In The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, the story of “Rostam and Sohrab” is important because of the significance the characters in book attach to it and because on some level, it parallels the tragic father-son theme in the book. “Rostam and Sohrab” is a poignant ancient Persian tragedy about a father who unknowingly kills his own son in battle. Specifically, Rostam, the father, had a child with a lover many years earlier, but he never knew the identity or even the gender of the child. During a battle, Rostam fights a man and kills him. As the man, Sohrab, is dying, the two men realize that they are father and son. Thus, “Rostam and Sohrab” is about complex paternal-filial relationships. The Kite Runner is also about complicated relationships between fathers and sons, as well as between brothers.
Amir never forgives himself for abandoning Hassan in that dark alley when he was twelve years old. Shortly after, Amir plants cash and his watch under Hassan's mattress, and Hassan is accused of stealing. Amir is lying, and he fears that Baba will never forgive him for this. To Amir's surprise, Hassan protects Amir by not revealing the lie. At the same time, Ali protects Hassan and will not forgive Amir. Amir writes,
Baba would never, ever forgive me. And that led to another understanding: Hassan knew He knew I'd seen everything in that alley, that I'd stood there and done nothing. He knew I had betrayed him and yet he was rescuing me once again, maybe for the last time. I loved him in that moment, loved him more than I'd ever loved anyone, and I wanted to tell them all that I was the snake in the grass…I wasn't worthy of this sacrifice; I was a liar, a cheat, and a thief.
We learn that “Rostam and Sohrab” is Hassan's favorite story. The reader wonders whether Hassan loves the story because of the tragic theme of father killing son. This is, in fact, what his own biological father has done to him metaphorically. By the end of the novel, the narrator (Amir) realizes that his own father also fathered Hassan, so the two boys are really brothers.
However, Baba never acknowledged Hassan as his son, thereby “killing” him in a metaphorical way. When Amir realizes this, he writes,
I was learning that Baba had been a thief. And a thief of the worst kind, because the things he'd stolen had been sacred: from me the right to know I had a brother, from Hassan his identity, and from Ali his honor.
Years later, Hassan names his own son Sohrab after the murdered son in the “Rostam and Sohrab.” Does Hassan give him this name because on some level, he forgives his biological father—and brother—for abandoning him? Throughout his life, Amir seeks redemption. After Hassan dies, Amir finally achieves it when he becomes the father to Hassan’s son Sohrab.