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  • Writer's pictureFolkloristan

Bijan and Manizeh

Once upon a time, in the land of Persia, when kings reigned and warriors fought, there lived a noble monarch named Kai Khusrow. His kingdom was filled with joy and peace, for he ruled with wisdom and kindness. One day, as the people celebrated their prosperity, a plea for help reached the Shah.

Men from the distant land of Arman came before Kai Khusrow, their faces marked by sorrow. They spoke of wild boars from Turan wreaking havoc on their fields, destroying their crops, and causing great suffering. The Shah, moved by their plight, decided to send help to the troubled land.

He called upon his nobles and announced a reward for anyone who would rid Arman of the wild boar menace. Precious stones, golden-harnessed horses, and rich brocades were laid before them. After a moment of hesitation, a young man named Bijan, the son of Geew, stood up and volunteered for the task.

Geew, his father, worried for his only son's safety, tried to dissuade him. But Bijan, confident and determined, assured the king that he would face the challenge with prudence and courage. Kai Khusrow granted his request but advised him to take Girgin, the wise counselor, with him.

Bijan and Girgin set forth to the land of Arman. In the dense woods, they rested, made a fire, and refreshed themselves with wine. Girgin suggested resting further, but Bijan, eager to face the wild boars, was not willing to delay.

As Bijan entered the forest, he encountered the fierce boars. With a mighty mace, he fought them bravely, leaving the ground stained with their blood. He pursued them to their lairs, sparing none, and displayed their mighty teeth around his saddle as trophies.

Meanwhile, Girgin, envious of Bijan's triumph, plotted to lead him astray. He spoke of the nearby garden of Afrasiyab, the King of Turan, where beautiful maidens celebrated the feast of spring. Eager to witness this spectacle, Bijan followed Girgin's suggestion.

In the garden, Bijan marveled at the beauty of the maidens, especially Manizheh, the daughter of King Afrasiyab. Unbeknownst to him, Manizheh noticed him and was captivated by how handsome he was. Girgin, filled with envy, hatched a plan to trap Bijan.

The next day, Girgin suggested visiting the garden again. Bijan, enticed by the idea, agreed. As they arrived, Girgin feigned reluctance, leaving Bijan alone to admire the maidens. Manizheh, recognizing him, asked her handmaidens to question him and investigate his presence.

Impressed by Bijan's honesty, Manizheh allowed him to enter her tent. Bijan explained that he came from Iran to fight the wild boars and had heard of her beauty. Manizheh, charmed by his words, hosted him graciously. As days passed, Bijan fell deeply in love with Manizheh, forgetting his mission and homeland.

Girgin, seeing Bijan's infatuation, schemed to bring about his downfall. He reported the affair to Afrasiyab, who, furious with anger, decided to punish both Bijan and Manizheh. Girgin, still envious, played along with the King's plan.

Manizheh, upon learning of Afrasiyab's wrath, drugged Bijan with a potion, causing him to sleep. While he slumbered, the maidens transported him to Afrasiyab's palace and hid him behind the curtains of the Zenanah. When he woke up, he was afraid for had woken up in Afrasiab’s house. Nowever, Manizeh quietened his mistrust, and he forgot all his fears in love. None but the women knew of his presence, until one day, a palace guard learnt of the man in the women’s quarters.

Furious, Afrasiab decided to act. He called upon his brother, Geriswaz, and ordered him to raid the Zenanah. He went in to find his niece pouring wine for Bijan, seated on exquisite cushions, and her smile reaching out from one ear to the other. 

When Geriswaz seized Bijan, with neither sword, nor armour, he pleaded with Geriswaz to save his life. However, quick to act, Bijan stealthily slid out his dagger which he had hidden in his robes, and held it to Geriswaz’s chest. Bijan threatened Geriswaz to walk him to Afrasiab’s presence immediately, or he shall plunge the dagger in his chest. Geriswaz backed away from combat, and bound, was led to King Afrasiyab’s court.

