Rostam and Sohrab is story from the great epic Shahnameh by Ferdowsi, one of the greatest Persian writers from antiquity. The themes of heroism, honour and love versus the will of destiny collide into an unforgettable tragedy where the souls of father and son split asunder amidst the swirling storms of war and intrigue. The ability of Ferdowsi to reduce the grandest gestures into the dust of pettiness, or elevate the most simple poignant moments into scenes that sear conscious thought is only a part of his genius. The main plot is simple but its very familiarity plays with the emotions and intellect of the audience just as fate plays with the main characters in order to force them to confront each and every part of their identity, the part they play in the microcosmic and macrocosmic scheme of things, and indeed, discover the absolute within themselves only after it has been utterly destroyed.
Rostam, the great general of Persian ruler, King Kaykavoos, is the perfect hero caught in circumstances beyond his control when he innocently goes on a hunting trip near the city of Samangan in the country of Turan. His mighty horse, Raksh, wanders away while he took a rest and fell asleep in the woods. He woke up frantically searching for him, not knowing the King of Samangan had found and captured his beloved horse and kept it for himself in his palace stables. Suspecting that it was impossible for his famous horse to have disappeared without someone noticing it, he goes into the castle and demands the King of Samangan to help him find Raksh. The King promises to use all his resources to recover the horse and distracts Rostam by inviting him to a feast in his honour that night. He meets Tahmineh, the king’s daughter, and they fall in love with each other. The King approves of the union and returns the horse to Rostam. Soon after, the couple wed but Rostam is called away again to serve King Kaykavoos again. Before he leaves, he leaves a bead for Tahmineh to give to their as yet unborn child and instructs her to place it on the armband if it is a son, or hair if it is a girl, so he can recognize them in the future.
Tahmineh gives birth to a son, Sohrab, and he is trained to be a military commander in Turan. He has inherited his father’s incredible skills and matures at a far more rapid rate than most. Tahmineh has told him to hide his father’s real identity from others to prevent his being used and destroyed as a political pawn between the two countries. However, Turanian king, Afrasiab, learns of Sohrab’s true identity and plans the destruction of both father and son in order to invade Iran. The opportunity arrives when Turan and Iran declare war against each other. He tries to pit father against son in the hopes of destroying Rostam. Since Sohrab has become the champion warrior of Turan, his killing his father would open the way for Afrasiab to finish Iran off since it would be leaderless. If Rostam, the champion of Iran, were to be victorious, then he would still be destroyed when Sohrab’s true identity were revealed to him. Therefore, Afrasiab pretends to support Sohrab’s hope to conquer Iran. He feeds Sohrab’s thirst for glory and dreams of making Rostam and Tahmineh the new king and queen. Afrasiab even sends two henchmen, Hooman and Barman, to thwart any chance father and son reconcile before the decisive battle.
In the battlefield, it is decided that the victorious army would be determined by one to one combat of a warrior chosen from each side. Rostam and Sohrab face each other, still not knowing their relationship. Afrasiab looks upon the scene like a hungry vulture. Though Sohrab suspects that Rostam is his father, Rostam is oblivious to the fact that that Sohrab is his son, albeit someone with fighting skills who reminds him of himself when he was younger. However, because of Rostam’s battle experience, he is able to ultimately overtake Sohrab.