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Bahram Gur hunts in the company of Azada

Bahram Gur hunts in the company of Azada

Leaf from a disbound manuscript of Firdausi, Shahnama (Book of kings), copied c 1430 for Ibrahim Sultan of Shiraz

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS Ouseley Add 176, fol 337v

The hero Bahram Gur, known for his love of hunting and feasting, is based on a real historical figure, Bahram V, a Sasanian king (r 420–38 AD). In this frequently illustrated episode, the royal hunter takes his beloved slave girl Azada with him on the chase.

Despite her skill in playing her harp while riding on his camel, she displeases her royal master. Her crime is her reproach for his cruelty in rising to her challenge of pinning a wild ass’s hoof and ear together with one arrow. Bahram Gur exercises his royal prerogative by throwing Azada to the ground and having his camel trample her.

This story was retold over time with different poets adding variations.