Hakim Abu’l-Qasem Ferdowsi (940–1025) was born in the family of wealthy land owners (the class known as dehqan) in Tus, in northeast Iran’s province of Khorasan. Ferdowsi is the author of the Shahnameh (The Persian Book of Kings), one of the greatest works of world literature and the national epic of Iran.

Ferdowsi mixed myth and history in the Shahnameh, known in English as the “Book of Kings.” It’s a chronicle of the rulers and warriors of the great Persian empire, which had come and gone long before the poet was born in 940 A.D.

It is also, however, a story of survival. Persia had been conquered, first by the Arabs who brought Islam, and later by barbarians from central Asia. Iranians say it was Ferdowsi, with a single great book, who preserved the Persian language, history and mythology from being erased.

Ferdowsi is widely regarded as the preserver of the Persian language and of pre-Islamic Iranian cultural identity. Of all the peoples conquered by the Arabs in the seventh century, the Persians are the only ones who can boast a major literature in the indigenous language that they were using before the conquest. When asked recently why the vast majority of Egyptians, the heirs to a great pre-Islamic civilization, speak Arabic rather than Coptic, a leading Egyptian historian replied: ‘Because we had no Ferdowsi.’

Ferdowsi was cast as a national poet well before the advent of nationalism and certainly long before the formation of an Iranian nation-state in the first part of the twentieth century.

Watch this video to learn more about Ferdowsi and share your ideas with us:

Discussion Questions

1.What is Ferdowsi’s masterpiece called? How long did it take to finish composing of Shahnameh?

2. Who really saved the Persian language in Iran? How did he save the Iranian Identity and Persian language?

3. What do you think about Ferdowsi?

4. If you are from Iran or were born into an Iranian family in another country, how important is Shahnemeh to you? How important do you think it is for the average Iranian? Do you have copy of Shahnameh at home?Ask your family.

5. If you are not from Iran, do you have any prominent figure in your culture who saved your native language and identity?

Click here to watch the lesson on  Ferdowsi-The Poet who rescued Iranian Identity  (listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and glossaries), and to complete online activities . You can also download Persian and English passages and e-books.

 

23 Comments
  1. 1. Shahnameh (the Persian kings of book). It took around 30 to 35 years to finish.
    2. Ferdowsi. By writing Shahnameh, he saved the concept of Iranian identity and Iranian history.
    3. He is a very great man as preserver of the Persian language and preserver of pre Islamic culture identity.
    4. I think he and his book is very important for Iranian people all over the world. I have shahnameh at my home in Iran. I wish I could bring it here.
    5. I am from Iran.

    1. 1. Shahnameh . It took between 30 to 35 years to finish.
      2. Ferdowsi. He helped save Iranian culture and history.
      3. I think Ferdowsi is a great man and would consider him a hero.
      4. I have never really heard of the Shahnameh until now. I do believe that it is very important to other Iranians. We don’t have one at home.
      5. I am Iranian.

    2. 1. Shahnameh took 30-35 years to finish.
      2. By being the writer of Shahnameh, Ferdowsi, who tried to preserve Iranian culture/ identity after years of foreign invasions.
      3. I think Ferdowsi really cared about his country and should be respected and revered by many.
      4. I think Shahnameh is very important due to its complexity and its historical significance.
      5-i am from kuwait .

  2. What is Ferdowsi’s masterpiece called? How long did it take to finish composing of Shahnameh?
    His masterpiece is called the Shahnameh. It took him around 30 to 35 years to finish it.

    Who really saved the Persian language in Iran? How did he save the Iranian Identity and Persian language?
    The Shahnameh by Ferdowsi helped save the Iranian identity and the Persian language, especially after the Arabic language wanted to replace the Persian language.

    What do you think about Ferdowsi?
    Ferdowsi is a great person who gave Iranians the history of Persian culture and language after years of foreign invasion. He preserved it and allowed for the Persian culture to survive through Shahnameh.

    If you are from Iran or were born into an Iranian family in another country, how important is Shahnemeh to you? How important do you think it is for the average Iranian? Do you have copy of Shahnameh at home? Ask your family.
    I am not Iranian.

    If you are not from Iran, do you have any prominent figure in your culture who saved your native language and identity?
    As a Filipino, we commemorate the life of Indigenous hero Lapu-Lapu who drove away colonizer Ferdinand Magellan from invading our islands long before Spanish foreign control. Although the Philippines was still colonized, we recognize that Lapu-Lapu halted it from forming into a colonial state earlier on.

