Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Persian Tales: Muhammad Tirandaz, The Archer

As you read this story, you need to know that the name Tirandaz (tir-andaz) means "arrow-shooter," i.e. archer. The boast of Tirandaz that in slaying two mice he had slain "two lions" is very similar to the European folktale motif of "The Valiant Little Tailor."

Explore: For another story of an unexpected hero, see Nim Tanak, or Half-Boy. For a foolish person who does not know how to make use of his luck, see The Man Who Went to Wake His Luck.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Persian Tales unit. Story source: Persian Talestranslated by D.L.R. Lorimer and E.O. Lorimer and illustrated by Hilda Roberts (1919).

Muhammad Tirandaz, The Archer

Once upon a time there was a time when there was no one but God.

There was once a man called Muhammad who was a shawl-weaver. One day he was sitting behind his shawl, weaving away, when it chanced that he saw two mice playing about and riding on each other's back. As he threw the shuttle into his warp it slipped from his hand and hit the two mice, killing both of them at one blow.

Thereupon all Muhammad's fellow-apprentices began to chaff him and say: "Bravo! Well done! Your name should be:
Tirandaz, Muhammad of the Bow,
Slaying with his arrow two lions at one blow.
Why do you sit here weaving shawls? You ought to be an archer."

Muhammad listened to these words and took them seriously and believed them all, so he rose up from his work and went home to his own house. He caught his mother by the collar and got a little money from her, and took it to the bazar to buy a bow and arrows for himself. On the bow and arrows he made them write:

I am Muhammad Tirandaz, Muhammad of the Bow,
Slaying with my arrow two lions at one blow.

Then he threw the bow and arrows over his shoulder and set off for the desert.

He went on and on for a good way, and arrived thirsty and weary at the edge of a stream of water. He quenched his thirst, hung his bow and arrows in the fork of a tree, and then lay down under its shade and fell asleep.

When he was still sleeping, one of the King's horsemen came riding by and chanced to pass close to the foot of the tree. There he saw a strong, sturdy youth asleep, his bow and arrows hung above his head.

The horseman was amazed at the strong appearance of the young man and came up to look at his weapons, and saw that it was written on them:

I am Muhammad Tirandaz, Muhammad of the Bow,
Slaying with my arrow two lions at one blow.

So he sat down at the youth's side and waited for him to wake. Then he asked: "Who are you?" and got the reply:

I am Muhammad Tirandaz, Muhammad of the Bow,
Slaying with my arrow two lions at one blow.

"What business brings you here, then?" asked the horseman. - "I came into the desert to do a little hunting." - "Good, and are you really a good shot?" To this Muhammad replied: "Yes." - "Then I shall take you with me to the King, and you shall be one of the King's household. And then some day when war happens to break out you can fight for the King." "Right you are," said Muhammad.

Now the horseman had some bread and other things in his saddlebags. He brought them out and they ate together, and he took the new-found archer along with him and brought him into the King's presence, and explained: "This is Muhammad Tirandaz the Archer, who slays two lions at one blow."

Then the King gave Muhammad a gift and an appointment in his household, and he fixed a certain salary for him. So Muhammad made himself at home there, and day or night his only work was to eat and sleep - which was really just as well, for there was nothing else that he knew how to do. So things went on till one day it chanced that war broke out, and an enemy's army came and besieged the city of the King.

Immediately Muhammad Tirandaz was summoned, and the King said: "Now you'd better go out and fight."

Muhammad could do nothing but agree, and so he said: "With pleasure."

They brought a horse for him to mount to ride out to the battlefield. Now Muhammad, who hadn't the faintest idea how to ride, was afraid that no sooner would he mount than the horse would throw him to the ground. So he said: "Tie my feet tightly together under the horse's belly." Then the grooms marvelled greatly, but they thought he must be going to perform some wondrous exploit since he bade them do this strange thing, so they tied his feet as he had said.

Then he slung his bow and arrows on his back and took the reins and set out for the battle. On the way the bridle slipped from his hand, the horse bolted with him and began to gallop. In their wild career they came near a tree, and Muhammad in great fear stretched out his arms to clutch it and try to stop himself. As he grasped it the force of the galloping horse tore it up by the roots, and on they dashed, Muhammad waving the tree and shouting: "Catch the reins! Catch the reins!" in the hopes that some one would stop his horse.

Now the army of the other side, when they saw a champion galloping towards them waving a tree, were terrified, for they thought there must be an army of the King's coming up behind them to cut off their retreat to whom Muhammad was calling, and that he meant: "Catch the enemy's reins and prevent their escaping!" So from sheer terror they turned tail and took to flight. Meanwhile the King's army galloped up and pursued and defeated them.

And the grateful King gave many presents and robes of honour to Muhammad Tlrandaz the Archer, and he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the King's armies.

And now my story has come to an end, but the sparrow never got home.




(Arash the archer, Arash being an actual hero
of the Persian folk tradition,
unlike the lucky Muhammad of this story)


(900 words)













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