Rustem Swims Away - a story from the Shahnameh
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Rustem Swims Away

Like Odysseus or Anansi, Monkey or Br'er Rabbit, the Iranian hero Rustem was a trickster. He uses quick thinking to get out of this fix:

devil carries a man
The Devil carries Rostem

Once when he was sleeping alone outside on the ground next to his horse Rukush, Rustem was trapped by the Devil, and the Devil started to carry him away. Rustem woke up and was terrified that he was going to die. The Devil saw that Rustem had woken up and he asked Rustem, "Well, hero, how do you want to die? Want me to throw you off a mountain cliff? Or toss you into the sea?"

Rustem thought that the Devil would probably do whatever he thought would make Rustem suffer the most, so Rustem quickly said, "Oh, Devil, it's up to you, but I sure hope you don't throw me into the sea! I hear that drowning keeps you from going to Heaven or finding any rest after you die."

Naturally the Devil said, "I don't want you to ever have any rest," and threw Rustem into the sea, in a place where hungry crocodiles would eat him. But the hero Rustem was a good swimmer. He drew his sword and fought off the hungry crocodiles with his right hand, and he swam with his left hand, and by the time it got dark that night he was standing on dry land, and he gave thanks to God.

This story is may have been influenced by the earlier Buddhist Jataka tale of Monkey and the Crocodile. It's probably an early inspiration for later Tar Baby stories around the world, moving east to Indonesia and Japan and from there to North America, and west to Africa and from there to North America with enslaved Africans, where it met up with the east-bound version.

Learn by doing: act out this story as a play
Rustem's parents: Zal and Rudaba (Rapunzel)
More about Rustem
More Islamic Stories
More West Asian Stories
Indian Stories
Central Asian Stories

Bibliography and further reading about the Shahnameh:

More about West Asia
Quatr.us home


Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Check out our new ebook: Short and Simple: Ancient Greek Myths! - just out! Twenty-five easy to read, illustrated stories, from Pandora to Medea, Icarus, and the Trojan Horse (you can read these online as samples). Get it this week for just $14.99, five dollars off the regular price of $19.99.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 23 June, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT