(First printing 1934, Tehran, many subsequent
Hedayat, an Iranian nationalist living in self-imposed exile in
Paris in the first part of the 20th century, came from an
aristocratic Qajar family background. This brilliant, outstanding soul was
amongst one of the first group of Iranian students sent to France by the
encouragement of the Iranian government. As
a gentle and sensitive man, the gradual demise of his mother country, as it
occurred over the centuries, was a heavy burden
on his consciousness.
in self-exile in Paris, Hedayat wrote prolifically in both Farsi and French.
His scope of writings ranged from scholarly publications, including the
first translation of Zand-Vohuman Yasht into Farsi from French, to historical
novels and emotion-rousing dramas. Through
his writing, Hedayat portrays his sense of Iranian nationalism, and his yearning
for the glorious past of his motherland.
classical masterpiece “BoofKour” (the Blind Owl) was set against a
background of life in a developing country.
He traveled to Bombay, India for the composition of that book.
While there, he made contact with notable Zarathushtrians such as the
late Dinshah Irani, a solicitor. Later
he facilitated the introduction of Ibrahim Pour-e-Davoud to Dinshah Irani.
ended his own life in his small apartment in Paris under trying financial
conditions. His disappointment over
the demise of his beloved motherland was a crushing force on his consciousness
that had frustrated him to the point of no return.
It was only after his suicide, that the Iranians and the world came to
know about Hedayat throught his writings. His
books, all very much acclaimed, have been printed and reprinted many times. It
is unfortunate that he never received any financial benefits from his
consciousness- raising works.
his many books are “Maziar” (the national hero who led an uprising against
the Arab invasion), Car-nameh Ardeshir Papkan (Ardeshi Papakan’s records),
Neyrangestan, Hadji-Agha, Isfahan
Nesf-Jehan (Isfahan – Half the world), Ce Ghatre Khon (three drops of blood),
Toop Morvarid (The Pearl Canon), Saga Valgard (The Stray Dog), Sayeh Roshan (The
luminous Shadow), and many others.
review of his historical novel, “Parvin the Daughter of Sassan,”
which was set against the background of the gradual conquest of Iran by
the invading Arab armies, is to pay tribute to this great nationalistic Iranian
whose gentle and enlightened manner was so in keeping with the spirit of the
ancient land that his consciousness was always reaching out to touch.
Hedayat’s spirit lives on in the heart of many who have followed him.
Location Setting: A house in
the ancient city of Rey (close to present day Tehran) bearing a late Sassanian
style of architecture.
of time: After the defeat of the Sassanian federal armies at Qadissya, and
Nahavand. Various cities in Iran
are left to defend for themselves. With the western part of the country already
overrun by the invaders, and the heartland of Iran coming under attack, the
specter of the Arab army assault on the city lurks in the air.
Actor: 1. Bahram: A 50 year old house servant
Actor 2: Chahreh Pardar (Sassan): 45 year old father of the house
Actor 3: Parvin: 20 year old, tall, and beautiful daughter of Chahreh Pardar
Actor 4: Parviz: 25 year old handsome fiance of Parvin, bearing his military
Actors 5-9: Four men dressed in Arab military costumes, speaking Arabic
Actor 10: The leader of the Arabs, a barefoot,
middle aged man wearing a sword and a dagger carrying on with a loud
Actor 11: Translator, a 40 year old man speaking in a thick accent
Not shown but heard
and mentioned: The loyal family
dog, guarding the house
Hedayat’s brilliance as an able and
creative writer and his sense of nationalism come together to create an
emotionally charged play on the life of an upper class household in
the ancient city of Rey in its last remaining days under the nominal rule
of the Sassanians. The Arab forces
that have taken city after city in Western Iran are now within the reach of Rey,
and are expected any day. The city lies open, and has no natural defenses. A local defense force comprising of mostly young men
remaining in the city has been assembled and provides round the clock vigilance
against the hostile troops that might appear anytime.
