Since literature is a common art form, many literary works have many parallels in terms of plots, vocabulary, and character traits of the characters. These parallels, though, are not apparent and can be traced largely to people’s daily physical, cultural, fiscal, and technological practices around the world. This article compares two tragic fictional works written by different authors in different parts of the world. Both Hakim Abol Qasem Ferdowsi Tousi’s poetry Shahnameh – The Story of Sohrab and Oedipus Tyrannus is tragedies between a son and his aunt. Even though the victim in The Tale of Sohrab the father kills the son unknowingly and in Oedipus Tyrannus it is the son who kills the father without the knowledge that that was the parent. Despite all these similarities in other literary aspects such as plot development and language style like irony, this article focuses on the similarities in the themes in these two works.
The issue that is covered by both tragedies is fate and free will. In The Tale of Sohrab, Rustum unknowingly had a son with Princess Tahmina before they separated for a long time (Ebrahimi and Taheri 96). Rustum became a king and went to battle where he faced off with his son in single combat. Not knowing he was his son he killed him only to learn later that he had killed his precious child by free will. If he could have looked at Sohrab’s wrist, he could have seen and recognized the bracelet to help him suspect that he was his son. However, the tragedy was destined to occur by fate so there was nothing Rustum could have done to evade it. On this of Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus kills his father Laius at crossroads and goes ahead to marry his mother Jocasta, the wife to Laius. Oedipus does this tragic act without the knowledge that Laius and Jocasta were his parents. Initially, Laius and his wife had a son, and it was prophesized that the child will come to kill him and marry his wife (Appelbaum 166). They could not wait to see such a horrible event and therefore decided to murder the son by throwing him away. However, it seems the son didn’t die but grew to be Oedipus. Despite all the effort by his parents to avoid the prophecy from coming to pass, it still happened meaning that it was the fate of Oedipus and nothing could have been done to prevent it.
Another theme that is depicted in these two tragic works is that of knowledge and wisdom. Despite Oedipus killing his father without the knowledge and marrying his wife, he does not bother to understand the background of the woman he married. Similarly, Jocasta does not take the initiative to learn the history of her new husband a clear indication of lack of wisdom which could have prevented the son from marrying his mother. After hearing that the kingdom is cursed, Oedipus sends Creon to the oracle to seek a solution. He brings the feedback from Apollo instructing that the killer of King Laius should be killed for the curse to be lifted (Appelbaum 166). Oedipus suspiciously knows that he is the victim and seeks more knowledge on this matter and after consulting the prophet and knowing that he was the killer of the Laius, his wife who is also the mother hangs herself (Appelbaum 168). This outcome is a consequence of knowledge; if Jocasta did not learn the truth, she could not have committed suicide. On the other hand, King Rustum suffers from a lack of wisdom too since he has been suspicious that he might have had a son by Princess Tahmina but he does not make an effort to learn the truth (Ebrahimi and Taheri 96). When he faces his son in the battle, he fights without the caution only to know that he had killed his son. The knowledge of killing his makes him heartbroken.
Finally, there is the theme of ignorance is significantly covered in both tragedies. Rustum had a relationship with Princess Tahmina in the past before she disappeared and later had a son. Typically, it is expected that the King could have sent a message to various parts of the world to find out the whereabouts of his former girlfriend. This way, he could have learned about the existence of Sohrab, his son. Therefore he could have avoided fighting and eventually killing him, however, due to Rustum’s ignorance, he ended up killing his precious son (Ebrahimi and Taheri 96). Similarly, Laius and his wife Jocasta had assumed that their son Oedipus was dead and did not make an effort to learn of his death and burial (Appelbaum 184). Their ignorance, therefore, led to the son growing up to fulfill the earlier prophecy of killing his father and marrying his mother.
In conclusion, from the above example, it is evident that the two works of Shahnameh – The Tale of Sohrab and Oedipus Tyrannus share a lot in common including the themes. Most conspicuously are the themes of knowledge and wisdom, ignorance and fate. It is clear that no one can change their destiny irrespective of how much they try to avoid it.
Appelbaum, Jerome. “Father And Son: Freud Revisits His Oedipus Complex In Moses Andmonotheism.” The American Journal of Psychoanalysis 72.2 (2012): 166-184. Web.
Ebrahimi, Mokhtar, and Abdollah Taheri. “The Tragedy In The Story Of Rostam And Sohrab In Ferdowsi’S Shahnameh.” Journal of History Culture and Art Research 6.1 (2017): 96. Web.