MALKŪS, a malignant demon in Zoroastrian Pahlavi literature. Bundahišn 33.36 (Pakzad, p. 371) describes Malkus as being of pestilential nature and as a descendent of the Turanian Brādarōrēš, who killed Zarathustra (Boyce, p. 290). Dēnkard III, 71 represents Malkus as an adversary figure, and Dēnkard V, 3.3 (Amouzgar and Tafazzoli, pp. 32 f.) lists him with some other adversary figures, Alaksandar, Agrēhrat, and Dahāk. In the Pahlavi rivāyat ī dādestān ī dēnīg (pars. 10-21; Williams, I, pp. 172-77; II, pp. 230 f.)  The depiction of Malkus acquires some extensions: at the beginning of the fifth century of Ušēdar’s millennium (see SAOŠYANT), there will be a terrible winter. At the time of the winter, the upholders of the Zoroastrian religion will recommend to the people that they store provisions. For three subsequent years, the people will do so, but it will not rain. In the fourth year, when the unbelieving people will refuse to do so, the winter of Malkus will start, and in the three subsequent years there will be, respectively, only six, four, and two interruptions of it. In the fourth year, it will snow ceaselessly for seven months.

According to most Pahlavi accounts of Malkus (Bundahišn 33.36, Dādestān ī dēnīg 36.80 [Jaafari-Dehaghi, pp. 140 f.], Mēnōy ī Xrad 25.24, Dēnkard VII, 9.3 f. [Molé, pp. 92 f.], TD4a, pp. 608.13-609.11, Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg, 17.4 [Agostini, pp. 85 f., 114]) and also to New Persian Zoroastrian literature (Saddar Bundahišn 35.21-5 [Dhabhar, pp. 104 f.], Malkus’s winter (Pahlavi Vd. 2.22 [Moazami, p. 57], Dēnkard VII, 1.24) is the calamity which promoted Jam to build his vara. The question is whether the myth of vara and that of Malkus’s winter were connected already in the Avestan period. A. Hultgård (p. 115) suggests that they were originally two different myths, first tied together in the Pahlavi commentary of the Wīdēwdād. In the Avestan texts, the name of the demon has been attested as mahrkūša- “destroyer” (Bartholomae, p. 1147) only in one Avestan fragment, FrW 8.2 (Darmesteter, 1883, pp. 203-5; 1893, p. 19). The similarity of FrW 8.2 to Vd. 2.22 on the phraseological level (FrW 8.2 stanza staxra he mǝrǝtō zaiia ~ Vd. 2.22 yahmat̰ haca staxrō mrūrō ziiå) allows one to conclude that the connection of both myths could date back to the Avestan period.


Domenico Agostini, Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg, un texte eschatologique zoroastrien, Biblica et Orientalia 50, Rome, 2013.

Zhālah Āmūzgār and Aḥmad Tafaz̤z̤ulī, eds., Le cinquième livre du Dēnkard, Studia Iranica 23, Leuven, 2000.

Christian Bartholomae, Altiranisches Wörterbuch, Strassburg, 1904.

Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism I. The Early Period,  Leiden, 1975.

James Darmesteter, Études Iraniennes. 2 vols., Paris, 1883.

Idem, Le Zend-Avesta, 3 vols., Annales Du Musée Guimet, Paris, 1892.

Ervad Bamanaji Nasarvanji Dhabhar, ed., Saddar Nasṛ and Saddar Bundehesh, Bombay, 1909.

Andres Hultgård, “The Mythic Theme of the Great Winter in Ancient Iranian Traditions,” in Religious Texts in Iranian Languages. Symposium Held in Copenhagen May 2002, Historiske-Filosofiske Meddelelser 98, København, 2007, pp. 101-20.

Mahmoud Jaafari-Dehaghi, Dādestān ī Dēnīg. Part I, Transcription, Translation and Commentary, Studia Iranica 20, Paris, 1998.

Mahnaz Moazami, Wrestling with the Demons of the Pahlavi Widewdad: Transcription, Translation, and Commentary, Iran Studies 9. Leiden and Boston, 2014.

Marijan Molé, La Legende de Zoroastre Selon Les Textes Pehlevis. Travaux de l’Institut d’Études Iraniennes de l’Université de La Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, 1967.

Fazlollah Pakzad, Bundahišn. Zoroastrische Kosmogonie Und Kosmologie. Band I: Kritische Edition, Ancient Iranian Studies 2, Tehran, 2005.

[TD4a] Kaikhusroo M Jamaspasa, Y. M. Nawabi, and Maḥmūd Ṭāvūsī, eds., Manuscript TD4a The Pahlavi Rivāyat, Dātistān-i Dinīk, Nāmakīhā-i Manushchichr and Vichītakīhā-i Zātasparam etc., Shiraz, 1978.

Alan V. Williams, ed., The Pahlavi Rivāyat Accompanying the Dādestān ī Dēnīg, 2 vols., Historisk-Filosofiske Meddelelser 60:1-2, Copenhagen, 1990.

(Kianoosh Rezania)

Originally Published: September 20, 2016

Last Updated: September 20, 2016

Cite this entry:

Kianoosh Rezania, “MALKŪS,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at (accessed on 20 September 2016).