Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A is for Antarah (Epics from A to Z)

Welcome to Epics from A to Z! We are off to a very adventurous start.
(How is this story not a blockbuster movie yet?)

Origins
The Romance of Antar is an Arab epic poem composed sometime in the 8th century. It consists of forty-five volumes (!!!) and several hundred pages in its original form; as to date, no full English translation has been published. The story takes place in the 6th century and centers around Arab tribes and kingdoms in the land of Hejaz (western Saudi Arabia) with occasional adventures into Persia and Yemen, and even mentions of Byzantium and Europe. Hamilton's four-volume English translation of the first of the three parts of the epic is dubbed "a Bedouin romance." While the epic makes frequent mentions to Mecca and Islam, the story actually takes place before the time of the Prophet.
Some people speculate that this story, traveling through cultural exchange in the time of the Crusades, could have been one of the cultural sources of medieval European romances of chivalry. It definitely has a lot in common with them.

The Hero
The main hero of the tale is a historical person: Antarah ib Shaddad al-Absi was a 6th century poet and warrior (some of his poems are counted among the greatest feats of Arab poetry). That is a pretty cool combination. He was a "raven" - the son of an Arab prince and a black slave woman, thus born a slave himself. In the epic he is a chivalrous and brave person who first distinguishes himself by saving an old beggar woman from abuse, even though he knows he will be punished for it. He is equipped with a great war horse and a sword forged from thunder (literally). I like him, because whenever he is not cleaving his enemies in half he composes poems about the beauty of the world (and his love).
Antarah has two goals in life: Be accepted by his father as a free member of his tribe, and marry his beautiful princess cousin, the fair-skinned Abla. Both of them are eventually accomplished through a lot of fighting and a lot of perilous adventures. Abla gets kidnapped a couple of dozen times by various enemy tribes and jilted suitors, and has to be rescued. Antarah also participates in various battles and conflicts all over the map; he even fights a Christian knight in the Persian court. He is a protector of the weak, a defender of women, a fearless warrior, and a lovesick poet.
You will be happy to know that eventually Antarah saves his entire tribe and is accepted as a noble warrior; and after a few dozen crashed wedding attempts he finally manages to marry Abla and have children. He lives in greatness until the very end; his heroic death is mourned even by his enemies.

The Highlights
Even though I could only read an abridged version of the story, the highlights that jumped out at me were some of the supporting characters, namely:
Shiboob, Antarah's half-brother (one of the sons that were kidnapped and enslaved with their mother to Antarah's father). He is called "Son of the Wind" for his running speed, and is also a pretty good archer. He acts as Antarah's messenger, sidekick, best friend, and common sense. He is good at tracking down kidnapped people (a much needed skill in this epic). He comes up with clever ploys to trick enemies, and puts on masterful disguises to infiltrate the camps of other tribes. Once he even dresses up as a woman and puts on a dance-and-song performance.
Jaida, a female warrior, one of Antarah's enemies. She defeats several men in combat and duels, and falls in love with her cousin, who at first is very disturbed by the fact that his very talented warrior friend turns out to be a woman.
Jezar, the man that brings down Antarah in the end. He is a skilled archer, and when Antarah defeats him in battle he blinds him by drawing a red-hot blade across his eyes. Jezar lives and plots revenge for ten years - he learns to shoot with deadly accuracy following the sounds he hears (eat your heart out, R.A. Salvatore).

Fun Fact
Some people have suggested that Antares, the brightest star of the Scorpio constellation, was named after Antarah.

51 comments:

  1. Awesome...btw, that's a lot of verses!

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  2. Any way you slice it, that's a good story!
    Life & Faith in Caneyhead
    I am Ensign B ~ One of Tremp's Troops with the
    A to Z Challenge

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  3. Never heard about this epic, but it sure sounds awesome.

    I was quite surprise to learn about women worriors in an Arabic epic, but I suppose it was much the same in European epic. Doesn't mean they excisted (though there might have been instances, what you think?), but the fact the idea is there is interesting in itself, I think.

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  4. Splendid post. You must have done a lot of research to get this one in place. :)

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  5. Splendid post. You must have done a lot of research to get this one in place. :)

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  6. Abla must get very fed up of all the kidnapping :)

    This story wouldn't be just one blockbuster, can you imagine what Hollywood would do with it given that they could turn The Hobbit into 3 movies - we'd be there for decades as they divvied up the plot into the smallest parts possible ;P

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  7. Sounds like an awesomely epic story with everything a story needs :). I do like your description of Shiboob - every great hero needs some common sense (and I'm so sorry, but my brain immediately transposed his name to Sideboob ;)).
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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  8. Epic and awesome...

    Welcome in the "A"... thank you!
    Jeremy [Retro]
    AtoZ Challenge Co-Host [2015]

    There's no earthly way of knowing.
    Which direction we are going!

    HOLLYWOOD NUTS!
    Come Visit: You know you want to know if me or Hollywood... is Nuts?

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  9. oooo. This looks like it is going to be a fun place to come too everyday!

    --
    Tim Brannan, The Other Side Blog
    2015 A to Z of Vampires
    http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/

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  10. Nice flavor of an epic in short. Tough to pull off and done well.

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  11. Wow that's a lot of writing! Thanks for the awesome start on A-to-Z. I'm looking forward the rest of your posts! Sounds like a great story.

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  12. A warrior-poet with a thunder sword. It does indeed sound like a movie-in-waiting.

