Background Informaiton

Origin: Persian Mythology, Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings
Dragons Slain: An unnamed dragon in India

Background: Bahram, the King of Persia, sought to quell a future war with Shangal, the King of India. To better assess the situation, Bahram disguised himself as a knight and took an envoy to see Shangal himself and witness his court's customs and virtues. [1]

After the disguised Bahram arrived in India, he displayed his prowess as a warrior and leader of an army to Shangal, who, despite being impressed, hesitated. The envoy from Person could be a powerful ally and help him lead his own army; however, the knight had so proven his abilities that, if the envoy ever returned home, it would mean ruin to Shangal's forces. [2]

Not knowing the knight's true identity, Shangal decided that the only solution was to kill the Persian knight without taking blame for the death. [2]

Bahram, the Dragon Slayer

At that time in India, there was a dragon that lived both in the water and on the dry land, residing near a grand lake. Its fearsome size had been seen as the dragon swam through the lake and as the dragon basked in the sun on the land. [2] Everyone feared it enormous size and strength. "Its long tail could encompass an elephant, and it made great waves in the lake's waters." [2] The dragon killed like a gapping crocodile, all the more displaying its prowess. [3]

Shangal reasoned, among his closest advisors, that it would be impossible for anyone, even the Persian knight, to fight this dragon and survive. [2]

Shangal summoned the knight and compelled him to rid India of this evil dragon. With this task completed, the knight would be free to leave India with Shangal's blessings, and he pledged to send tribute to Persia as well as gifts for the knight himself, making him quite wealthy. [3]

Without hesitation, Bahram promised to slay the beast. He asked for nothing but a guide to show him where the dragon lived. [3]

Bahram's knights, all of whom knew he was the true king in disguise, went with him and the guide to see the dragon. When the first of the Lords caught sight of the beast, he feared that Bahram had set his sights too high. Bahram defeated the rhinoceros, but this dragon was twice the size and far more dangerous. When Bahram heard his concerns, he dismissed them, replying "We must leave the outcome to God." [3]

Bahram took his bow and dipped his arrowheads in milk and poison. He then took his horse and approach the dragon; but, while he was still far off, he showered the dragon with arrows, till the dragon's mouth lay pinned shut by steel. [3] The blood that poured out of the dragon spoiled everything it touched, killing nearby vegetation. It even harmed the dragon itself, as the poison built up in its wounds caused it to trash. [3]

As the creature struggled to fight back, Bahram drew his sword and struck at its head. When the dragon was too weak to even thrash, Braham cut its heart open and cut off its head. [3]

The dragon's head was dragged by cart back to Shangal, and all of India celebrated Persia for producing a knight that could slay such a beast, a knight whose only equal was Persia's king himself. [3]

Quick Facts

  • Bahram was the King of Persia. He disguised himself as the knight of an envoy to meet Shangal, the King of India. [1]
  • The dragon in India was like an enormous crocodile, living both on dry land and in the water. [2]
  • Shangal believed no one could slay the dragon, so he sent Bahram, who he believed to be a Persian knight, to try to kill it. [2]
  • Even the knights in Bahram's own envoy thought the dragon was too fierce to be slain. [3]
  • Bahram slew the dragon by pinning its mouth shut with poison arrows. Then he struck its head with his sword until it was too injured to move. Finally, Bahram cut its heart open and cut off its head. [3]


  1. Firdowsi [Shahnameh Trans. Davis] 657
  2. Firdowsi [Shahnameh Trans. Davis] 664
  3. Firdowsi [Shahnameh Trans. Davis] 665

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.