Little factual information is available concerning Firdusi’s life. The character of the poet is overgrown by a thicket of tales that sprang up around him shortly after his death. He was born Ab ol-Qsen Manṣr in or around the city of Ṭs, Khorsn Province, in northeastern Iran. His date of birth is given as any year between 932 and 941. His father was a country gentleman of the dihqn class, the rural landowners. Firdusi’s youth was spent in circumstances of financial ease. When still young, he versified individual heroic tales, but it was not until the age of thirty-five or forty that he systematically attempted the versification of one of the existing prose shahnamahs of his time, spending between twenty and thirty-five years of his life on this project. During this time, he completed at least two redactions of his work, one in 994-995 and the other in 1009-1010.
Apparently Firdusi was hoping to offer his great epic to a king whom he considered worthy of it. Thus, when he finished the first redaction, he kept it for nearly twenty years before finally offering it to King Mahmd of Ghazna in the hope of receiving some reward. During this time, the poet had grown old and destitute. It would be incorrect to assume that Firdusi began his project with the intention of offering the finished product to King Mahmd or even for the sake of financial gain: From references to the project scattered throughout the epic, it is clear that he began the work at least twenty years before Mahmd ascended the throne. That the poet was relatively young and financially secure when he began his versification of individual stories is evident from the introduction to the story of Bzhan and Manzha, in which he paints a picture of himself as a young and affluent country gentleman. In the middle of his great project, however, his life had already changed for the worse. He was old, tired, and poor. When he submitted his poem, completed around 1010, the court disregarded his great effort.
It is known from references within his poem that Firdusi lost a son, who was about thirty-seven years old at the time of his death and probably not very loving toward his father. The classical...
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