Research Post #12
 
The Shahnameh! (well, the abridged translation for children pictured above)

So, one of the projects I'm working on this summer is putting together a Dungeon World campaign for 9-12 year olds attending camp at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. The twist? The campaign is inspired by and set in the world of the Shahnameh!


Years ago a studiomate of mine recommended I read the Shahnameh, but I don't think I got farther than the first section, on the creation of the world and the building of society. It was beautiful and formal and very, very long* and I was reading a translation on Google Books, without any illustrations, and I did not get the full experience. 


So for this project, the AKM has chosen a particular section of the Shahnameh, focusing largely on the hero Rostam (or Rustam, depending on the translation). And they provided me with this lovely translation for children, which focuses heavily on Rostam's life and adventures, as an introduction to the text. 


Now that I've read this abridged version, I can tell you there's some things in this 1000 year old story that you might find very familiar if you're a fan of pulp fiction or superhero. Firstly, great heroes have offspring who are great heroes. Secondly: size is a very direct measure of greatness, which sounds a little simplistic until you think of superhero art. Heroes might be raised by mythical birds, or have to be born c-section due to their unwieldy size, or can only ride the strongest of horses. And the theme you might find the most familiar, is that of tragedy brought about by pride. While more often it's the kings learning hard lessons about pride, in the end of Rostam's story he and his son are caught in the nets of their own worldviews, and it's very tragic.


So I imagine it will be fairly straightforward to bring some of these themes to the table for the Dungeon World campaign I'm writing, but beyond that, this epic poem and its themes and tragedies is a very interesting model for long narratives of any kind, and something I'm definitely going to be mulling over as I go about fine tuning my writing for Orin and the Dead Man's Sword as well.


Now, for the next month, I'm going to be pretty immersed in planning this campaign. Patrons, would you enjoy me sharing more of the research and brainstorming process for the campaign here or should I stick with comics?


Thanks again to all my patrons for their support!


* (the Shahnameh is the longest epic poem in the world, clocking in at around  60 000 verses.)