Afrasiab, at seeing his plight, roared on Bijan. "Evil intruder, why have you come to my land?"

Bijan explained how he had ventured to slay the boars and ended up in the garden of Afrasiyab, carried there by a Peri who spared Manizeh. But Afrasiyab, refusing to believe him, ordered a gibbet to be raised, condemning Bijan for supposedly dishonoring the house of women and sneaking into the King's palace like a thief.

Bijan pleaded for mercy, but his cries fell on deaf ears. The gallows were prepared, and he was led beyond the courts, bound and helpless. Tears streamed down his face as he prayed to the winds to carry news of his plight to the Shah of Iran. With an oath, he vowed that his death would be avenged upon Turan.

As Bijan stood in the shadow of the looming gibbet, Piran, the Pehelvan, passed by on his way to pay homage to the King. Disturbed by the sight, he dismounted and approached the young man, inquiring about the impending doom. Bijan poured out his tale of woe, recounting the treacherous plot that led him to this dire situation.

Piran, the Pehelvan, hurried to plead with Afrasiyab. He stood before the King, respectfully presenting his case. Reminding Afrasiyab of Saiawush's tragic fate, Piran reminded his King that Bijan was no ordinary man. Piran warned Afrasiab of the vengeance that would surely follow Bijan’s demise. Wisely, he urged Afrasiyab to spare Turan from the perils of a new war and suggested confining Bijan to a dungeon instead.

"Let chains bind Bijan, hidden away in the depths of the earth, so that Iran remains oblivious to his fate," Piran proposed.

Afrasiyab, recognizing the wisdom in Piran's counsel, heeded his words. Thus, Bijan was led to a desolate expanse, burdened with heavy iron chains that bit into his flesh. He was cast into a deep pit, sealed with a colossal stone torn from the depths of the nethermost sea by the Deev Akwan. In this lightless abyss, neither sun nor moon could reach Bijan, and Afrasiyab hoped his spirit would wither away in the darkness.

Having imprisoned Bijan, Afrasiyab ordered Gersiwaz to go to the home of the daughter who had dishonored him. There, Gersiwaz was commanded to strip her of her adorned robes, crown, and veil.

The King decreed, "Cast her into the desert, so she may gaze upon the dungeon that conceals Bijan. Tell her, 'You were his Spring; now be his comforter and attend to him in his narrow prison.'"

In the desolate desert, Gersiwaz obeyed Afrasiyab's command, ruthlessly tearing away Manizeh's veil and forcing her to walk barefoot towards the hidden pit where Bijan languished.

Manizeh, burdened with grief, wept ceaselessly as she wandered through the unforgiving expanse day and night. Despite her despair, she persistently returned to the pit, to stay near Bijan. After several agonizing days, Manizeh stumbled upon a small opening near the pit.

Overjoyed, she seized the opportunity. Each day, she ventured into the city, concealing her identity as Afrasiyab's daughter. She begged for sustenance from the compassionate townsfolk, who, unaware of her true lineage, generously provided her with bread. With her meager offerings, she returned to Bijan, feeding him through the narrow gap and whispering words of solace that kept the flame of hope alive in his heart.

As these events unfolded in Turan, Girgin returned to Iran in a state of defeat. Pondering how to face the Shah and what to disclose to Geew, he concocted a tale of their triumph over the boars, embellishing his deeds of supposed prowess. Girgin claimed that a wild ass, likely a Div, had suddenly emerged from the forest and abducted Bijan before his eyes.

Kai Khusrow, discerning the inconsistencies in Girgin's story, questioned him closely. Sensing deception, the Shah ordered Girgin to be put in chains, determined to uncover the truth. Kai Khusrow declared, "I will guard you until I have learned tidings of Bijan."

Geew, overwhelmed with sorrow for his beloved son, found solace in Kai Khusrow's comforting words. The Shah dispatched riders to all corners of the realm, urging them to seek information about Bijan.

