The Case of Purāndokht and Ferdowsi's chauvinism

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DLI, Presidio of Monterey, California, USA
Academic Bio: 
Koorosh Angali holds a BA in Public Relations and Publicity from the College of Mass Communication Sciences in Tehran, Iran. In 1976 he emigrated to the United States, and received his second BA in Visual Arts from Humboldt State University, partly through Richard L. Anderson Scholarship. In 1993 he enrolled in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received an MA and a Ph.D. in the field of Iranian Studies. He has taught Persian Syntax and Grammar at UC Berkeley, and De Anza Community College in Cupertino, California. In 2006, following an invitation by the University of Austin at Texas, he moved to Austin, to join the Department of Middle Eastern Studies and the College of Liberal Arts, as a Senior Research Fellow, in creating an online project for the teaching of Persian. At this position, he was the author of the materials as well as the supervisor of the project. He currently holds the position of Assistant Professor at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, California. He is also working as a commissioned editor, translator, and consultant for the Persepolis Institute (based at Austin, Texas). Among his publications are a compilation of his Persian poetry titled In Search of One’s Own Self (dar jost-o-ju-ye khish, Nashr-e Ketab Publishers, Los Angeles, California, 1995) and an audio CD titled Koorosh Angali Recites Rumi (X Dot 25 Music Productions, Emeryville, Ca, 1997).

Occasionally Ferdowsi, the Iranian epic poet and the composer of the Iranian epic book, the Shāhnāme, is accused of being a male chauvinist, and even a "woman hater."  This is particularly supported by such verses as:

کرا از پس پرده دختر بود     اگر تاج دارد، بد اختر بود
کرا دختر آيد به جای پسر    به از کور داماد نايد به بر
 * * *
زن و اژدها هر دو در خاک به     جهان پاک از اين هردو ناپاک، به
However, it is the understanding of the author of the present paper that Ferdowsi expresses a dislike for women only when he is quoting a character from within one of the many stories that are included in the Shāhnāme, in which women's presence is of some sort of consequence.  On the other hand, when he is expressing his own opinion, he is not altogether against women, and, if anything, he holds an immense amount of respect for them, especially when they rightfully deserve it.  Such verses as the following testify to that:

چو فرزند باشد به آيين و فر        گرامی به دل بر، چه ماده، چه نر
It must be noted also, that he refers to the time of the Sasanian queens Purāndokht and Āzarmdokht as times of prosperity and justice; which brings us to the focus of the present paper.

In the present paper, it is my argument that the first line of the Purāndokht story is not—and cannot be—the original composition by Ferdowsi, and that it is the result of a later tampering.  This I shall prove by thoroughly examining this particular verse as well as Ferdowsi's style of composition.

Academic Discipline : 
Iranian Studies
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