عنوان مقاله [English]
Every day, we see the numerous works and articles which are published about Shāhnāme. In this massive volume of writings, Shāhnāme is in the center of attention and is viewed from different perspectives and angles: from the discussion on the words and lines of Shāhnāme and to the reflections on its stories, characters and myths, from the Ferdowsi’s life to the effect of the Shāhnāme on the other Persian works and its relation with the myths and eposes of the other nations and so on. Among these topics, the Ferdowsi’s sources in the Shāhnāme have always been one of main issues of discussion among experts on the Shāhnāme and Iranian culture. Mohl, an early editor and translator of the Shāhnāme, started doing methodological research about the sources of this book in 1878. From that time until now, the fire of this discussion has lived on and remained and it is safe to state that the discussion will be alive forever.
With a descriptive and analytical approach, in the present article, first, various theories about Ferdowsi’s sources are classified in three groups with reference to their proponents, and then each of these theories is critically and briefly analysed. After a detailed introduction to Kumiko Yamamoto’s work The Oral Background of Persian Epics: Storytelling and Poetry, which is the latest independent academic work on this field, it is evaluated in view of the different theories proposed for the sources of the Shāhnāme, and some strengths as well as weaknesses of this work are discussed in this article.
Results and Discussion
In his preface to Shāhnāme, even though Mohl mentioned two types of sources, oral and written, he implicitly took a stand for oral sources. After him, three different theories appeared in this field: A) the theory of written source/s, B) the theory of oral source, C) the theory of both oral and written sources in the genesis of the Shāhnāme, which I prefer to name it the moderate and interstitial approach.
The theory of written source was firstly proposed by Nöldeke and some of the experts on the Shāhnāme mainly Iranian ones such as Minorsky, Taqizade, Qazvini, de Blois, Khaleqi Motlaq, OmidSalar, Khatibi, and Aydenloo cen be considered as its proponents who completed, explained and expanded this theory.
According to this theory, the source or all the sources of Shāhnāme had been ‘written’, mainly the Sassanian Khwataynamag through Abumansuri’s Shāhnāme. In the first half of Fourth century, Abumansuri’s Shāhnāme was compiled. In any form, the compilers have an access to the Sassanian Khwataynamag (in Pahlavi language) or to its Arabic translation by Ibn-e Moqaffa’ and rewrote it in new Persian. In the second half of this century, first Daqiqi and then Ferdowsi tried to versify this book and it was Ferdowsi who finally succeeded to complete the work. Many similarities between Shāhnāme and the parallel texts confirm this theory.
On the other side, the opponents reject this theory because of some main weaknesses: first, there is no sign at hand of neither the Abumansuri’s Shāhnāme nor its main source i.e. Sassanian Khwataynamag and its Arabic translation by Ibn-e Moqaffa’. Second, there are many intertextual signs in Shāhnāme that confirm its oral source. Third, there are some differences between Shāhnāme and the Arabic or Persian parallel texts.
The second theory was formed in a different way. Mohl mentioned two types of sources, oral and written, and implicitly took a stand for oral sources, but it was not totally clear what he meant from oral sources. After a while, Mary Boyce emphasized on oral tradition in the transmission of national narrations and its impact on the shape and style of the Middle and New Persian eposes [Gosan tradition]. The publication of the results of researches of two experts on folklore i.e. Albert Lord and Milman parry about the oral tradition [in storytelling and poetry] in the poetry of Homer and, especially in the oral literature in the South Slavs has a main role in the formation of the theory of oral source of Ferdowsi’s Shāhnāme. Some scholars such as Boyce, Davidson, and Davis are the supporters of this theory.
The theory is: The Shāhnāme was composed based on the narrations which were transmitted by oral traditions; these narrations originated from ‘Gosan’ narrations and oral storytelling traditions; even Ferdowsi, himself, could be considered as or may be has been one of the members of this group. According to this theory, the signs of orality are obvious throughout the Shāhnāme. Among the latest efforts in this group is Kumiko Yamamoto’s work, The Oral Background of Persian Epics: Storytelling and Poetry which in a scientific approach, attempts to find the signs of orality in Shāhnāme. Davidson attempts to interpret the Shāhnāme as an oral composition; Ferdowsi, according to her view, not only inherited the older Iranian oral tradition, but also as an oral poet re-created new Persian oral poetry.
This theory can also be brought drawbacks. First, the narrative traditions of each nation are different from those of other nations; thus, theories and methods applied to Homer’s poems or the south Slavic oral traditions are not readily applicable in the case of the Iranian epic tradition and on the Shāhnāme. Second, not much is left of oral tradition and narratives of Gosans and story tellers. Then, the bringing evidence of Naqqali tradition to prove the similarity between the Shāhnāme and that tradition and thus to prove orality of Shāhnāme’s source is false. Because the stories of Naqqals rooted in the Shāhnāme and there is no evidence to prove their existence before the Shāhnāme.
C) Finally, in the third theory, we can see the scholars such as safa, Bahar, Matini, Yarshater and even Zarrinkoob who take the middle way and believe that Ferdowsi used both written and oral sources.
According to this view, the old, rich, and popular tradition of oral storytelling, performed by narrators, was prevalent among all Indo-Europeans, especially the Aryan tribes that inhabited the Iranian plateau. For a very long time, this tradition had preserved and transmitted ancient Iranian myths, fictions, and epic legends, as well as historical events. Most probably, even some religious texts, such as the Avesta, were also preserved and transmitted in the same way. In each period, the oral storytellers have had different names, e.g. gosan, xonyagar, mohaddes, naqqal, pahlavan, ‘asheq. After the wider spread of writing, some of those narrations were written down.
The most famous work to appear by this process, the Sassanian Khwataynamag, was composed in western Iran with religious and political intentions. In the Islamic period, probably with patriotic motives, this book was translated into Persian as the
Abumansuri’s Shāhnāme, and shortly after Ferdowsi used it for the Shāhnāme. Bahar believes that this important and popular tradition was commonly encountered even down to the present day.
It seems that the first two above mentioned theories have not stood far from the non-scientific enthusiasm and extremeness. There is nothing available of pre-Ferdowsi oral tradition and of oral storytellers as well as written sources. At the same time, In the Shāhnāme, there are many references implicitly referring to both oral and written sources of the work and it is clear that the Shāhnāme reflects both oral and written characteristics. Thus, any attempt to limit the text to one of these two and to prove that it is based on only one type of source - at least until the time when some clear samples of these two groups will be found - is condemned to failure and reduces the magnitude of Ferdowsi. The logical result of such an approach would be that Ferdowsi was either a professional storyteller without any esteemed goal or a poet whose only achievement was to versify already written narrations.
The results indicate that the third theory has a moderate and reasonable approach to the issue of the sources of Shāhnāme. Not only the similarities and differences between Shāhnāme and the parallel texts, but also the signs in Shāhnāme which refer to oral or written sources can be explained by this theory.