Offbeat Folklore Wiki

The simurgh is a divine bird from Persian myth.


Early depictions of the simurgh describe it as a peacock with a lion's body or paws and a dog's head. However, later it took on a more birdlike guise. It has sharp teeth and beautiful plumage, most evident on its long tail feathers and massive wings. Because its name resembles the Persian word for "thirty", it is often said to be as large as thirty birds or to have thirty colours in its feathers. However, some accounts describe it as having copper feathers and a silver head instead. Rarely, it bears a human face and four wings.


This bird is a symbol of divinity in its native culture, even described as a physical manifestation of it at times. A symbol of the union between the earth and sky, it acts as a messenger. It has raised many great heroes in its nest, and it will appear on the head or shoulder of would-be kings and clerics. It is most often depicted as a feminine and motherly entity. While it is benevolent and protective by nature, it has still devoured humans, both due to a belief that they are evil and due to pure hunger.

Its feathers are known to heal deep wounds with no more than a touch, as well as purify the land and water, bringing fertility as it did so. It is associated with medicine and rebirth. Like the phoenix, it is sometimes described to set itself alight and return as a chick when it lives for 1,700 years (or occasionally 2,000). However, other accounts state that it is so old that it has seen the destruction of the world three times over, and thus it has the knowledge of the ages which it has shared with heroes before.

It is said that the simurgh lives in the all-healing tree of knowledge, Gaokerena, from which the seeds of all plants came. When the simurgh took flight, the beating of its wings caused the seeds to scatter all over the world. It darkens the sky where it flies, as though it were a giant cloud. One account claims it can rain corals upon the earth.

Other legends claim it lives elsewhere, from the sacred mountain Alburz to anywhere as long as there was plenty of water. It can speak as a human can. In its early forms, it suckled its young as a mammal and had a hatred for serpents.

Related stories[]

King Zal[]

According to the Shahnameh, Zal, the son of Saam, was born albino. When Saam saw his albino son, he assumed that the child was the spawn of devils, and abandoned the infant on the mountain Alborz.

The child's cries were heard by the tender-hearted Simurgh, who lived atop this peak, and she retrieved the child and raised him as her own. Zal was taught much wisdom from the loving Simurgh, who has all knowledge, but the time came when he grew into a man and yearned to rejoin the world of men. Though the Simurgh was terribly saddened, she gave him three golden feathers which he was to burn if he ever needed her assistance.

Upon returning to his kingdom, Zal fell in love and married the beautiful Rudaba. When it came time for their son to be born, the labor was prolonged and terrible; Zal was certain that his wife would die in labour. Rudabah was near death when Zal decided to summon the Simurgh. The Simurgh appeared and instructed him upon how to perform a cesarean section thus saving Rudabah and the child, who became one of the greatest Persian heroes, Rostam.

Malik Mammad[]

In an ancient tale about Malik Mammad, the son of one of the wealthiest kings ofAzerbaijan, that king had a big garden. In the center of this garden was a magical apple tree that yielded apples every day. An ugly giant named Div stole all the apples every night. The king sent Malik Mammad and his elder brothers to fight the giant. In the course of this tale, Malik Mammad saves Simurgh's babies from a dragon. In return, Simurgh resolved to help Malik Mammad. When Malik Mammad wanted to pass from The Dark world into the Light world, Simurgh asked him to provide 40 half carcasses of meat and 40 wineskins filled with water. When Simurgh put the water on its left wing and the meat on its right wing, Malik Mammad was able to enter the Light world.

Conference of the Birds[]

In the 12th century Conference of the Birds, Iranian Sufi poet Farid ud-Din Attar wrote of a band of pilgrim birds in search of the Simurgh. In the poem, the birds of the world gather to decide who is to be their king, as they have none. The hoopoe, the wisest of them all, suggests that they should find the Simurgh. The hoopoe leads the birds, each of whom represent a human fault which prevents man from attaining enlightenment. When the group of thirty birds finally reach the dwelling place of the Simurgh, all they find is a lake in which they see their own reflection.

All myths shamelessly copied and pasted from Wikipedia.