The first brief mention of Ferdowsi in Polish was made by Ignacy Krasicki (1735-1801) in his work on poets and poetry (Krasicki, 1803, III, p. 483). Besides, Krasicki included in his collection of Oriental tales two passages originating from the Šāh-nāma: “On Alexander and an Indian philosopher” and “Maxims and adages of Buzur” (that is, Bozorgmehr, see BOZORGMEHR-E BOḴTAGĀN), although he did not mention their source (Krasicki, 1803, VI, pp. 60-62, 263-64). Wilhelm Münnich (1788-1867), in his lecture “De Poesi Persica” delivered in Latin at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow in 1824 (Münnich, 1825), furnished more details on the Persian national epos, presenting two short quotations from the Šāh-nāma in Latin (pp. 59 and 63-64).

Polish Romantic poets of the first half of the 19th century, being strongly influenced by Oriental poetry (cf. Reychman, 1957; Krasnowolska, 2003b), drew comparisons between Homer and Ferdowsi in their discussion on the meaning of the Oriental poetry for the Western culture (Münnich, 1825, pp. 39, 83-84; Mickiewicz, 1955, p. 184; Siemieński, 1855, p. IV) and looked for analogies between Persian and Polish patterns of patriotism (Chodźko, 1856, p. 87). In this context, the first samples of the Šāh-nāma were, as a rule, translated into Polish through a third language. For technical reasons, short and clearly delimited pieces of the epos were chosen. Since there existed no examples of medieval epic poetry in Polish, for stylistic inspiration the translators looked at the 19th-century Polish Romantic poetry which was familiar to their readers.

In 1855 Lucjan Siemieński (1807-77), a historian and a poet, published his translation of the Dāstān-e Bižan o Maniža (Siemieński, 1855). His translation was based on an unidentified, possibly German, original. Siemieński was aware of his lack of competence as translator of Ferdowsi’s text, and yet he felt obliged to present it to the Polish readers, while Aleksander Chodźko (1804-9), the only Polish poet of that time who knew Persian, did not undertake the task (Siemieński’s introduction, p. III). Siemieński’s verse is of ten syllables and arranged in large, rhymed strophes of irregular number of verses and in diversified rhyme combinations.

Another historian, Józef Szujski (1835-85) included some examples from the Šāh-nāma in his textbook of non-Christian literatures (Szujski, 1867), of which the Fifth Lecture (pp. 79-113) is devoted to Persian literature. The passages chosen by Szujski are rendered in 13-syllable verse with some parts summarized in prose; they come from the story of Rostam and Sohrāb (pp. 89-101) and from the lyrical introduction to the story of Bižan and Maniža (p. 91), omitted by Siemieński. Szujski based his work on Friedrich Rückert’s (1788-1866) German translation (Rückert, 1838), but he also refers to translations by Jules (Julius) Mohl (1800-76; see Mohl, 1838-78) and Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall (1774-1856; see Hammer-Purgstall).

More excerpts from the Šāh-nāma found their way to literary anthologies of the early 20th century. Julian A. Święcicki (1848-1932) included several episodes from the epic, namely those of the death of Iraj (pp. 198-99), Zāl and Rudāba (pp. 200-5), Rostam and Sohrāb (pp. 209-12), and the death of Rostam (pp. 227-28), into a volume devoted to Persian literature which is partof his General History of Literature (Święcicki, 1902). These are his own renderings made after Adolf Friedrich von Schack’s (1815-94) German translation (Schack, 1851). Święcicki also quotes some fragments of Siemieński’s aforementioned work (Siemieński, 1855, pp. 213-23). As his poetical form, Święcicki chose a 10-syllable verse regularly rhymed in couplets, with some prose insertions.