  3. 1. Ferdowsi’s masterpiece was called the Shahnameh, which took 30 to 35 years for him to finish composing.

    2. Ferdowsi and the Shahnameh saved the Iranian identity and the Persian language in Iran because Persia was being conquered by Arabs and barbarians from central Asia which would have dispelled such aspects of the culture. Ferdowsi’s book preserved history and mythology of Persians, and allowed the Persian identity and language to be kept after conquest.

    3. I have great respect for Ferdowsi and think he plays a significant role in the Persian culture, not only for his great work, but for being the person to preserve major aspects of the Persian culture in the first place. The survival of the Persian culture and identity as it was before invasion exists largely due to him.

    4. Growing up, I always heard about how magnificent Ferdowsi and his work are. However, I was never too familiar with the story itself, just the concept of it. I have always wanted to learn more about it and actually read part of this great work as I know it holds an important place in the Iranian culture. I will definitely ask my family if we have the book in the house, and if we don’t, I will surely ask other family members outside of my household.

    5. I am from Iran but I know in addition to Ferdowsi, there are many other figures in literature that have great works.

  4. 1. Shahnameh took 30-35 years to finish.
    2. By being the writer of Shahnameh, Ferdowsi, who tried to preserve Iranian culture/ identity after years of foreign invasions.
    3. I think Ferdowsi really cared about his country and should be respected and revered by many.
    4. I think Shahnameh is very important due to its complexity and its historical significance. It is a work that many Iranians are proud of and many have read it before. My family has a copy of it in Iran, but not here.
    5. I am Iranian.

  5. 1. The Shahnameh took 30-35 years to finish.
    2. Ferdowsi saved the Persian language by writing the Shahnameh. By writing it, he also preserved Iranian culture and history.
    3. I see Ferdowsi as a hero because he was able to preserve major aspects of the Persian culture. despite years of foreign invasions.
    4. Growing up, I have always heard about Ferdowsi and the Shahnameh, however, my family does not have one at home.
    5. I am Iranian

  6. 1.What is Ferdowsi’s masterpiece called? How long did it take to finish composing of Shahnameh?
    His masterpiece is called the Shahnameh and it took about 30-35 years to finish.
    2. Who really saved the Persian language in Iran? How did he save the Iranian Identity and Persian language?
    Ferdowsi really saved the Persian language by writing the shahnameh. This book stopped the Arabian language to conquer Persian.
    3. What do you think about Ferdowsi?
    I think he is national hero for the Persians and almost god-like in preserving an entire culture and language.
    4. If you are from Iran or were born into an Iranian family in another country, how important is Shahnemeh to you? How important do you think it is for the average Iranian? Do you have copy of Shahnameh at home? Ask your family.
    I am not Iranian.
    5. If you are not from Iran, do you have any prominent figure in your culture who saved your native language and identity?
    As a Salvadoran American, there isn’t one prominent figure that saved the native language of Spanish as the country was conquered by Spain until 1821. There are some small tribes along the border who speak a native language called Nahuat, but no prominent figures who preserved more tribes.

  7. 1. Ferdowsi’s masterpiece is called the Shahnameh, which took 30 to 35 years to finish composing.
    2. Ferdowsi really saved the Persian language by writing the shahnameh. He also preserved Iranian culture and history by writing Shahnameh.
    3. Ferdowsi was a respected man who plays a significant role in the Persian culture, not only for his great work, but for being the person to preserve major aspects of the Persian culture, Persian language and Islamic culture identity.
    4. I think Shahnameh is very important due to its historical significance in the Persian language and culture. I have always heard about Ferdowsi and the Shahnameh, but my family doesn’t have one at home.
    5. I am Iranian.

  8. 1. It is called Shahnameh. It took around 30 to 35 years to finish it.
    2. Ferdowsi saved the Persian language by writing Shahnameh. In addition, he also saved the concept of Iranian identity and Iranian history.
    3. I believe he is a very great man because he preserved both the Persian language and the pre-Islamic culture identity.
    4. I think he and his book is very important for Iranian people all over the world. It introduces ideas and concepts of the Iranian culture, which can greatly help future generations what it was like during that time.
    5. I am Iranian.

  9. 1.What is Ferdowsi’s masterpiece called? How long did it take to finish composing of Shahnameh?
    Ferdowsi’s masterpiece is called Shahnameh which took him around 35 years to complete.

