Home > Explore + Learn > Arts of the Islamic World > Shahnama: 1000 Years of the Persian Book of Kings > Kay-Kavus


Reckless pride leads the arrogant king Kay-Kavus into a hopeless and unnecessary military campaign against the demons of Mazandaran. After Kay-Kavus and his armies are swiftly defeated, the White Demon (div-i sifid) blinds and enchains the king and his generals in a secluded cave. The White Demon roars:

"Kavus, you're like a willow, fruitless and afraid.
And you once thought your army could invade
Mazandaran, and that your strength is like
A maddened mammoth's when you choose to strike!
Since you have occupied the Persian throne,
Wisdom's deserted you, good sense has flown.
Here is the end of everything you sought,
Here is the punishment for which you fought!"

The mighty Rustam arrives in Mazandaran and engages in hand-to-hand combat with the White Demon, "the two locked together like an elephant and a lion." Victorious, Rustam frees Kay-Kavus, who miraculously regains his sight when his eyes are brushed with the White Demon's blood.

detail from Kay-Kavus Chained in a Cave: the white demon outside a cave where the king and two of his generals are bound by chains

Above, top: detail, Kay-Kavus Chained in a Cave. View full »

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