In Antoni Lange’s (1863-1929) Oriental Divan (Lange, 1921, pp. 237-41), the Šāh-nāma is represented by four short fragments translated in 11-syllable octaves and taken from its introduction: “How the Book Was Composed,” “About the Poet Daqiqi,” “Abu’l-Qāsem Ferdowsi Intends to Write the Book,” and “In Praise of Abu Manṣur, Son of Maḥmud.” Lange does not mention any intermediate source of his translation, although it probably existed. A longer passage from Ferdowsi in Lange’s free interpretation (“Feridun Puts His Sons to Test”) appeared in the daily Kurjer Warszawski (Lange, 1929).

The first Polish translation of a piece of the Šāh-nāma immediately from Persian was that of the introduction to the story of Bižan and Maniža, made by Aleksandr Freĭman (1879-1968) on the basis of Vullers’ edition of the text (Freiman, 1901). Freĭman did not aspire to a poetical effect of his translation and called it “strictly philological,” trying to render the sense of the poem as accurately as possible. His verse is not rhymed, but divided into lines of eleven syllables each, being an attempt at metrical imitation of the original Persian motaqāreb.

The subsequent, more substantial works on the Šāh-nāma by philologists with good command in Persian appeared after World War II. Tadeusz Kowalski (1889-1948), primarily known as an Arabist and Turkologist (see Majkowska, 1999), is the author of a two-volume study of the Šāh-nāma (Kowalski, 1952-53). The first volume contains Kowalski’s essays on various aspects of Ferdowsi’s work, illustrated by extensive quotations of the text, which are translations from the original into a simple prose language. The second volume is a detailed summary of the whole epos, divided into chapters according to the kings’ reigns. The quoted passages are numbered after Vullers’ edition. The book, published after Kowalski’s death, has no bibliography or references. However, this is the first so complex a work on the Šāh-nāma in Polish. A selection of aphorisms from the Šāh-nāma in Kowalski’s translation (Kowalski, 1948), as well as his other articles on the subject (Kowalski, 1945; 1949; 1956), was published separately.

Franciszek Machalski (1904-79) was another scholar who translated selected Šāh-nāma passages from the Persian original. He rendered in verse the following parts of it: “In Praise of Wisdom,” “The End of the Book,” and a passage from “Zāl and Rudāba” (Machalski, 1944; 1945). Machalski’s translations appeared in Studia Irańskie, a Polish journal which was published in Tehran in 1943-45. Later on, the complete text of “Zāl and Rudāba” in Machalski’s commented prose translation came out as a book in the series published by the Polish National Library (Biblioteka Narodowa) in Wroclaw (Machalski, 1961). Machalski also wrote a popularizing brochure on Ferdowsi’s work and life (Machalski, 1970) and an article on the knowledge of the Šāh-nāma in Poland (Machalski, 1977), which served as a starting point for the present study.

The largest translation of the Šāh-nāma that has appeared in Polish so far is by Władysław Dulęba (1923-87), who was a translator of Persian classical poetry (see Soja-Blumhoff, 1996). Dulęba rendered the entire Ferdowsi’s poem in Polish, in poetical prose, (some 2,000 typed pages), but only a selection of its first part (up to the story of Rostam and Šaḡād) was published during his lifetime (Dulęba, 1981). Of the complete text the first volume only (brought to the end of “Hāmāvarān”) appeared posthumously (Dulęba, 2004). This book contains an introduction by Anna Krasnowolska and includes indexes, genealogies, bibliography, and reproductions of seven color paintings from an early 17th-century Šāh-nāma manuscript from the Czartoryski collection (cf. Majda, 1967, pp. 96-97). Dulęba’s translation is based on the Moscow edition of the Šāh-nāma (Bertel’s et al.), but for the later publication of his work more recent editions of the epos were consulted as well (Khaleghi-Motlagh; Joveyni). Although Dulęba’s translation covers the whole text of the Šāh-nāma, it was left by the translator as a working version that still needs some revision and supplementation, which was done in the edition of 2004. Dulęba translated the Šāh-nāma in rhythmical prose marked by archaistic style. His theoretical views on the Šāh-nāma were summarized in his doctoral thesis published as The Cyrus Legend in the Šāhnāme (Krakow, 1995) and in a number of his articles (Dulęba, 1974, 1983, 1987, 1989a, 1989b).

