Animal Portrayals in Mythology: Eating Animals and Moral Decay – Iblis and Zahhak in the Shahnameh.
This also is an interesting case of an ‘absent referent’, who yet is (one could maybe say:) “an absent ethical factor’.
The epic Shahnameh tells us about people’s behavior in a language full of images. The people and the kings decide for themselves and for others. There are the loved and the unloved rulers, everywhere we come across the intelligent, the stupid, the prudent, the weak, the strong, the active and the apathetic.
One tale of the Shahnameh epic seemed of special interest to Farangis, a story which tells about the human behavior in relation to diet or eating habits, in which a normally neglected aspect is being described of how someone experiences a change in character because of their eating habit.
Today we learn a lot about the impact of our eating habits on our physical health. In this story about Zahhak the attention is directed towards the damaging impact a diet can have on the mental condition or on the soul. The story tells how eating killed animals has changed the character of people. Shouldn’t we consider this story as relevant for our current society?
Read the story here: http://zahhak.farangis.de/index.htm, or in an alternative version here: https://www.simorgh.de/objects/131208_1/. The Warner and Warner translation excerpt can be read here: http://zahhak.farangis.de/sources/zahhak_excerpt.pdf. (It must be noted that the original Persian version is completely not alike the Warner translation.)
* the passage in the story mainly referred to, is the section “How Iblis turned Cook”.
We’ve long been featuring this story on this blog in our links section (see below). During the time of our blogging on here we have collected so far a few items on Animal Mythology and on the issue of Animal Portrayals. Please see these sections:
https://www.simorgh.de/objects/tag/mythology/ (some entries may overlap)
( http://simorgh.de/about/category/tierethik-und-mythologie/ this is in German )
Finally: Two protagonists in the Shahnameh eventually find out that the only existing cure to “the malady” is a complete removal of a violence-based “nutrition”; all blood and everything that’s been gained through violence has to be removed from one’s body.