    2. Who really saved the Persian language in Iran? How did he save the Iranian Identity and Persian language?
    Ferdowsi is the considered the one who saved the Persian language by preserving the Iranian culture and language within in his writing.

    3. What do you think about Ferdowsi?
    I think that a singe person being able to maintain an entire culture is an incredible feat that was possible due to the genius talent that he possessed.

    4. If you are from Iran or were born into an Iranian family in another country, how important is Shahnemeh to you? How important do you think it is for the average Iranian? Do you have copy of Shahnameh at home? Ask your family.
    I am not from Iran.
    5. If you are not from Iran, do you have any prominent figure in your culture who saved your native language and identity?
    As a Mexican, a prominent figure is Miguel Hidalgo because he decided to declare war against the Spaniards and although murdered, others carried on his legacy and were able to declare independence for Mexico.

  10. 1- Shahnameh. It took around 30 to 35 years to be done.
    2- Ferdowsi saved the Persian language by writing Shahnameh. Also, he saved the concept of Iranian history and Iranian identity.
    3- I see Ferdowsi as a hero because he was able to preserve major aspects of the Persian culture.
    4- I’m not from Iran but my mother is from Iran. Shahnameh is something very important for her and we have a copy in our home.
    5- I’m not from Iran, as a Kuwaiti there isn’t one prominent figure that saved the native language.

  11. 1. What is Ferdowsi’s masterpiece called? How long did it take to finish composing of Shahnameh?
    Ferdowsi’s masterpiece called Shahnameh. It took around 30 to 35 years to finish it.
    2. Who really saved the Persian language in Iran? How did he save the Iranian Identity and Persian language?
    Ferdowsi saved the Persian language by writing the Shahnameh. he also preserved Iranian culture and history
    3. What do you think about Ferdowsi?
    I believe he is a very great man because he preserved both the Persian language
    4. If you are from Iran or were born into an Iranian family in another country, how important is Shahnemeh to you? How important do you think it is for the average Iranian? Do you have copy of Shahnameh at home?Ask your family.
    Im not from Iran
    5. If you are not from Iran, do you have any prominent figure in your culture who saved your native language and identity?
    I am not Iranian, as a Kuwaiti we don’t have any prominent figure that saved the native language

  12. 1. Shahnameh took 30-35 years to finish.
    2. Ferdowsi saved the Persian language by writing the Shahnameh. he also preserved Iranian culture and history
    3.He is a very great man as preserver of the Persian language and preserver of pre Islamic culture identity.
    4.I think he and his book is very important for Iranian people all over the world. My family don’t have it.
    5. Im from Kuwait

  13. 1.What is Ferdowsi’s masterpiece called? How long did it take to finish composing of Shahnameh?
    Ferdowsi’s masterpiece is called Shahnameh which took him around 30-35 years to complete.
    2. Who really saved the Persian language in Iran? How did he save the Iranian Identity and Persian language?
    Ferdowsi is the considered the one who saved the Persian language by preserving the Iranian culture and language within in his writing.
    3. What do you think about Ferdowsi?
    I think that is it amazing that one person can preserve an entire culture by himself, such a great task for a single being.
    4. If you are from Iran or were born into an Iranian family in another country, how important is Shahnemeh to you? How important do you think it is for the average Iranian? Do you have copy of Shahnameh at home? Ask your family.
    I am not from Iran.
    5. If you are not from Iran, do you have any prominent figure in your culture who saved your native language and identity?
    As a Mexican, a prominent figure is Cuauhtémoc who is from the beginning of our culture and history. Cuauhtémoc fought against the first Spanish conquistadors, the army of Hernán Cortés, who tried to conquer and destroy the way of life of the Aztecs. Cuauhtémoc fought until his last breath in 1525, which inspired the Aztecs and all natives to fight to preserve our culture and way of life.

  14. 1. His masterpiece was called the Shahnameh, and it took him 30 to 35 years to finish it.

    2. Ferdowsi and the Shahnameh saved the Iranian identity and the Persian language that was being conquered by Arabs. Ferdowsi’s book helped to preserve the Iranian culture and language

    3. I am personally a very loyal person to my country and I would do anything to perserve its identity and culture. I have a lot of respect and admiration for him.

    4. This is the first time I hear from him, but I have always admire people like this, which would do anything for their people and culture. If I was born in Iran, I would be a fan of him as a person and as a savior.