Research on the Šāhnāma done by Polish scholars was inspired by, and in some cases inseparable from, its translation. A number of works on Šāh-nāma’s mythology (Molé, 1948; Składankowa, 1970, 1981, 1988; Krasnowolska, 1987, 1988, 1983a, 1983b, 2001, 2006); metric (Kuryłowicz, 1976), style and composition (Krasnowolska, 1989, 2002, 2003a; Piecuch, 1992), and political background (Składanek, 1983) were written in the second half of the 20th and early 21st century. Ananiasz Zajączkowski (1903-70) published a manuscript of the Turkish translation of the Šāh-nama produced in Mamluk Egypt (Topkapi Saray Library, MS Hazine 1519). The publication includes a facsimile of the original text and its transcription in Latin characters and is preceded by a large introduction (Zajączkowski, 1965b). Its two excerpts: “Haft ḵᵛān-e Esfandiār” and a passage on the mourning of Eskandar by philosophers were published separately (Zajączkowski, 1964, 1965b).

The knowledge of Ferdowsi’s Šāh-nāma in Poland, just like that of classical Persian poetry in general, made its way from more or less amateurish literary interest, which was a part of Romantic intellectual program in the 19th century, to a more professional and scholarly approach promoted by the development of Iranian studies which became an independent discipline in Polish universities only after World War II.


Ye. E`. Bertel’s, et al., ed., Firdousī. Shākh-nāme. Kriticheskiĭ tekst (Ferdowsi. Šāh-nāma. Critical text), 9 vols., Moscow, 1960-71.

A. Chodźko, “Hasan Sebbah i jego zwolennicy legitymiści perscy” (Ḥasan Ṣabbāḥ and his followers, Persian legitimists), Przegląd poznański 16, 1853, pp. 83-120.

W. Dulęba, “Mit rodu Sama w Šāhnāme” (The Myth of Sam’s Family in the Šāh-nāma), Sprawozdania z posiedzeń komisji naukowych Polskiej Akademii Nauk 18, Krakow, 1974, p. 18.

Idem, tr., Ferdousi, Księga Królewska. Wybór (Ferdowsi, Royal Book: a Selection), Warsaw, 1981.

Idem, “Opowieść o Cyrusie w Šāhnāme” (The story of Cyrus in the Šāh-nāma), Studia Indo-Iranica 52, Krakow, 1983, pp. 39-43.

Idem, “The Epos and History on the Example of the History of Feridun in Šāhnāme,” Folia Orientalia 24, 1987, pp. 159-72.

Idem, “Chronogram symboliczny w poezji perskiej” (Symbolical chronogram in Persian poetry), Poetyka orientalna i jej recepcja w Europie, ed. A. Czapkiewicz, Krakow, 1989a, pp. 125-31.

Idem, “Patriotic Themes in the Shahname,” in Afghanica. The Afghanistan Studies Newsletter 4, 1989b, pp. 4-6.

Idem, The Cyrus Legend in the Šāhnāme, Krakow, 1995.

Idem, tr., Abolqasem Ferdousi, Księga Królewska. Szahname (Abu’l-Qāsem Ferdowsi. The Royal Book. Šāh-nāma), vol. I, with philological study by A. Krasnowolska, Krakow, 2004.

A. Freiman, “Z Schachname. Wstęp do opowieści o Biżanie i Maniże (From the Šāh-nāma. Introduction to the story of Bizhan and Manizhe), Wisła 15, 1901, pp. 742-48.

J. von Hammer-Purgstall, “Firdousi. Proben einer Übersetzung des Schahname durch Joseph von Hammer Purgstall,” in Fundgruben des Orients, bearb. durch eine Gesellschaft von Liebhaben, 6 vols., ed. J. von Hammer-Purgstall, Vienna, 1809-18, vol. II, pp. 421-50 and vol. III, pp. 56-67.

