literature that flies continuously and fulfills people's wishes.[32][33]
  • Pari, a type of exquisite, winged fairy-like spirit ranking between angels and evil spirits. Reera, Rayra or Raira was a magical gorgeous woman that believed to brought beauty to the Northern jungles of Iran.
  • The Patient Stone (sang-e sabur), the most empathetic of listeners, that is believed to absorb the sorrows and pains of the person who confides in itself.[34] It is said that when the stone can no longer contain the pain it harbors, it bursts into pieces.[34] It is also a very famous folktale.[35]
  • Šāh-mārān ("Chief of the Snakes"), the intelligent queen of snakes who has human features above her waist and those of a serpent below.
  • Simorğ (from Middle Persian Sēnmurw, Avestan mərəγō saēnō; "raptor"), a benevolent mythical bird.[36]
  • Takam, the king of goats, in the folklore of the Turkic-speaking people of Azerbaijan. Traditionally, the stories of takam are recited in public theaters by a minstrel called takamchi.
  • Zār, an evil spirit in the folklore of Iran's southern coastal regions who possesses individuals and harms them.


Social beliefs and practices[edit]

A stone depicting an eye that is made to protect one from an evil eye.
  • Evil eye (češm-zaxm; Middle Persian: duščašm[37]), a curse believed to be cast by a malevolent glare.[38] To protect one from it, a pendant, gemstone or likewise that depicts an eye is used as an amulet.[39] Another way believed to protect one from an evil eye is to release a fragrant smoke of esfand (peganum harmala) and waft it around the head of those exposed to the gaze of strangers. As this is done, an ancient prayer is also recited.[38][40]
  • Divination (morvā, šogun, fāl), including interpretation of objects which appear haphazardly, interpretation of involuntary bodily actions (sneezing, twitching, itches, etc.), observing animal behavior, playing cards or chick-peas, bibliomancy (e.g., using the poetry of Hafez Shirazi), mirrors and lenses, observation of the liver of a slain animal, the flame of a lamp, etc.[41]
  • Nāz o niyāz ("coquetry and supplication"), a tradition between a lover and a beloved based on which the beloved hurts their lover by coquetry and the lover's response is supplication and insistence in love.[42][43]
  • Taārof, a sort of etiquette, defined as "the active, ritualized realization of differential status in interaction".[44]
  • In Iranian wedding tradition, it is customary to buy a silver mirror and two candles and place it on the wedding sofra (a piece of cloth), next to foods and other traditional items. The first thing that the bridegroom sees in the mirror should be the reflection of his wife-to-be.[45]


Jumping over bonfires on the occasion of Čāršanbe Suri.


See also[edit]

Iranian folktales:


  1. ^ a b "DĀSTĀN-SARĀʾĪ". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. VII. November 18, 2011. pp. 102–103.
  2. ^ a b "GŌSĀN". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. Xi. February 17, 2012. pp. 167–170.
  3. ^ "COFFEEHOUSE". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. VI. October 26, 2011. pp. 1–4.
  4. ^ McDonald, Margaret Read (1994). "The Old Woman in a Pumpkin Shell". Celebrate the World. New York: H.W. Wilson. pp. 61–70. ISBN 9780824208622.
  5. ^ Zipes, J. (2016). The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World 2e. Springer. p. 190. ISBN 9781137098733.
  6. ^ Heidari, Morteza (2017). "Explanation and Analysis of Mythical Themes in the Structure of the Tale of "MahPishani"". University of Isfahan. 9 (1). doi:10.22108/LIAR.2017.21405.
  7. ^ "FICTION" [ii(d). THE POST-REVOLUTIONARY SHORT STORY]. Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. IX. January 26, 2012. pp. 597–599.
  8. ^ Omidsalar, Mahmoud. "ČELLA In Persian Folklore". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved December 21, 2011.
  9. ^ "HEDAYAT, SADEQ" [iii. Hedayat and Folklore Studies]. Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. XII. pp. 121–135. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  10. ^ "New films to hit Iranian silver screens". Mehr News Agency. December 18, 2010. (...) the story of Auntie Cockroach, as narrated by grandmas and published in storybooks over the years (...)
  11. ^ Bashi, Golbarg (October 28, 2014). "The best children's books on Iran". The Guardian.
  12. ^ van Zutphen, Marjolijn (2014). Farāmarz, the Sistāni Hero: Texts and Traditions of the Farāmarznāme and the Persian Epic Cycle. BRILL. p. 70. ISBN 9789004268289.
  13. ^ HANAWAY, WILLIAM L. "ĀBĀN DOKHT". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2009-01-25.
  14. ^ HANAWAY, WILLIAM L. "ESKANDAR-NĀMA". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2009-01-25.
  15. ^ "SAMAK-E ʿAYYĀR". Encyclopædia Iranica. July 20, 2009.
  16. ^ "ʿAYYĀR". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. III. August 18, 2011. pp. 159–163.
  17. ^ Boyle, John Andrew. "Ferdowsī". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  18. ^ Davis, Richard (February 23, 2012). "Greece ix. Greek and Persian Romances". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  19. ^ Hägg, Tomas; Utas, Bo (2003). The Virgin and Her Lover: Fragments of an Ancient Greek Novel and a Persian Epic Poem. Leiden: Brill Publishers. ISBN 9789004132603.
  20. ^ "Welcome to Encyclopaedia Iranica". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. III. August 18, 2011. pp. 191–205.
  21. ^ "ḤOSAYN-E KORD-E ŠABESTARI". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. XII. March 23, 2012. pp. 515–516.
  22. ^ "ZUR-ḴĀNA". Encyclopædia Iranica. August 15, 2006.
  23. ^ "Ya'qub-i Laith Saffari". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
  24. ^ Asatrian, Garnik (2001). "Āl Reconsidered". Iran & the Caucasus. Leiden: Brill Publishers. 5 (1): 150. doi:10.1163/157338401X00189. ISSN 1609-8498. JSTOR 4030855.
  25. ^ "ĀL". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. I. July 29, 2011. pp. 741–742.
  26. ^ "BAḴTAK". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. III. December 15, 1988. p. 539.
  27. ^ "DAVĀL-PĀ(Y)". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. VII. November 18, 2011. pp. 128–129.
  28. ^ Nile, Green (2006), "Ostrich Eggs and Peacock Feathers: Sacred Objects as Cultural Exchange between Christianity and Islam", Al Masaq: Islam and the Medieval Mediterranean, 18 (1): 27–78, doi:10.1080/09503110500222328.
  29. ^ Omidsalar, Mahmoud (November 28, 2011). "DĪV". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. VII. pp. 428–431.
  30. ^ Omidsalar, Mahmoud; Omidsalar, Teresa P. (February 24, 2012). "ḠUL". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. XI. pp. 393–395.
  31. ^ "GENIE". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. X. February 7, 2012. pp. 418–422.
  32. ^ Karimi-Hakkak, Ahmad; Talattof, Kamran (2004). Essays On Nima Yushij: Animating Modernism In Persian Poetry. Brill Publishers. p. 128. ISBN 9004138099. ...reflexivity defines the amen bird's mythic role: the bird verbalizes the people's wish and they respond with "Amen" ("So shall it be"), thereby echoing the bird's name and making the wish come true...
  33. ^ Karimi-Hakkak, Ahmad (1995). Recasting Persian Poetry: Scenarios of Poetic Modernity in Iran. The University of Utah Press. p. 268. ISBN 0874804922. He does so initially by setting up a series of connections between the amen bird and other mythical birds known or imaginable to the poem's readers.
  34. ^ a b Habibi, Faranguis (August 30, 2011). "SYNGUÉ SABUR: PIERRE DE PATIENCE". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  35. ^ Saadat, M., Khosrawy, A. (2020). "Clustering of narratives of the “Sang-e Saboor” folktale". In: Journal of Iranian Studies 19 (37), pp. 163-184. doi: 10.22103/jis.2020.13108.1891
  36. ^ Schmidt, Hanns-Peter (July 20, 2002). "SIMORḠ". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  37. ^ Kapovi, Mate; Ramat, Anna Giacalone; Ramat, Paolo (2017). The Indo-European Languages. Taylor & Francis. p. 447. ISBN 9781317391531.
  38. ^ a b Šakūrzāda, Omidsalar, Ebrāhīm, Mahmoud. "ČAŠM-ZAḴM". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved June 30, 2009.
  39. ^ Moin, M. A Persian Dictionary (in Persian) (3rd ed.). p. 4752.
  40. ^ "اسفند" [Esfand] (in Persian). Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on December 18, 2010.
  41. ^ a b OMIDSALAR, MAHMOUD. "DIVINATION". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  42. ^ Orsatti, Paola. "ḴOSROW O ŠIRIN". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  43. ^ de Fouchécour, Charles-Henri (1989). Nâz-o niyâz, ou l'amour et l'Orient (5/2 ed.). Luqmân. pp. 77–86.
  44. ^ "TAʿĀROF". Encyclopædia Iranica (online ed.). December 5, 2017.
  45. ^ Omidsalar, Mahmoud. "SOFRA". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved November 15, 2006.
  46. ^ "Call for Safe Yearend Celebration". Financial Tribune. March 12, 2017. The ancient tradition has transformed over time from a simple bonfire to the use of firecrackers...
  47. ^ "Light It Up! Iranians Celebrate Festival of Fire". NBC News. March 19, 2014.
  48. ^ Chanchreek, Jain; Chanchreek, K. L.; Jain, M. K. (2007). Encyclopaedia of Great Festivals. Shree Publishers & Distributors. p. 150. ISBN 9788183291910.
  49. ^ Epinette, Michèle (September 15, 2014). "MIR-E NOWRUZI". Encyclopædia Iranica (online ed.).
  50. ^ Rezaian, Lachin (December 20, 2015). "Yalda: Iranian celebration of winter solstice". Mehr News Agency.
  51. ^ Roessing, Lesley (2012). No More "us" and "them": Classroom Lessons and Activities to Promote Peer Respect. p. 89. ISBN 9781610488129.
  52. ^ Hamedy, Saba (December 20, 2013). "In ancient tradition, Iranians celebrate winter solstice". Los Angeles Times.
  53. ^ Foltz, Richard (October 22, 2013). Religions of Iran: From Prehistory to the Present. Oneworld Publications. p. 29. ISBN 9781780743073.
  54. ^ "ALAK-DOLAK". Encyclopædia Iranica (online ed.). July 29, 2011.
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  56. ^ a b c d e f "BĀZĪ". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. IV. December 15, 1989. pp. 60–65.
  57. ^ During, Jean; Mirabdolbaghi, Zia; Safvat, Dariush (1991). Contemporary master's lesson from Darius Safvat. Vol. 1. Mage Publishers. p. 89. ISBN 9780934211222.
  58. ^ Jacoby, Oswald; Morehead, Albert. "poker Origin and spread". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved January 18, 2008. (...) Poker is virtually indistinguishable from an older Persian game called as nas, a four-hand game played with a 20-card pack, five cards dealt to each player. This coincidence led some students of games to call poker a derivative of as nas, but this theory has been discredited. (...)
  59. ^ a b "CARD GAMES". Encyclopædia Iranica. Vol. IV. December 15, 1990. pp. 802–803.
  60. ^ دانشنامۀ فرهنگ مردم ایران (in Persian). Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopedia. 2014. p. 56.
  61. ^ Schädler, Ulrich; Dunn-Vaturi, Anne-Elizabeth (2016). "BOARD GAMES in pre-Islamic Persia". Encyclopædia Iranica (online ed.).