Kai Khusrow vowed, "If I learn nothing by the feast of Nauroz, I will search for him in the crystal globe, where I can behold the world and unveil the secrets of destiny."

Over the vast plains of Iran and through the rugged gorges of Arman, the horsemen tirelessly sought Bijan, their efforts yielding no trace of the missing youth. Faced with the grim reality, they returned to the courts of the Shah.

As the feast of Nauroz approached, Kai Khusrow adorned himself in a robe of Roum and, with humility, removed the crown of the Kaianides from his head. Standing before Ormuzd, he fervently prayed for divine guidance, clutching the crystal globe in his hand. In response to his plea, God granted him the ability to survey all the lands of the earth.

To Kai Khusrow's dismay, there was no trace of Bijan. However, Ormuzd revealed the hidden truth: Bijan was confined in a pit, watched over by a noble maiden. Determined to free Bijan, Kai Khusrow summoned Geew and delivered the revelation.

"Cease your heart's sorrow, for your son lives," Kai Khusrow reassured Geew. "Yet, he is bound in a prison beneath a mighty stone. Only Rustam, with his unmatched strength, can deliver him. Therefore, I advise you to hasten to Zaboulistan and implore the son of Zal to come to our aid once more."

Kai Khusrow's heart was heavy as he penned a letter to Rustam, revealing the plight of Bijan and the dire need for the champion's strength. Handing the sealed missive to Geew, the devoted messenger hastened toward Zaboulistan.

As Geew approached the courts of Rustam, the seasoned warrior Zal caught sight of him from a distance, sensing the gravity of the Shah's summons. With concern etched on his face, Zal swiftly approached Geew, questioning him about his mission. Learning of the perilous situation in Iran, Zal invited Geew into his abode, where he shared the news that Rustam was away, on a hunt. Zal hosted a feast, offering hospitality until Rustam returned.

Upon hearing the distressing tidings, Rustam's eyes welled with tears, yet he reassured Geew, saying, "Fear not, for Rustam will not remove the saddle from Rakhsh until he has clasped the hand of Bijan, shattered his chains, and liberated him from his prison." Rustam read the Shah's letter and prepared himself to depart for Kai Khusrow's presence.

Upon entering the royal court, he humbly bowed before the Shah and declared, "O King of Kings, I am ready to fulfill your commandments. My mother brought me into this world to serve you, and unto you belongs rest and joy, while combat everlasting is my destiny."

As Rustam set out to deliver Bijan. Girgin, aware of his transgressions, sent a plea to Rustam, seeking forgiveness and the opportunity to join the mission. He vowed to rectify his wrongs and entreated Rustam to intercede on his behalf with the Shah. Despite initial reluctance, Kai Khusrow, moved by Rustam's persistence, granted Girgin's request. Rustam enlisted seven valiant knights to accompany him, all dressed as merchants. In secrecy, an army was stationed on the borders.

Rustam, opting for a strategy of cunning, requested jewels, rich brocades, carpets, and valuable goods, intending to disguise himself as a merchant. The Shah provided him with the key to the royal treasures, and Rustam selected opulent items, loading them onto a hundred camels.

The disguised caravan journeyed until they reached the town of Khoten, where people gathered to marvel at their merchandise.  Posing as a humble merchant, Rustam approached the house of Piran, presenting gifts and seeking permission to stay within the borders to sell his wares. Piran, unaware of Rustam's true identity, granted the request.

Settling into a house, Rustam displayed his goods to the people, creating a buzz throughout the land about the Iranian caravan. The city bustled with activity as locals flocked to witness the offerings brought from Iran. Unbeknownst to the Turanian authorities, Rustam began his strategic mission to rescue Bijan.