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  13. An epic that is new to me, and older than my favourite Chanson du Roland. Another for my list - keep them coming.

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  14. As soon as I saw his name I wondered about Antares. How cool :) What an 'epic' theme you have ;)
    ~AJ Lauer
    an A-Z Cohost
    @ayjaylauer on Twitter

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  15. Great way to start this challenge!

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  16. Those are very interesting characters!

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  17. Wow, that sounds like quite a story--truly epic in every sense of the word. A blind archer fills me with a certain sense of giddiness that I might have to seek out this epic (or parts of it, anyway...) to read.

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  18. That was a great read! Shiboob made me laugh, what a name :D

    Look forward to reading the rest of your posts this month!

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  19. How fascinating! I'm always amazed at how good stories always feel timeless and relatable.

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  20. I love this story! Someone should do a shortened version for children.

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  21. Antarah certainly sounds like my kind of hero, Csenge! Now I want to read more about him.

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  22. Long Poem and very interesting
    #Blogging from A-Z swinging by to meet and greet. I am 471 and 472 in the long list, with MOVIES and What's in a NAME Hope you swing by to 4covert2overt and Defining Ways. Hope to meet up everywhere @M_C_V_Egan
    .⋱ ⋮ ⋰.,;***;,.⋱ ⋮ ⋰
    ⋯¤♥¤⋯.(^_^)⋯¤♥¤⋯
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    ♫ ƤҼƌҪҼ ƌƝƊ ĻƠṼҼ ॐ βԼƐֆֆїɳɠֆ ƌƝƊ βԼїֆֆ ♫...

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  23. His death is mourned by his enemies? Now THAT'S a hero! :)

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  24. That's amazing. 8th Century Classic. Love it!

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  25. An epic start to the challenge - you've got me fully hooked.

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  26. Interesting start of the challenge, I'm looking forward to next post.
    Evalina, This and that...

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  27. My first thought: EPIC!

    You did say that these would be epic stories. You are right.

    So cool. My excite-o-meter is pinging at an 8 of 10.

    Cannot wait for the next post!

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  28. So now I am singing "Giants in the Sky"! from "Into the Woods" and beause Sondheim is Sondheim, I doubt the song is going anywhere anytime soon!

    Great and inspiring content here. Poets anywhere are fabulous in my mind and anything related to women? Top notch - hence my A to Z theme...

    Look forward to knowing you!

    Julie Jordan Scott
    Inspired by Literary Grannies - A is for Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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  29. What an epic. And women were allowed to fight during that time in that part of the world. Sounds like a heroic tale that many modern stories copied.

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  30. I must admit, I don't like epics quite as much as I like bizarre medieval Hungarian methods of homicide - I so wish I could find a blog on that subject! - but this runs a close second. Thanks!

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  31. The hero, Antarah, obviously made quite an impression. What an awesome warrior!

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  32. This is a wonderful post and I didn't know this story. I kneel before you, princess of Hungary... Great stuff!

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  33. amazing that poetry could be that long. Thanks for sharing
    Happy A to Zing

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  34. sounds like it would take a long time to read, but be worth it.

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  35. Great start of the challenge! Interesting and inspiring epic. It sure has movie potential.

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  36. Learned about something new today. Thanks for that!

    Is there a big giant tree in the story somewhere?

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  37. That's of Lord of the Rings epic proportions. 45 volumes would add up to a bunch of sequels.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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  38. Nifty reading. I love epics; for example, I teach The Song of Hiawatha to 5th graders. I've never heard of this material, so I've learned something new today. Thanks.

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  39. Whoa, forty five. Maybe they haven't translated it because it would take so long! But what a cool story. I'd like a sword made of thunder.

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  40. Your theme is awesome. " I like him, because whenever he is not cleaving his enemies in half he composes poems about the beauty of the world (and his love)." Yeah, that makes me like him too.

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  41. This sounds like an entertaining epic story, if a tad long! I love that he is a poet as well as a warrior.

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  42. I hadn't heard about this epic... and now I'm wondering if the Spanish picaresque tales could have descended in part from Antar, via the Moors?!

    The thunder sword, and Antares, would make this ideal for adaptation to a far-future sci-fi setting! :-)

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  43. Wow, 45 volumes! That is amazing, and I think you're right. This tale would make an awesome movie. Thanks for sharing it, Csenge. :)

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  44. Oh, how beautiful! Now I want to sit down for a day or two and hear more on this one.

    Until we tell again,

    Rachel Hedman
    http://storycrossroads.com/blog/

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  45. This looks really interesting. I'm currently reading Richard F. Burton's translation of One Thousand Nighs and One Night, so this looks like it could go hand in hand. I would be curious to know the history of why there were so many black slaves in this era. A fellow blogger who is reading another translation has made note of how many they are.... You wouldn't, by chance, know what their rights were, as slaves, would you? :P

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  46. i do love a good epic tale about warrior heroes and their journeys. i'll have to look into this a little more thoroughly and maybe incorporate it as an example for the hero lecture i give to my students. thanks! :)

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  47. That was seriously captivating! Loved it. enjoyed it especially because I too find Arab epics/poetry interesting, particularly those from pre-Islamic times. Such a rich tradition, yet we know so little of it.

    Best,
    Nilanjana.
    Madly-in-Verse

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  48. Sounds like an awesome epic! It's a shame the entire thing isn't translated. I'd love to read more classic literature from the Arab world.

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  49. Sure the story of Antara is one of the most appreciated Arabian heritage in literature

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  50. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing this one.

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