ʿA. Joveyni, ed., Ḥakim-e Abu’l-Qāsem Ferdowsi, Šāh-nāma az dastnevis-e muza-ye Florāns, 5 vols., vols. 1-3, Tehran, 1997-2001.

Dj. Khaleghi-Motlagh, ed., Abu’l-Qasem Ferdowsi, The Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), 8 vols., New York, 1987-2008.

T. Kowalski, “W tysiąclecie narodzin Firdausiego” (On the millennium of Ferdowsi’s birth), Przegląd Współczesny, December 1934, pp. 338-45; republished in Przegląd Orientalistyczny 1, 1948, pp. 9-16.

Idem, “Ze studiów nad Šāh-nāme” (From the studies on the Šāh-nāma), Sprawozdania Polskiej Akademii Umiejętności 46, 1945, pp. 14-20.

Idem, “Aforyzmy w Šāhnāme” (Aphorisms in the Šāh-nāma), Przegląd Orientalistyczny 1, 1948, pp. 17-22.

Idem, “Les Turcs dans le Šāh-nāme,” Rocznik Orientalistyczny 15, 1949 (1939-49), pp. 84-99.

Idem, Studia nad Šāh-nāme (Études sur le Šāh-nāma), 2 vols., Krakow, 1952-53.

Idem, “Przysięgi w Šāhnāme” (Oaths in the Šāh-nāma), Rocznik Orientalistyczny 20, 1956, pp. 111-38.

I. Krasicki, Dzieła (Works), 10 vols., Warszawa 1803: “Ferduzy” (Ferdowsi), vol. III, p. 483; “O Aleksandrze i filozofie indyjskim. Powieść arabska” (On Alexander and an Indian philosopher. An Arabic tale), vol. VI, pp. 60-62; “Maxymy i odpowiedzi Buzura” (Maxims and adages of Bozorgmehr), vol. VI, pp. 262-64.

A. Krasnowolska, “About the White-and-Black Thread in Šāh-nāme,” Folia Orientalia 18, 1977, pp. 219-31.

Idem, “Rostam Farroxzād’s Prophecy in the Šāh-nāme and Zoroastrian Apocalyptic Texts,” Folia Orientalia 19, 1978, pp. 173-84.

Idem, “The Quest for Immortality in Šāh-nāme,” in Proceedings of the 4th International Conference of the Theoretical Problems of Asian and African Literatures, ed. M. Gàlik, Bratislava, 1983a, pp. 288-93.

Idem, “Cykle epickie w Šāh-nāme Ferdousiego” (Epic cycles in Ferdowsi’s Šāh-nāma), Ph.D. diss., Jagiellonian University, Krakow, 1983b, unpublished, BJ Sygn. Dokt. 22/83.

Idem, “Elementy stylu epiki ustnej w Šāhnāme Ferdousiego” (Elements of oral epic style in Ferdowsi’s Šāh-nāma), in Poetyka orientalna i jej recepcja w Europie, ed. A. Czapkiewicz, Krakow, 1989, pp. 137-54.

Idem, “Mythological Topography of Iranian Epics,” in Erzählter Raum in Literaturen der islamischen Welt, ed. R. Haag-Higuchi and Ch. Szyska, Wiesbaden, 2001, pp. 19-30.

Idem, “Ferdousi’s Invocation to God in Władysław Dulęba’s Translation,” in Oriental Languages in Translation, ed. A. Krasnowolska, B. Mękarska, and A. Zaborski, Krakow, 2002, pp. 167-75.

Idem, “Introductions to Persian Epic Poems,” in Iranica Selecta. Studies in Honour of Prof. W. Skalmowski, ed. A. van Tangerloo, Turnhout, 2003a, pp. 121-30.