The sad knowledge that their small defensive force will easily be
out-numbered by many orders of
magnitude is heavy on everyone’s mind, although not mentioned as if in
self denial. Their hope is that their
home terrain advantage will help them.
citizens remain hopeful that help in the form of military assistance will come
from other cities to the North and the East so they can put up a consolidated
defense against the invaders. In a
self reassuring manner, there is also the belief that their divine land is
protected by Ahura-Mazda against the impending genocide that has already
consumed the Western half of the country. The horror stories of wholesale
killing, plunder, looting, and rape, and reports of female citizens being sent
off to Arabia to be sold in slave auctions, have been pouring into the city by
the few lucky escapees from the other settlements to the West that were laid to
waste at the hand of the aggressors. There is a sense of gloom in the air.
three part play starts with Bahram, the
household servant, attending to the large sized courtyard of the house, and
reflecting loudly on the general state of affairs. He cannot apprehend the logic of his employee who seems
incapable of comprehending the full weight of what is about to unfold.
He wonders why Chahreh Padar, who has the means, has not left in the
direction of China and Turan as have so many others of his standing.
Deep inside, he has a feeling this house will be one of the first targets
of assault by the plundering aggressors and
is trying to figure his odds of defending the house with the help of the
faithful family dog (a symbol of faithfulness and animal affection in ancient
Iran) once house to house assaults
in the city get underway. The news
pouring into the city is not encouraging at all.
The supplies are running scarce, as a breakdown of commerce seems to have
thought process is broken by his employer, Chahreh Padar (Sassan) appearing on
the scene and asking if Bahram is talking to himself. He then asks Bahram to go to the outskirts of the city
looking for his future son-in-law Parviz who has joined the city defense forces.
Parviz has not stopped by in quite a few days, and Chahreh Padar knows
his daughter Parvin is longing to see his fiancé.
Bahram expresses his reservation about the wisdom of staying on in Rey
and says that there may still be time to get out.
Chahreh Padar wants to hear none of that, given his childhood experience
of being uprooted from the southwestern region of the country due to incursion
by the Arab tribes and having moved to Rey in search of safety.
Almost in a state of denial of the impending disaster that is to befell
the city and its citizens, Chahreh Padar seems to have convinced himself that no
harm will come. As Bahram
departs, Chahreh Padar’s beautiful daughter Parvin appears in the courtyard of
the house and is asked by her father to play a musical instrument as a means of
combating the gloom and doom.
Parviz arrives, to the joy of his fiance and her father, unaware of Bahram
having been dispatched to get him. The
exchange of news and views center about the defensive activities around the
city. Parviz feels it is his honor
and duty to defend the motherland, and that divine protection will be with them
as they face incredible odds. Chahreh
Padar is very supportive, and shows Parviz a small drawing of his daughter.
Parviz asks if he can have the drawing and take it with him.
Chahreh Pardar states that the drawing is something he is saving for his
old age, but as long as his daughter is still living with him, Parviz can take
the drawing with him, and hands it over. He
goes on to say once this temporary problem is over with, the wedding of Parviz
to his daughter will take place. As
Parviz is getting to depart his fiance, she hands him the wedding ring she has
been saving for their wedding day, and he gives her the gold ring he has
procured for the same occasion. The
departure scene is emotionally moving, as Parviz mounts his white horse to
return to his observation post outside the city.
comes the assault on the city, and with the residents of the house very much
confined within the enclosure of the house.
Bahram enters Chahreh Padar’s room and sees Parvin sitting by her
father’s bed side. Bahram finds a
way to tell them that their house seems to have been penetrated by the invaders.
He reports that the night before, he saw the glitter of one of the
intruders’ eyes peeking from behind a tree in the courtyard and looking in the
direction of their rooms, lit by candle light. Apparently Bahram, and the family
dog were successful in scaring the Arab off.
However, Bahram was sure they will return tonight.
Chahreh Pardar starts to hallucinate. Parvin insists she will stay by
father’s bedside to care for him. Suddenly,
they hear footsteps of people walking on the roof.
Anxiety builds. Bahram is
wondering whether the family dog can scare the intruders away.
Soon afterwards there is the sound of people walking outside.
Bahram rushes to lock the door. There
is banging on the door of the room. Chahreh
Pardar tells Bahram, they are breaking down the door, and that he should open
it. Bahram is thrown aside by four cruel looking intruders who enter the room.
Speaking in Arabic, and not being understood by the three Persians, the
intruders soon inflict a fatal blow to Bahram who positions himself between the
invaders and the his employer. It is clear the faithful family dog was also
killed by the looters. The intruders start to gather all the valuables in the room.
Finally they look in the direction of Parvin.
Realizing their ill intention towards his daughter, Chahreh Pardar while
still in bed cries out that they can take all his material belongings but must
leave his daughter alone. He then
tries to shelter his daughter as the four Arabs close in.
His attempt to save his daughter is met with a fatal blow.
