Shahmaran (Persian: شاهماران Şahmaran, lit. 'Shah (king) of the Snakes'; Kurdish: Şamaran, Turkish: Şahmeran, Tatar: Şahmara or Zilant, Зилант or Aq Yılan, Chuvash: Вĕреçĕлен) is a mythical creature in Eastern Turkey, today's Southern, Central and Eastern Anatolia, Iran and Iraq. The name of Shahmaran comes from Persian words "Shah" and "Maran". Shah is the title for a king, primarily the leader of the Iranians and their land and "mar" means snake. In plural "Mar-an" means snakes. Shahmaran is known as the queen of the serpents. This story can be traced from the Middle East to India with different variations, one version is also found in the Arabian Night Tales as the story of Jemlia - the Sultan of Underground.
Form and function
The Shahmaran is often depicted as a wise, intelligent woman, having female features above the waist and those of a serpent below. She is described as the queen of the snakes. When the Shahmaran dies, it is said that her spirit will pass to her daughter. There are different versions to the legend, as follows:
Once there existed a wise snake woman, Shahmaran, who loved a traveler named Tasmasp. He was in love with her. He listened to her wisdom and stories. But when he thought she had no more stories to tell, he decided to return to his country, however he took Shahmaran with him and hid her. When Tasmasp returned to his land, the king had become very ill. One of the king's advisers exclaimed that the only way to recover was to eat Shahmaran. They took people, one by one, into the hamam to see if snake scales would come up, and when Tasmsp went, he was forced to tell where Shahmaran was hiding. When they found her, she said, "whomsoever takes a bite from my snake scales will gain the secrets of the world, but whomever takes a bite of my head will die instantly." Tasmasp took a bite of the head and the evil helper took a bite of the scales, but the helper died, and Tasmasp was not affected at all. Shahmaran had helped her lover while simultaneously killing her enemy.
In Turkey, Shahmaran is believed to live in the Mediterranean town of Tarsus. A similar legend is told in the Mardin region. In this region her legend is commonly evoked, with her image still depicted in embroidery, fabrics, and jewelry.
Thousands of years ago, there were wise snakes living in the underground. Their names in Iranian are maran and they are extraordinarily intelligent and caring. They live in peace. The queen of the marans is called Shahmaran (sometimes spelled Shamaran or Shameran). She is all-knowing, beautiful, and leads with grace. According to this version of the legend, a young wood-seller named Cemshab is the first human to see the marans. As the story goes, he is exploring a cave with full of honey with friends; but they abandon him in order to take more honey. Alone, Cemshab sees an unusually light-filled hole in the back of the cave. He pulls away the rocks and finds deep within the cave is a magnificent garden. He crawl in, and is surrounded with light, flowers, and snakes. One of the snakes is colored milky-white, Shahmaran, she is the most beautiful. He gains her trust, staying to live for many years in the underground garden. One day after many years, he decides he would like to see his family again. So Shahmaran helps him leave, provided that he promise not to tell anyone about their underground home. He keeps his word for long time. But one day Sultan of land get sick. The Vizier says that only cure is eating meat of Shahmaran, to acquire her youth and wisdom. Word gets out that Cemshab knows where to find her. He resists, but then shows them the way. Betrayed, the wise Shahmaran says to Cehmab: "make me boil in an earthenware dish. Let the sultan eat my meat and make vizier drink my boiled water." When that happens, the Vizier dies, and the Sultan keep living. Meanwhile, Cemshab become vizier. According to this version of the legend, the snakes don't yet know that their leader, the all-knowing, wise, and beautiful Shahmaran, has been murdered. When the day comes that they find out, all the snakes will occupy Tarsus, an ancient city close to the contemporary Turkish port city Mersin.
A 1944 fairy tale book called The Ring of Shah Maran, A Story from the Mountains of Kurdistan by Raphael Emmanuel tells the folk story of a boy that shares bread with animals and earns the respect of Shahmaran.
- Cyrillic: Шаһмара, Iske imla:شاهمار
- Cyrillic: Ак Елан, Iske imla: آق یلان
- Mardrus, 1992: Vol.7, 68-131
- Shahmaran, Queen of Serpents Archived March 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
- Shahmaran Series Archived September 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
- "The ring of Shah Maran, a story from the mountains of Kurdistan". worldcat.org. Retrieved December 3, 2014.