The news of the Iranian caravan reached even Manizeh's ears. Learning that men from Iran had arrived, she hastened to the city and approached Rustam, inquiring, "What tidings do you bring from Iran regarding Bijan, the son of Geew? Is there no army coming forth to rescue him? Noble merchant, I implore you, when you return to your land, seek out Geew, Kai Khusrow, and the mighty Rustam. Bring them news of Bijan, lest he perish in his chains."

Rustam, fearing that his true identity might be exposed, spoke harshly to her, saying, "I am but a man of humble birth, a peaceful merchant. I know nothing of Geew, Bijan, or the Shah. Depart, maiden, you hinder my business, which concerns me alone."

Hearing his stern words, Manizeh looked upon him with sorrow, tears welling up as she pleaded, "Do the men of Iran deny tidings to the unfortunate?"

Rustam, remorseful for his brusqueness, asked, "Woman, who are you, and how are these matters of concern to you?"

Rustam, touched by Manizeh's plight, offered her food and comfort with kind words. As ate, Manizeh revealed, "I am the daughter of Afrasiyab, and my father has cast me out because of Bijan."

She proceeded to narrate the events that unfolded, describing how she had cared for her beloved and kept him alive in captivity. Manizeh recounted the languishing state of Bijan in his chains and how their sole hope rested on the legendary Pehelvan, Rustam.

Rustam handed Manizeh some savory meat and instructing her to take them to Bijan. Concealed within the body of a fowl, Rustam had hidden a ring bearing his seal. As Bijan felt the ring and recognized Rustam's name, his heart rejoiced, and laughter echoed within the walls of the pit.

When Manizeh heard Bijan's laughter, a sense of amazement overcame her. Concerned that his sanity might be slipping away, she leaned over the mouth of the pit and inquired,"O unfortunate one, why is your heart so light when you see neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars?"

Bijan replied, "Hope has sprung up within me."

Manizeh, puzzled, questioned, "And where do you find these rays of hope which you speak off?"

Bijan replied, "I know not whether I can entrust it to you, for a woman cannot keep a secret."

Manizeh, wounded by Bijan's words, reproached him. Recognizing the pain he had caused, Bijan repented of his hasty speech, acknowledging her strength and wisdom. "Swear to me a great oath, and I will confide in you." He said.

Manizeh swore the oath. Then Bijan revealed, "I know that the merchant who has come from Iran is here for my sake. Return to his presence and ask him, 'O Pehelvan of the King of kings, tell me, are you the master of Rakhsh?'"

Having heard these instructions, Manizeh swiftly went to fulfill Bijan's request. She stood before Rustam and conveyed the words entrusted to her. In response, Rustam declared, "Go tell your friend that indeed I am the master of Rakhsh, and that I have come to Turan to free him."

Rustam, determined to rescue Bijan, instructed Manizeh to gather wood for a pyre, intending to set it ablaze at night to locate Bijan's pit. Despite the hardships, Manizeh tirelessly scoured the land looking for firewood. Thorns pricked her and she bled as she stripped branches of trees, but she kept hunting for more wood.

When night fell, Manizeh ignited the pyre, and Rustam, accompanied by his seven comrades, arrived at the scene. Each tried in turn to move the stone sealing the pit, but their efforts proved futile. Seeking divine strength, Rustam prayed to God for assistance. He approached the pit, bent down, and spoke to Bijan, inquiring about the circumstances that led him into this predicament.

Rustam then proposed a plea for forgiveness, saying, "I ask a favour of you. If I am granted the strength to move this stone and free you from this pit, grant your forgiveness to Girgin. He regrets his wrongful deed, and because of his valour, I wish for peace between you."

Bijan, however, sternly replied, "You are unaware of all the harm Girgin has caused me. I cannot heed your request, as I am determined to seek vengeance upon him."

Rustam, frustrated by Bijan's unwillingness to grant forgiveness, declared, "If your heart cannot find kindness within it to heed my wishes, nor recognize that I have come in friendship to rescue you, then I shall mount Rakhsh and leave you to perish in your chains."