    5. yes I do, my favorite person is called Jorge Eliecer Gaitan

  15. 1. The masterpiece Shahnameh took around 30-35 years to finish.
    2. Ferdowsi saved the Persian language by writing the Shahnameh because it preserved Iranian history and culture.
    3. I think Ferdowsi is amazing in the fact that he saved Persian culture and language after numerous foreign invasions.
    4. Both my parents were born in Iran, although I was born here, and I believe Ferdowsi is very important for all Iranians. I do have a copy in our home.
    5. I am Iranian

  16. 1. What is Ferdowsi’s masterpiece called? How long did it take to finish composing of Shahnameh?
    Ferdowsi’s masterpiece is called The Shahnameh (The Persian Book of Kings)
    2. Who really saved the Persian language in Iran? How did he save the Iranian Identity and Persian language?
    Ferdowsi, according to Persian history saved Persian culture (language, history, and mythology) through his book.
    3. What do you think about Ferdowsi?
    I think Ferdowsi played a big part in the knowledge and growing number of Persian speakers today and has allowed the history and language to continue over the years even after his death by bringing attention to the beauty of Persian culture.
    4. If you are from Iran or were born into an Iranian family in another country, how important is Shahnemeh to you? How important do you think it is for the average Iranian? Do you have copy of Shahnameh at home?Ask your family.
    I’m not Iranian.
    5. If you are not from Iran, do you have any prominent figure in your culture who saved your native language and identity?
    Identifying as a Pakistani-American I would say that one influential figure to our culture and heritage is Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who helped advocate for peace between feuding cultures and eventually became the new country’s founder.

  17. 1) Ferdowsi’s masterpiece is called Shahnameh (The Persian Book of Kings). It took Ferowsi 30-35 years to complete.
    2) Ferdowsi saved the Persian language by finishing the Shahnameh he preserved Persian culture, identity, language and history.
    3) I think that Ferdowsi truly loved what Persian stood for and his love for it was shown in his dedication to finish the Shahnameh.
    4) I am not Iranian nor have Iran relatives.
    5) Miguel Hidalgo was known for fighting for Mexico’s Independence and in so preserving Mexico’s identity.

  18. 1. Ferdowski’s masterpiece is called The Shahnameh. He worked on it for 30 to 35 years.

    2. The Shahnameh is one of the basic foundations for the preservation of the Persian language. If it was not for Ferdowsi there would not have been a lot of different aspects to the national history.

    3. I think Ferdowski is a pretty cool person because he was able to write the Shahnameh based on his own understanding of the Persian language. But he also persevered in his work and it proves that he did not do it all for anything.

    4. If I was born into an Iranian family in another country I feel as if the Shahnameh would not be as important as it should be. I am not sure if in another country there would even be knowledgeable of the Shahnameh. In pocketed communities that may also have other Iranian families is where there would be different exposure. I am sure there is some importance to Iranian families but maybe not all because there are other languages that are also spoken by Iranians. I do not have a copy at home.

    5. Not that I can think of but from what I understand Spaniards invaded the area where Mexico is and because they spoke Spanish the people of the country would also Speak Spanish too. I know that there are different ways of speaking Spanish in different parts of South America.

  19. 1.The name of the masterpiece is Shahnameh. It took about 30-35 years to finish composing Shahnameh.
    2. It is said that Ferdowski saved the Persian language because at the time the Arabic language started invading. Shahnameh kept intact the history of its culture and language.
    3. I think he is someone who embraces his culture and identity.
    4. I think Shahnameh is important to Iranian families because if it weren’t for this piece, their culture wouldn’t be what it is today. I do not have a copy of Shahnameh.
    5. The people that come to mind who probably saved our language and identity are Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Those were the people that came to mind when I read this question. I also remember hearing about Benito Juarez growing up because he helped fight in the Mexican culture.

  20. 1.) Shahnameh; 30-35 years
    2.) Ferdowsi; he helped preserve Iranian culture and history through the writing of Shahnameh
    3.) I respect and admire the role he played in preserving the Persian language and culture.
    4.) I am not Iranian, but I’m sure many Iranians claim Shahnameh as an important part of their identity as an Iranian.
    5.) Rumi

  21. 1-Shahnameh, 30-35 years.
    2-Ferdowsi saved the Persian language by writing the Shahnameh because it preserved Iranian history and culture.
    3- I think Ferdowsi really cared about his country and should be respected because he was the only way to save the Persian language and culture.
    4- if I was born as Iranian I would study his book and ask my family to study because it is the only book that saved our culture.
    5- I’m from Saudi which is an Arabic culture, I think what saved my culture and language is Islam and the prophet Mohammed.

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