Parvin, witnessing all of these terrible events, loses consciousness.
final and the climactic episode of the play takes place at the location in the
city where the leader of the Arab invasion force is found.
This episode brings out the stark contrasts between what was and what is
wrapped in a blanket, is brought into the room where the Arab leader is pacing
up and down. The four assailants,
having looted Chahreh Padar’s house, and having stashed away their ill gotten
goods, unwrap the blanket at the foot of their leader. Parvin, still fainting,
comes into view. They all stare at
her. Soon afterwards, she starts to
come around, and as she gains consciousness, the sight of the strangers bent
over to look at her shocks her. Suddenly,
the memory of the murder scene comes back to her. The Arab leader throws the others out of the room, and makes
gestures towards Parvin. She shrinks back in disgust. The leader, frustrated, rushes to the door, and shouts some
words in Arabic. A second man comes
in, and walks towards Parvin. The
leader leaves them alone and walks to the other end of the room. The new arrival starts to speak in Pahlavi (the language
spoken in Iran in those days) with an accent.
is trying to find out whether this man is an outsider who has learnt Pahlavi or
an Iranian traitor. The translator and Parvin engage in very revealing and
charged exchanges that clearly highlight the drastic changes that are about to befall the society.
informs Parvin that the Arab leader has a generous offer reserved for her.
She is to become the latest addition to his harem and all other women in
the Harem will be required to serve her. She
is told how lucky she is to receive this offer, given that the other women in
the city are to be sent to Arabia to be sold at slave auctions.
She is to be spared, and kept by the leader.
All this talk is alien to Parvin who shows her disdain. She expresses her disgust at the conduct of the aggressors,
and in response to the translator points out that ancient Iranians, in the
course of their history, have only fought defensive wars, and have never
attacked their neighbors for the purpose of looting or imposing their religion
The translator insists Parvin
must accept the new realities, that the Fire Temples are things of the past to
be abolished, and that she should submit to the will of Allah, and learn the new
language as Pahlavi will also soon be abolished.
Parvin feels the defense of her country is on her shoulders and expresses
her thoughts that finally good will prevail and these invaders’ days are
numbered. She believes strongly
that her fiance Parviz will come to save her.
The translator, who seems to be pressured to get Parvin to comply,
suddenly shows her a ring. Parvin,
recognizing the ring as the one she had given to Parviz, is panic-stricken and
asks where the ring came from.
translator, feeling he is getting an advantage, discloses that when the Arab
army arrived, the defenders fought gallantly but were no match for the invading
forces. After all the defenders
were felled, he and a few others were trusted by the leader
to enter the field and remove all valuables from the dead Iranians,
interrogating and finishing off any who were still breathing.
He goes on to say that while doing so that night, he saw a white stallion
on a hilltop bent over his dying master.
He went over to investigate. Thinking
he was an Iranian speaking his language, the dying soldier, covered in his own
blood, motioned the newcomer to approach him.
The soldier gave him the drawing of a girl and a ring and asked him to
find this girl and to tell her not to wait for him.
The figure of the girl depicted in the drawing caught the eye of the Arab
leader, who asked for the girl to be found and brought to him for addition to
his own harem. Hearing all of this,
Parvin’s world suddenly comes crumbling down around her.
Her last hopes are dashed. At
this point the translator reiterates the offer made to Parvin before, hoping she
is more amenable by then. Parvin is
still defiant, and rejects the offer with the force of her conviction.
The translator points out this is the last chance she is getting, and
still hearing “no,” walks to the other side of the room.
Arab leader, impatient and pacing up and down the room, stops to hear the
translator’s report. With rage in
his face, he tosses the translator out of the room and walks towards Parvin.
There is silence as the Arab approaches Parvin.
He mutters some words and then puts one arm around Parvin, and places his
other hand under her chin as if appraising his prey, and then kisses Parvin.
In that closeness Parvin reaches out and gently
pulls out the dagger tied to the Arab leader’s belt.
Unaware of Parvin’s action, the Arab leader, pleased at his initial
success, pulls back. As he looks
the other way, Parvin raises the dagger. With all the strength that she can
muster and with great swiftness the dagger comes down piercing through her
chest. As her blood gushes out, Parvin falls to the ground to join the rest of
Arab leader, shaken by the event, walks away, reaches inside of a big chest
filled to the top with jewels stolen from the Iranian people, and pulls out a
handful to cover the body of his latest victim.