Idem, “Aleksander Chodźko (1804-1891) and his ‘Oriental’ Poems,” Folia Orientalia 39, 2003b, pp. 71-82.

Idem, “Epos perski i jego polski przekład” (Persian epos and its Polish translation), introduction to: Abolqasem Ferdousi, Ksiega Królewska. Szahname, tr. W. Dulęba, vol. I, Krakow, 2004, pp. XI-LXXVIII.

Idem, “A Voice from Heaven. Functions of the Dream in Persian Epic Literature,” in Texts of Power. The Power of the Text. Readings in Textual Authority across History and Cultures, ed. C. Galewicz, Krakow, 2006, pp. 101-12.

J. Kuryłowicz, “Das persische Mutaqārib,” in Metrik und Sprachgeschichte, Wroclaw, Warsaw, Krakow, and Gdansk, 1975, pp. 97-101.

A. Lange, Dywan Wschodni. Wybór arcydzieł literatury egipskiej, asyro-abilońskiej, hebrajskiej, arabskiej, perskiej i indyjskiej (Oriental divan: Selected masterpieces of Egyptian, Assyro-Babylonian, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, and Indian literatures), Warsaw and Krakow, 1921.

Idem, “Feridun synów swoich wystawia na próbę (Motyw z ksiąg perskich “Szach-Nameh” Firdusiego). Opracowanie swobodne …” (Feridun puts his sons to the test. A motif from the Persian book Šāh-Nāma by Ferdowsi. Free interpretation), Kurjer Warszawski 109, 13 January 1929, pp. 9-10.

F. Machalski, tr., “Firdusi-Abu’l Kasim (ur. ok. 920, zm. ok. 1024 r.), Z ‘Szach-Name’ czyli Księgi Królów: Pochwała rozumu; Zakończenie księgi” (Abu’l-Qāsem Ferdowsi [ca. 920-ca. 1024]. From the Šāh-nāma, or the Book of Kings: In praise of wisdom; The end of the book), Studia irańskie/Études iraniennes 2, 1944, pp. 140-41.

Idem, “Spotkanie Zala z Rudabe. Wyjątek z ‘Szach-name’” (Zal meets Rudabe. An excerpt from the Šāh-nāma), Studia irańskie/Etudes iraniennes 3, 1945, pp. 200-5.

Idem, tr., Firdausi. Opowieść o miłości Zala i Rudabe wyjęta z „Szach-name” (The story of love of Zal and Rudabe, taken from the Šāh-nāma), Wroclaw and Krakow, 1961.

Idem, Firdousi i jego “Szah-name” (Ferdowsi and his Šāh-nāma), Krakow, 1970.

Idem, “Abolqasem Ferdausi et son Šāhnāme en Pologne,” Folia Orientalia 18, 1977, pp. 211-17.

T. Majda, Katalog rękopisów tureckich i perskich/Catalogue des manuscrits turcs et persans, Warsaw, 1967.

R. Majkowska, ed., “Tadeusz Kowalski, 1889-1948,” Polska Akademia Umiejętności w służbie nauki 4, Krakow, 1999.

A. Mickiewicz, “Wykłady lozańskie” (Lausanne lectures), in Idem, Dzieła, vol. VII, ed. J. Krzyżanowski, Warsaw, 1955.

J. Mohl, tr., Le livre des rois, par Abou’lkasim Firdousi, 7 vols., Paris 1838-78.

M. Molé, “Rustam a Krsāspa” (Rustam and Krsāspa), Sprawozdania Polskiej Akademii Umiejętności 49/6, 1948, pp. 269-72.

W. Münnich, “De Poesi Persica. Scripsit Dr. Guil. Münnich, Prof. Publ. Ord. in Universitate Jagellonica,” Rocznik Towarzystwa Naukowego z Uniwersytetem Krakowskim połączonego 10, 1825, pp. 35-84.

