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The Iranian Society on the Eve of Mongol Invasion in “Ayyar-i Tanha”

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The historical resources of the Mongol era introduce us with social changes developed by political agents and structures; however, learning about the social changes in non-political classes of society is possible through literary resources. Applying his strong insight and imagination, Bahram Bayzaie illustrates some scenes of the Iranian society on the eve of the Mongol invasion.

Looking at history through dramas and movies helps us to see different dimensions of the Iranian medieval time. The scenario “Ayyar-i Tanha” (lonely champion) by Bahram Bayzaie displays effectively the Mongol invasion as the main part of Iranian medieval history. Focusing on the cultural and political conditions of Iran on the eve of the Mongol invasion, the author leads the attention of the audience to the internal causes of the Iranian failures.

Escaping from enemies, Ayyar is saved by an old man who has good memories of Ayyaran (champions) and has written many books about them (pp. 9-10). Comforting the Ayyar, the old man mentions that he wants to name his new book “Ayyar”: “Don’t worry…This inauspicious dog {Chengiz} will never penetrate even the first fence. God has guaranteed Muslims from kafer {infidels}’s slaughters…Where is Temuchin now?” (pp. 11-12). The old man can never believe that the Mongols are conquering Iran.

Unlike all the old man hospitality, the Ayyar does sexual assault against the old man’s daughter going to get married. The old man cannot believe Ayyar’s behavior, “You are Ayyar, aren’t you?” (p. 12). Then he sets fire to all his writings since they are not based on the realities of Ayyars (p. 22).

The old man’s daughter who cannot return to her previous life accompanies the Ayyar to inform people that the Mongols have invaded Iran (p. 20). The more the scenario goes on the more the positive aspects of the Ayyar character appear. He not only falls in love with the girl and saves her life several times, but also he does his best to save the lives of other people who do not know about the Mongol invasions. At the end of the scenario, the Ayyar resists alone the troops of Mongols (p. 102).

Introducing different characters, Bayzaie criticizes the political agents and scholars who do not attempt to save their territories. Sultan Muhammad Khwarazmshah is escaping from the Mongols in anonymous, “This secret must not be revealed, It’s commanded that No one must know where the Sultan’s going” (p. 42).

On the other hand, the scholars are disputing about trivial issues and even wish Mongols to slaughter all those scholars who think differently, “- What are you searching for in the book of wonders?

– The story of Mongol’s. It’s said that they have turned the libraries into stables.  They are sewing tongues and burning books and breaking pens; Oh! They are the troops of ignorance.

– Who can judge whether they have done any good or evil? I have seen books which were necessary to be burned.

– I’m a bureaucrat and so I don’t deal with breaking and burning. 

-  Your words seem to be Heterodoxy. Don’t speak like philosophers and sophists. I wish Mongols to come and vanish away all these skeptic people” (p. 71).

Ordinary people are also criticized for relying on spells and praying to survive (pp. 41-42). “Ayyar-i Tanha” is narrating not the Mongol invasion, but the conditions of the Iranian society that led to the Iranian failures.

Maryam Kamali

Bayzaie, Bahram (2010). Ayyar-e Tanha, Tehran: Roshangaran.

Read 6946 times Last modified on Sunday, 30 January 2022 04:03 Saturday, 08 November 2014