Vis o Rāmin; a possible major contributor to the story of Tristan and Isolde???

VIS O RĀMIN, is an 11th-century Persian verse romance by Gorgāni,  This amazing verse romance is a witness to Iranian Pre-Islamic mores and literary production, and has ensured Gorgāni’s position, along with Ferdowsi, as one of the two most significant Persian poets of the 11th century. Gorgāni is explicit that he is very familiar with Pre-islamic Middle Iranian/Pahlavi language. Gorgāni states, in some detail, that this love story existed only in “Pahlavi,” and he has put it into proper meter and rhyme for Persian speakers. The concluding section of the verse indicates, that the poem was presented to his patron as a “gift for Mehragān,” the great Zoroastrian autumanl festival, which was celebrated lavishly few centuries even after the islamic conquest, Gorgāni adds: “For this festival, no one has brought a greater tribute; …….., I have told a tale beautiful as a blooming garden, containing wise proverbs like fruits, and love-songs like spring basil.”

In contrast to virtually all subsequent Persian romances, flesh and sex are celebrated in and for itself. The verse romance is frank, without being obscene, and takes a very open and healthy approach toward sexuality. .Among the poem’s reflection of pre-Islamic mores is Gorgāni’s account of the marriages within kinfolk, e.g. the marriage between Viruu and Vis; the trial by fire, as well as references to Zoroastrian festivals, fire temples, and beliefs. Vis o Rāmin also contains a substantial number of words that have retained their ancient forms, and is one of the richest extant sources for middle iranian/pahlavi vocabulary. The poem had an immense influence on an other great iranian poet, Neẓāmi; who takes the basis for his rhetoric from Vis o Rāmin. This is especially noticeable in his “khosrow o Shirin,” which imitates a major scene, that of the lovers arguing in the snow from Vis o Rāmin. Nezami’s concern with astrology also has a precedent in an elaborate astrological description of the night sky in Vis o Rāmin.

No discussion of Vis o Rāmin can avoid the question of whether it has any connection with the European story of “Tristan and Isolde.” The first extant version of Tristan and Isolde, by Béroul, appeared about one hundred years after Vis o Rāmin.The parallels are too numerous to deny a close connection. The story of Vis o Rāmin did probably exert some considerable influence on the Tristan and Isole legend, Yet, considering it the Tristan and Isolde’s sole “origin/source of influence” is unlikely.In the argument against the existence of a connection between the two tales, much has been made of the absence of evidence of a textual transmission. Yet, this argument overlooks the fact that stories travel orally from culture to culture. A possible conduit could have been the Saljuq court of Syria, which showed a great interest in Persian literature/culture, and also had extensive contacts with the crusaders of Outremer.

The most obvious difference between the two tales is the ways in which they end. Both literary works are essentially Pagan, pre-christian, pre-islamic. Yet, the sad deaths of Tristan and Isolde imply that the values by which they lived have no ultimate validity in the Christian Europe any more, which could not allow the lovers to be rewarded by success or happiness.

On the other hand, Vis and Rāmin are vindicated, despite their highly (in Islamic terms) transgressive lives. Gorgāni asks his readers not to blame the lovers (nabāyad sarzaneš kardan be-dišān, p.30, l. 12); and their love is enthusiastically and compassionately celebrated, despite its obvious contempt for islamic norms., This suggests a nostalgia for the pre-islamic past, which is also visible in many other Persian 11th century texts. it should be added that up to the 10th or even 11th century CE, Zoroastrians were still the great majority in iran. Furthermore, the beautiful verse romance  reaffirms the positive and healthy attiude of Zoroastrianism toward love and sexuality, The Zoroastrian love story ends in happiness and success, this is very much reflective of the Zoroastrian mores. The lovers love, was true and passionate both in flesh and spirit, hence like all things true and genuine it does triumph at the end.

“true love can illumine with a prophet sight,……arouse in our flesh the god,…….communicate the unspoken heart,………even in this dreary world, ……bright love can be the king.”                                 for “s”




P. Gallais, Genèse du roman occidental: essai sur Tristan et Iseut et son modèle persan, Paris, 1974.

Vladimir Minorsky, “Vis u Ramin: A Parthian Romance,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, vol. XI, 1943-46, pp. 741-63; Vol. XII, 1947-1948, pp. 20-35; Vol. XVI, 1954, pp. 91-92; “New Developments.” Vol. XXV, 1962, pp. 275-86.

For a detailed analysis of Vis o Rāmin, and traces of Mazdayasnian beliefs, see: Ṣādeq Hedāyat, “Čand nokta darbāra-ye Vis o Rāmin,” in Nevešta-ha-ye parākanda-ye Ṣādeq Ḥedāyat, Tehran, repr., 1965, pp. 486-523.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s