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Zahhak, also known as Azhi Dahaka, is a character in Iranian mythology and folklore. He is often depicted as an evil ruler with serpents growing from his shoulders, and his story has been passed down through generations. According to legend, Zahhak was a tyrant who ruled over Persia, and he was eventually defeated by the hero Fereydun.

The story of Zahhak has been retold in various forms, including in the Persian epic poem Shahnameh by Ferdowsi. In this version of the story, Zahhak is a snake king who conquers Mesopotamia and terrorizes the people with his snakes. He is eventually challenged and killed by Kaveh, a blacksmith, in a symbol of resistance and freedom.

Zahhak has also made appearances in popular culture, including in the video game Prince of Persia and in the television shows Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Despite his status as a villain, Zahhak remains a fascinating figure in Iranian mythology and continues to capture the imagination of people around the world.

Mythological Origins

Persian Mythology

Zahhak is a prominent figure in Persian mythology, known as the king with serpents growing out of his shoulders. According to legend, he was a tyrant who conquered Iran and ruled for a thousand years. His reign was marked by cruelty and oppression, and he was eventually overthrown by the hero Fereydun. The story of Zahhak has been passed down through generations and remains an important part of Persian folklore.

Zahhak in Avesta

The origins of the Zahhak myth can be traced back to the Avesta, the holy scripture of Zoroastrianism. In the Avesta, the figure of Aži Dahāka is described as a three-headed dragon who represents evil and chaos. He is defeated by the god Thraetaona, who is later identified with Fereydun in Persian mythology. The story of Aži Dahāka was later adapted and expanded upon in the Shahnameh, the epic poem written by Ferdowsi in the 10th century.

Zahhak’s story has captured the imagination of generations, and his image has been depicted in various forms of art throughout history. The legend of the serpent king continues to be retold and studied, offering insights into the culture and beliefs of ancient Persia.

The Reign of Zahhak

Zahhak’s reign was marked by tyranny and oppression, as he ruled with an iron fist and showed no mercy to his subjects. The legends say that he had serpents growing out of his shoulders, which he fed with the brains of young men. This gruesome detail became a symbol of his cruelty and the fear that he instilled in the hearts of his people.

Tyranny and Serpents

Zahhak’s rule was characterized by his insatiable thirst for power and his willingness to do whatever it took to maintain his grip on the throne. He had no qualms about shedding the blood of anyone who dared to oppose him, and his serpents were a constant reminder of the price of disobedience.

The Thousand-Year Reign

According to the legends, Zahhak ruled for a thousand years before he was finally overthrown by the hero Fereydun. During this time, he became increasingly paranoid and obsessed with his own power, leading him to commit ever more heinous acts of cruelty and violence.

Despite his long reign, Zahhak’s legacy was one of fear and oppression, and his name became synonymous with tyranny and evil. Even today, his story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked power and the importance of standing up against injustice.

Fateful Prophecy

Zahhak was a powerful king who ruled over Iran. He had conquered many territories and had become very wealthy and influential. However, he had a dark secret that he kept hidden from the public. He had snakes growing out of his shoulders, which he had to feed with human brains to keep them from attacking him.

Dream of Zahhak

One night, Zahhak had a disturbing dream in which he saw himself being overthrown by a young man named Faridun. He woke up in a cold sweat and was terrified by the vision. He knew that he had to do something to prevent this from happening, but he didn’t know what.

Interpretation by Astrologers

Zahhak consulted with his astrologers, who interpreted his dream as a prophecy of his downfall. They warned him that Faridun would be born soon and would eventually defeat him. Zahhak was devastated by this news and became paranoid, always looking over his shoulder for any signs of a threat.

Despite his efforts to prevent it, the prophecy came true. Faridun was born and eventually led a rebellion against Zahhak, defeating him and freeing Iran from his tyranny. The story of Zahhak serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of greed and tyranny, and the inevitability of fate.

Downfall and Legacy

Kaveh the Blacksmith

Zahhak’s reign of tyranny came to an end when Kaveh the Blacksmith, who had lost his two sons to the king’s serpents, led a rebellion against him. Kaveh, along with other Iranians, marched towards Zahhak’s palace and demanded his overthrow. Zahhak’s army was defeated, and he was captured and imprisoned.

Feridun’s Uprising

After Zahhak’s downfall, Feridun, a descendant of Jamshid, became the new king of Iran. He established a new dynasty and ruled the country with justice and wisdom. Feridun’s uprising against Zahhak is considered a turning point in Iranian history, marking the end of the dark age of tyranny and the beginning of a new era of enlightenment.

Zahhak’s legacy, however, continued to haunt the Iranian psyche. His story became a cautionary tale about the dangers of absolute power and the consequences of moral corruption. The legend of Zahhak has been retold and reinterpreted in various forms of art and literature, including Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, which remains one of the greatest literary works in Persian history.

Cultural Impact


Zahhak, also known as Azhi Dahaka, is a significant figure in Persian mythology. His story has been retold in various forms of literature, including the Shahnameh or the Book of Kings, which is an epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi. The tale of Zahhak has been adapted into plays, novels, and even video games, making it a popular subject in contemporary literature.

Art and Symbolism

Zahhak’s story has also been a source of inspiration for artists and designers. His image is often depicted in Persian art, with his snake-like shoulders and his crown. Zahhak’s story has also been used as a symbol for political corruption and tyranny. His character is often used to represent the consequences of greed and the importance of justice.

In conclusion, Zahhak’s story is a significant part of Persian mythology and has had a lasting impact on literature and art. His tale has been retold and adapted in various forms, making it a popular subject in contemporary culture. Zahhak’s image has also been used as a symbol for political corruption and tyranny, emphasizing the importance of justice and the consequences of greed.

Comparative Mythology

Similar Figures in Lore

Zahhak is an evil figure in Persian mythology, and his story shares many similarities with other mythological figures from around the world. For example, the story of Zahhak bears a striking resemblance to that of the Greek mythological figure Typhon, who was also a multi-headed monster. In both stories, the monster is eventually defeated by a hero who is aided by a divine figure.

In addition, the story of Zahhak shares similarities with the Hindu mythological figure Ravana. Both figures are depicted as powerful but evil rulers who are eventually defeated by a hero who is aided by a divine figure. These similarities suggest that there may be universal archetypes at play in these stories.

Analyzing Archetypes

Comparative mythology can help us understand the archetypes that are present in mythological stories. In the case of Zahhak, we can see that he represents the archetype of the evil ruler who is eventually defeated by a hero who is aided by a divine figure. This archetype is present in many mythological stories from around the world.

By analyzing these archetypes, we can gain insight into the human psyche and the universal themes that are present in our stories. We can also gain a greater appreciation for the diversity of human culture and the many ways in which we express our shared experiences through storytelling.