M. Piecuch, “Epicka struktura Dāstān-e Sohrāb,’ jednej z ksiąg irańskiego eposu ‘Šāh-nāme’ Ferdousiego” (Epic structure of Dāstān-e Sohrab, one of the books of the Iranian epic, the Šāh-nāma of Ferdowsi), in Problemy teoretyczne związków literatur i sztuk Orientu i Zachodu, ed. T. Cieślikowska, Krakow, 1992, pp. 95-100.

J. Reychman, “Zainteresowania orientalistyczne w środowisku mickiewiczowskim w Wilnie i Petersburgu” (Oriental interests in Mickiewicz’s circle in Vilnius and Petersburg), in Szkice z dziejów polskiej orientalistyki, ed. S. Strelcyn, vol. I, Warsaw, 1957, pp. 69-94.

F. Rückert, tr., Rostem und Suhrab: eine Heldengeschichte in zwölf Büchern, Erlangen, 1838.

A. F. G. Schack, Heldensagen von Firdusi, Berlin 1851.

L. Siemieński, tr., Biszen i Menisze. Ustęp z Firdussiego poematu: Szach-namech (Bižan and Maniže. An excerpt from Ferdowsi’s poem Šāh-nāma), Warsaw, 1855.

B. Składanek, “Istota sporu Ferdousiego z dworem w Gaznie” (The matter of the dispute between Ferdowsi and the Ghaznavid court), Studia Indo-Iranica 52, Krakow, 1983, pp. 135-43.

M. Składankowa, “Irańska wersja legendy o umęczonym bogu” (An Iranian version of the legend of a martyred God), Przegląd Humanistyczny 78, 1970, pp. 61-75.

Idem, Mity Królewskiej Księgi. Symbole i wzorce mityczne w “Szahname” Firdousiego (Myths of the Royal Book. Symbols and mythical patterns in Ferdowsi’s Šāh-nāma), Warsaw, 1981.

Idem, “Three Heads of the Dragon (A Study of the Triad in the Iranian Mythology),” Hemispheres 3, 1987, pp. 25-52.

K. Soja-Blumhoff, “Władysław Dulęba 1923-1927; Bibliography of the works by Władysław Dulęba,” Iranica Cracoviensia. Cracow Iranian Studies in Memory of Władyslaw Dulęba, ed. A. Krasnowolska, Krakow, 1996, pp. 5-12.

J. A. Święcicki, Historya literatury powszechnej (A general history of literature), vol. V: Historiya literatury perskiej (History of Persian literature), Warsaw, 1902.

J. Szujski, “Rys dziejów piśmiennictwa świata niechrześcijańskiego” (An outline of the history of non-Christian literatures), in Odczyt piąty. Aryjczycy—Lud Zendów—Zendawesta. Firdusi. Saadi. Hafis, Krakow, 1867, pp. 79-113.

J. A. Vullers, Firdusii Liber regum qui inscribitur Schahname. Editionem Parisiensem diligenter recognitam et amendatam lectionibus variis et additamentis editionis Calcuttiensis auxit, Leiden, 1877-84.

A. Zajączkowski, “Historia Isfandiara podług tureckiej wersji Šāh-nāme z Egiptu mameluckiego” (The story of Esfandiar according to a Turkish version of the Šāh-nāma from the Mamluk Egypt), Rocznyk Orientalistyczny 28/1, 1964, pp. 49-90.

Idem, “Treny filozofów na śmierć Iskendera podług mamelucko-tureckiej wersji Šāh-nāme” (Laments of philosophers on the death of Alexander according to a Mamluk-Turkish version of the Šāh-nāma), Rocznyk Orientalistyczny 18/2, 1965a, pp. 13-57.

Idem, Turecka wersja Šāh-nāme z Egiptu (A Turkish version of the Šāh-nāma from Egypt), Warsaw, 1965b.

February 20, 2009

(Anna Krasnowolska)

Originally Published: March 15, 2009

Last Updated: March 15, 2009