''The Shahnameh'' is a 50,000 verse [[NarrativePoem epic poem]] written by the Persian poet [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdowsi Ferdowsi]], started in 977 and finished in 1010. Its name translates as ''Book of Kings'', and [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin that's basically what it is]]: A recounting of the Persian kings from the creation of the world to the Arab conquest. Most of these kings are mythical, though. The closer the narrative gets to the time of Ferdowsi's writing, the more historically accurate it becomes.

Ferdowsi made a point of writing his poem in Persian when most literature at the time was in Arabic. He also refused to adapt the pre-Islamic legends to [[HijackedByJesus accommodate Muslim beliefs]]. The popularity of ''The Shahnameh'' pretty much revived the Persian language, and it continues to be revered as a classic of Persian literature.

''The Shahnameh'' is OlderThanPrint, having been written a few centuries before the printing press. However, since a good chunk of it comes from Sassanid-period historiographies (224-651 CE), many episodes of the work are probably OlderThanFeudalism, at least in outline.
!!This work provides examples of:
* AchillesHeel: Esfandiyār bathed in a pool of invincibility, except he closed his eyelids, leaving him vulnerable to EyeScream.
* ActionGirl: Gordafarid, who manages to stalemate Sohrab.
* BadassBoast: Before their battle Kamous asks Rostam, "What is your name? Who shall weep for your headless body?!!" to which Rostam replies, "My mother named me Your Death! Fate made me the hammer that smashes your helmet(/head)!!!"
* BigBad: Two of the most famous example would be Zahhak, a tyrant with two snakes growing out his shoulders whom Zahhak must feed human brains to, otherwise the snakes eat his own! and Afrasiab who commits many atrocities including the execution of Siavash, which sends Rostam and the Persians on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
* BiggerBad: Ahriman, the source and representation of all evil.
* BrainFood: What Zahhak's cursed shoulder snakes do, requiring sacrifices to prevent them from eating his.
* CarryABigStick: When he isn't wrestling his foes, Rostem prefers to carry around a mace.
* CoolHorse: Rakhsh, the only horse strong enough to carry Rostem, and wary as well.
* {{Curse}}: Whoever kills Esfandiyār is cursed to die and suffer in this life and the next. [[spoiler: Fortunately for Rostem it can take into account {{Uriah Gambit}}s.]]
* EvilVizier: Zahhak was an official in the king's court before his bargain with Ahriman made him king, and some other episodes in the poem involve evil viziers as well.
* FatalFlaw: Esfandiar's obsession with becoming king is how he's manipulated into fighting his tutor Rostam, even though he knows it's the wrong thing to do. Going up against Rostam of course, is as fatal as it gets!
* GodOfEvil: Ahriman, who is opposed by his brother (or creator) Ohrmazd.
* HeroicAlbino: The prince Zal, [[ParentalAbandonment rejected by his father]] because of his albinism. He was raised by the mystical bird the Simurgh.
* [[HijackedByJesus Hijacked By Mohammad]]: Deliberately averted. Other authors at the time tried to match up Persia's ancient legends with Muslim beliefs, but Ferdowsi let the original legends stand on their own.
* HypercompetentSidekick: Rostem is this to [[TheLoad Kay Kavus]], who keeps on getting the kingdom of Iran into problems and needing the ever-more reluctant Rostam to bail him out.
* ManlyTears: Like most epics the Shahnameh contains many examples. Most prominent would be Rostam, the manliest character in the entire book, bitterly crying when he realizes he's just killed his own son.
** Goodarz kills his long time rival and counterpart Piran, then sheds tears for him.
* MixAndMatchCritters: The Simurgh is a bird with the head of a dog and the claws of a lion.
* ObviouslyEvil: The wicked king Zahhak. He has a snake growing from each shoulder! Oh, and he feeds them human brains. See {{Squick}} under YMMV.
* PoorCommunicationKills: Through a combination of accidents, deception, and well-intentioned mistakes, Rostem ends up [[spoiler: killing Sohrab]], an outcome neither of them wanted.
* RequiredSecondaryPowers: Rostem actually had to pray to make his legs weaker so he wouldn't dig himself in the ground up to his waist with every step.
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge: Rostam will not rest until EVERYONE responsible for Siavash's execution is dead, even his own king's wife!
* SavingTheWorldWithArt: Talhand and Gav, two half-brothers, vie for the throne of Hind, but Talhand dies in battle against a mutual enemy without a wound. Their mother suspects that Gav killed him and threatens to start civil war. But then the sages of the court invent the game of Chess and use the piece movements to reenact the battle, ending with the King capturing several pieces and then ultimately being checkmated, thus representing how the half-brother died of battle fatigue. In the end, the mother was appeased and the game of Chess averted civil war.
** In a Meta example, the Shahnameh essentially saved the entire Iranian culture from being completely subsumed by Arab traditions. Ferdowsi made it cool to write in Persian again.
* ScaledUp: King Faridun turns into a dragon. Notably, this isn't for fighting; it's to test his sons, and the son who he believes is worthy is the one who ''doesn't'' attack the dragon right away and talks to him instead.
* TakeThat: The fact that Ferdowsi wrote in Persian instead of Arabic and that most of the villains in the tale (including the aforementioned ''[[{{Squick}} brain eating]]'' Zahhak) come from Arabia might suggest Ferdowsi was a little peeved about the Arabs conquering his country.
** Then there's the other main villain, Afrasiyab the Turanian/Turk. The Turks had by this point overrun large parts of Persia, and had been enemies of the Persians since before Islam. Afrasiyab gets subjected to a near-endless HumiliationConga all through the story of Rustam. This lead to trouble for Ferdowsi when he was taken prisoner by the [[BloodKnight ferocious warlord Mahmud of Ghazna]], who was Turkish.
* TheUriahGambit: What Gushtasp plans for his son Esfandiyār to avoid relinquishing the throne by sending him against Rostem.