Further reading[edit]

  • Daniel, Elton L. (2006). Culture and customs of Iran. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-32053-5.
  • Elwell-Sutton, L. P. (1982). "Collecting Folktales in Iran". Folklore. 93 (1): 98–104. JSTOR 1260144.
  • Friedl, Erika. "Women in Contemporary Persian Folktales". In: Women in the Muslim World. Edited by Lois Beck and Nikki Keddie. Cambridge, MA and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1978. pp. 629-650. doi:10.4159/harvard.9780674733091.c36.
  • Horálek, Karel [in Czech] (1969). "Aus dem persischen Märchenschatz". Ethnologia Europaea (in German). 2 (1): 184–193. doi:10.16995/ee.3146.
  • Khadish, Pegah (2009). "The Morphology of Persian Fairy Tales". Fabula. 50 (3–4): 283–292. doi:10.1515/FABL.2009.023.
  • Marzolph, Ulrich [de]. Typologie des persischen Volksmärchens. Beirut: Orient-Inst. der Deutschen Morgenländischen Ges.; Wiesbaden: Steiner [in Komm.], 1984.
  • Marzolph, Ulrich. "Persian Popular Literature". In: Oral Literature of Iranian Languages. Kurdish, Pashto, Balochi, Ossetic, Persian & Tajik. Ed. P. G. Kreyenbroek and U. Marzolph. London: I. B. Tauris, 2010. pp. 208–364. (A History of Persian Literature. ed. E. Yarshater. vol. 18. Companion vol. 2).
  • Marzolph, Ulrich (2012). "Cultural Property and the Right of Interpretation: Negotiating Folklore in the Islamic Republic of Iran". Journal of Folklore Research. 49 (1): 1–24.
  • Friedl, Erika (2014). Folktales and Storytellers of Iran: Culture, Ethos and Identity. London and New York: I. B. Tauris. ISBN 9781780766690.
  • Omidsalar, Mahmud (2005). "Magic in literature and folklore in the Islamic period".

External links[edit]