THE COURAGEOUS SPIRIT
When faced with overwhelming adversity, people throughout history have summoned their inner strength and relied on the support of friends and family. In the literary traditions of the Islamic world, triumph over adversity is a recurring theme in works of epic poetry, such as the Shahnameh, the Persian “Book of Kings.” Completed around the year 1010 by the poet Abu’l Qasim Firdawsi, the Shahnameh covers Iran’s legendary pre-Islamic history, spanning the reigns of fifty kings. It includes hundreds of stories about heroes (and heroines) who use their prowess and wits to defeat not only human adversaries, but the very forces of evil. Whether dramatic or subdued, their feats all required steely resolve. Later authors also composed epic tales of daring heroism, catering to evolving tastes for novelty and fantastic escapades. Together, the illustrated epics in this section continue to speak to our extraordinary abilities to overcome obstacles, while finding joy in adventure.