Bijan, hearing these words, let out a loud cry, lamenting his dire situation. He reluctantly agreed, saying, "So be it as you desire."

With great strength, Rustam grasped the stone, lifted it from the pit, and hurled it into the desert. He then used his cord to enmesh Bijan and draw him out of the dungeon. Bijan, emaciated and withered by his imprisonment, presented a pitiable sight, his skin hanging loosely about his bones.

Having freed Bijan from his chains, Rustam covered him with a cloak, placed him on a horse, and took Manizeh as well. He led them to his house in the city, where he provided them with water, dressed them in new robes, and then directed them to the location where the army lay hidden. Addressing Bijan, Rustam remarked, "I am eager to confront Turan, but you are too weakened to engage in battle."

However, Bijan insisted, saying, "No, let Manizeh find shelter, but it is not for a man to be guarded like a woman."

Refusing to heed Rustam's concerns, Bijan clad himself in a coat of mail, ready to ride alongside the Pehelvan. Together, they ventured into the darkness until they reached Afrasiyab's dwelling.

Upon their arrival, Rustam, lifted the doors off their hinges and breached the guards, creating a passage to Afrasiyab's chamber. Standing within, Rustam raised his thunderous voice, declaring,

"Sleep, foolish man, and may your slumber be deep. While you rested upon your throne, Bijan languished in a pit. You forgot that a path leads from Iran into Turan, and in your wicked heart, you thought none would come to avenge him. Listen to my words, for I am Rustam, the son of Zal, the Pehelvan. I have shattered your doors, released Bijan from his chains, and now I have come to exact vengeance upon you."

Upon hearing Rustam's declaration, Afrasiyab awoke in fear, desperately summoning his guards, but none responded, for Rustam had already dispatched them. Fleeing in the darkness, Afrasiyab managed to escape through the door, leaving his house at the mercy of Rustam. Seizing the opportunity, Rustam gathered valuable plunder, including slaves, horses, and jewels, before swiftly returning to his army.

Aware that Afrasiyab would mobilize an army with the dawn, Rustam wasted no time. As predicted, when daylight broke, the Turanian forces marched forth. Rustam, positioning his men for battle, sent Manizeh, the slaves, and the spoils back into Iran. At the forefront of the host, Rustam led the charge with Bijan by his side.

A fierce battle ensued, marked by great carnage, strewn bodies, and shattered armor covering the battlefield. The banner of Turan sank, and Afrasiyab fled in retreat from his adversaries.

Filled with joy, Rustam returned to Kai Khusrow, who, in turn, eagerly went forth to welcome his Pehelvan. Riding beside him were Geew and Goodarz, both valiant warriors. Overwhelmed with emotion, Kai Khusrow embraced Rustam, expressing,

"O pillar of my soul, embodiment of valor, you shine like the sun, and the marks of your mighty deeds are visible wherever one gazes. Blessed is Zal to have a son of your caliber!"

With these words, he bestowed blessings and rich gifts upon Rustam, a sentiment echoed by Geew and Goodarz, grateful for Bijan's return. Kai Khusrow then commanded a grand feast, and the heroes celebrated, indulging in wine until their heads grew heavy.

In the morning, Rustam appeared before the Shah for an audience and respectfully said, "If it pleases the King, may he lend his ear to his servant. I wish to return to Zal, my father."

Despite his desire to retain Rustam in his courts, Kai Khusrow listened to the just wishes of his Pehelvan.

After Rustam's departure, Kai Khusrow summoned Bijan and spoke to him about the events that had transpired. Expressing compassion for the daughter of Afrasiyab and acknowledging the hardships she endured for the sake of Bijan, the Shah presented him with rich gifts. Kai Khusrow instructed Bijan,

"Cherish this woman in your bosom, shield her from grief, and speak to her with warmth, for she has endured much for you. May your life together be filled with happiness."

Having said these words, the Shah dismissed Bijan from his presence. And so, Bijan and Manizeh lived happily ever after.

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