BAḴTĪĀR-NĀMA, an example of early New Persian prose fiction in the form of a frame story and nine included tales, the earliest version of which seems to be by Šams-al-Dīn Moḥammad Daqāyeqī Marvazī, the late 6th/12th-early 7th/13th-century author. The frame story is briefly as follows: King Āzādbaḵt of Nīmrūz (i.e., Sīstān) marries his general’s daughter against her father’s will. The angry general overthrows Āzādbaḵt, who flees with his pregnant wife. She bears a son whom they abandon in the desert.
The baby is found and brought up by a robber chief. One day while robbing a caravan he is captured and taken to the city. Āzādbaḵt, who has regained his kingdom, notices the youth and takes him into his service without recognizing him as his son. Renamed Baḵtīār, the youth rises quickly in the court. His rapid promotion arouses the jealousy of the king’s ten viziers. One day Baḵtīār inadvertently angers the king and is imprisoned. The chief vizier forces the queen to accuse Baḵtīār falsely of making improper advances to her. The king condemns Baḵtīār to death, but he pleads innocence and tells a story which catches the king’s interest. On each of the succeeding eight days Baḵtīār tells a tale that postpones his execution, while each day another vizier tries to persuade the king to execute him. On the tenth day Baḵtīār is ordered to the scaffold, but the robber chief who had brought him up steps forward from the crowd and identifies him. The king and queen recognize their son from a token they had given him. Reconciled with Baḵtīār, the king abdicates the throne and crowns his son.
Each of the nine (ten in some Arabic versions) tales told by Baḵtīār relates to his situation, either from his own point of view by stressing the unfortunate results of actions which are ill-considered or based on malicious advice or from the viewpoint of the narrator by stressing the theme of the failure of a father and son to recognize each other. The queen and viziers tell no counter-tales, but merely call for Baḵtīār’s death.
Clouston, Nöldeke, and Ethé have asserted that the Baḵtīār-nāma derives from or imitates the Sendbād-nāma, but there is no evidence for this claim other than their similar formal structures and the motif of a youth falsely accused by a disappointed woman. The fact that both are frame stories relates them generically, but the motif of the falsely accused youth is too widespread geographically and chronologically to be evidence of derivation or imitation. Furthermore, the two plots are quite different.
In the same content, some commentators claim that the Baḵtīār-nāma derives ultimately from an Indian text. This is unlikely in the light of Perry’s argument that the Sendbād-nāma is of Iranian origin, and the fact that no convincing connection has been made between the Baḵtīār-nāma and an Indian prototype. Nor is there any evidence that the Baḵtīār-nāma, as we know it, derives from a Middle Persian original. Tārīḵ-eSīstān (pp. 8-9) mentions a Baḵtīār who was jahān-pahlavān (chief hero) during the reign of Ḵosrow II Parvēz, traces his lineage through Rostam back to Garšāsp, and says that his story can be read in the Baḵtīār-nāma.Eḥyāʾ al-molūk (pp. 47-48) repeats this account with some additions. The story appears nowhere else, and there is no reason to identify this Baḵtīār with the maligned prince of the Baḵtīār-nāma.
The earliest known example of Baḵtīār-nāma is an Arabic version entitled ʿAjāʾeb al-baḵt fī qeṣṣat al-eḥday ʿašar wazīran mā jarā lahom maʿ Ebn al-Molk Āzādbaḵt, dated a.d. 1000 (published in Egypt, 1886; repr. by D. Ṣafā, Tehran, 1347 Š./1968). The earliest known Persian version is dated 663/1265 (Bib. Nat. ms. 2035; see Cat. Bib. Nat. IV, pp. 14-15). Almost identical with this is Leyden Codex 593 dated 695/1295-96, discussed by Nöldeke. A summary of Baḵtīār-nāma appears in an anonymous Eskandar-nāma of the 12th-14th century a.d. (ed. Ī. Afšār, Tehran, 1343 Š./1964, pp. 198-99). An Uighur version dated 838/1434-35 is described by Jaubert. Versions of the Baḵtīār-nāma appear in some manuscripts of Alf layla wa layla (see Chauvin for details).
Internal evidence, the prose style, and statements by ʿAwfī (Lobāb I, p. 212) make it most likely that Bib. Nat. ms. 2035 is the work of Šams-al-Dīn Moḥammad Daqāyeqī Marvazī. Little is known of Daqāyeqī, a contemporary of ʿAwfī, who is said also to have written a Sendbād-nāma in prose. Daqāyeqī’s Baḵtīār-nāma was edited and published by Ḏ. Ṣafā under the title Rāḥat al-arwāḥ fī sorūr al-mefrāḥ (Tehran, 1345 Š./1966). Together with ʿAjāʾeb al-baḵt, Ṣafā also published an edition of Bib. Nat. ms. 2036 (Cat. Bib. Nat, IV, pp. 15-16) dated 809/1406 under the title Baḵtīār-nāma.
See also Ī. Afšār, “Tarjama-ye fārsī-e Baḵtīār-nāma,” Jahān-e now 6, 1330 Š./1951, pp. 246-47.
A. J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature, London, 1958, pp. 170-79 (discusses various translations of Baḵtīār-nāma and gives a lengthy selection in English).
V. Chauvin, Bibliographie des ouvrages arabes ou relatifs aux arabes publiés dans l’Europe chrétienne de 1800 à 1885 VIII: Syntipas, Liège, 1904, pp. 13-17, 78-89 (a useful guide to Arabic versions of the Baḵtīār-nāma).
H. Ethé, “Neupersische Litteratur,” in Geiger and Kuhn, Grundr. Ir. Phil. II, pp. 323-25.
A. Jaubert, “Notice et extrait de la version turque du Bakhtiar-naméh d’après le manuscrit en caractères ouïgours que possède la Bibliothèque Bodléïenne d’Oxford,” JA 10, 1827, pp. 146-67.
Malekšāh Ḥosayn Sīstānī, Eḥyāʾ al-molūk, ed. M. Sotūda, Tehran, 1344 Š./1965.
Th. Nöldeke, “Ueber die Texte des Buches von den zehn Veziren, besonders über ein alte persische Recension desselben,” ZDMG 45, 1891, pp. 97-143 (discusses and gives lengthy selections from Leyden Codex 593).
W. Ouseley, The Bakhtyār Nama, ed. W. A. Clouston, London, 1883 (an English translation, with introduction and notes).
B. E. Perry, The Origin of the Book of Sindbad, Berlin, 1960.
M. Rowšan, “Rāḥat al-arwāḥ,” Rāhnamā-ye ketāb 9, 1345 Š./1966, pp. 503-07 (a review of Ṣafā’s edition).
(W. L. Hanaway, Jr.)
Originally Published: December 15, 1988
Last Updated: December 15, 1988