Rostam and Manas – Epic Heroes in Iran and Turan

Rostam and Manas – Epic Heroes in Iran and Turan

April 3, 2013

April 3, 2013

Jutta Wintermann, PhD Candidate, University of Cologne, Germany

Abstract: Rostam and Manas are the two most prominent heroes of the Iranian and Kyrgyz epic traditions respectively. I consider these two epic traditions as two poles of epic traditions in Central Asia. On the one hand, in his Shahnameh the poet Ferdowsi has written down the epic traditions of the Iranians who lead a settled way of life since pre-historic times. On the other hand, oral transmission clearly prevails for the Manas-epic until nowadays and the nomadic way of life played a central role for the Kyrgyz people until very recent times.

After explaining what gave me the idea for a PhD-project about two epic heroes, I will focus on the Shahnameh. It goes without saying that the Manas-epic is much more widely known here than the Shahnameh, whereas I, for my part, came to Kyrgyzstan to learn more about the Manas-epic. I will start this section with a short introduction to the poet Ferdowsi and his time, how the Shahnameh came into being and how it is structured. In a next step, I will raise the issue of written and oral tradition, as this is the first and foremost difference between the two epic traditions concerned. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to understand Iranian epic tradition solely as Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh. There also exist different forms of oral performance, notably for the Rostam-legends. I will describe these different forms of oral performance which are still practiced today, even though they are changing and withering. It would be even legitimate to describe them as endangered.

In the last section of my presentation, I will come to the Manas-epic. In this part, I will rather identify some open questions and problems which I came across in my research so far. These questions I would suggest for discussion with the audience subsequent to my presentation.

Bio: Jutta Wintermann is a PhD-candidate at the Department for Oriental Studies of Cologne University in Germany. She studies Oriental Studies at Ruhr-Universität Bochum and holds a Diploma in Translation Studies of Cologne University of Applied Sciences. She received her Master’s degree in Islamic Sciences from Cologne University in 2010. Her main fields of interests include Persian language and literature as well as cultural and linguistic contacts between Iran and Central Asia. In her Master’s thesis she contrasted the Persian poet Nezami’s story of “Khosrou and Shirin” with the historical backgrounds of this story.


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