For this assignment, you will respond to one of the two prompts below and make a thoughtful argument about the Shahnameh and the Sundiata. You will then present your argument to your instructor via a PowerPoint presentation of 8-10 slides and a brief 3-5 minute video overview of that PowerPoint presentation.


First, choose one of these two prompts.

Consider the origins of the heroes of the Shahnameh and Sundiata. What information do the authors share about the families and early lives of the characters Rustem and Sundiata? What are their backgrounds? Drawing upon that information, analyze how the heroes’ early circumstances shape their worldview and prepare them for the heroic journeys that follow.
Analyze the ways in which women in the Shahnameh and Sundiata influence the heroes of these epics. What agency do they have over their own lives? How do they adhere to the values of their societies, and in what ways do they break established norms? What price (if any) do they pay for the choices they make? Ultimately, what lessons are the audience intended to learn about the role of women in these societies?

Second, create a PowerPoint presentation of your argument. Include both text and images that illustrate and enhance the argument you are making. Use the following as an outline of what to include:

Start with a title page that includes your name, the title of the presentation, the date, the course, the name of your professor. (1 slide)
Explain the general topic and put forth a thesis, an argument that brings both epics into conversation with each other. (1 slide)
Apply that topic to both Shahnameh and to Sundiata. Give specific examples and quotations from the texts to support your analyses. (5-7 slides).
Your final slide should be your Works Cited slide, with both texts in MLA format. (1 slide)


Sample Answer

Sample Answer


The Heroic Journeys of Rustem and Sundiata: A Comparison of Origins and Influences


The Shahnameh, an epic poem from Persian literature, and the Sundiata epic from West Africa share rich narratives of heroic figures whose early lives and family backgrounds significantly shape their destinies. In this essay, we will delve into the origins of Rustem from the Shahnameh and Sundiata from the Sundiata epic, exploring how their early circumstances influence their worldview and prepare them for the epic journeys that define their heroic status. Additionally, we will analyze the portrayal of women in these epics, examining their agency, adherence to societal values, defiance of norms, and the consequences of their choices. Through this exploration, we aim to uncover the lessons these epics impart about the roles and influences of women in their respective societies.

Origins and Early Lives of Rustem and Sundiata


In the Shahnameh, Rustem is introduced as the son of Zal, a renowned warrior, and Sindokht, a princess. From his birth, Rustem’s lineage sets him apart as a figure of great strength and valor. His upbringing amidst the rugged terrain of Zabulistan, coupled with the absence of his father during his formative years, instills in him a sense of self-reliance and independence. Rustem’s early encounters with challenges and adversaries serve as training grounds for his future exploits, shaping his identity as a fearless and skilled warrior.


Contrastingly, Sundiata, the hero of the Sundiata epic, emerges from humble beginnings as the son of Sogolon Kedjou and Maghan Kon Fatta. Born with physical frailty but destined for greatness according to prophecy, Sundiata’s early years are marked by challenges and exile. His mother’s unwavering belief in his potential and her sacrifices to protect him from harm imbue Sundiata with resilience and determination. His exile to Mema becomes a period of growth and learning, setting the stage for his emergence as a unifying leader and warrior.

Influence of Early Circumstances on Worldview and Heroic Journeys


Rustem’s solitary upbringing and early trials equip him with unmatched skills and a sense of duty towards his kingdom. His loyalty to King Kay Kavus and his unwavering commitment to justice are rooted in his experiences of adversity and triumph. Rustem’s encounters with betrayal and treachery further solidify his moral code and sense of honor, propelling him towards epic feats that define his legacy.


Sundiata’s early struggles and exile shape his understanding of leadership and kinship. His bond with his mother, Sogolon Kedjou, instills in him compassion and empathy, traits that set him apart as a just ruler. Sundiata’s exile becomes a period of introspection and preparation, enabling him to unite disparate factions and fulfill his destiny as the founder of the Mali Empire. His journey is not just one of conquest but also of reconciliation and nation-building.

Women in the Shahnameh and Sundiata Epics: Agency, Values, and Consequences

Agency and Adherence to Societal Values

Women in both epics wield significant influence over the heroes through their wisdom, guidance, and unwavering support. From Tahmineh’s love for Rustem in the Shahnameh to Sogolon Kedjou’s belief in Sundiata’s destiny, these women play pivotal roles in shaping the heroes’ paths. They adhere to societal values of loyalty, sacrifice, and honor, embodying the virtues expected of noblewomen in their respective cultures.

Defiance of Norms and Consequences

Despite their adherence to societal values, women in these epics also challenge established norms through their actions. Whether it is Tahmineh defying her father to marry Rustem or Sogolon Kedjou embracing her son’s destiny despite societal stigma, these women exhibit agency and autonomy over their lives. However, their choices often come at a price, be it exile, ostracization, or loss. The courage to defy norms is juxtaposed with the harsh realities they face as a consequence.

Lessons on the Role of Women in Society

The portrayal of women in the Shahnameh and Sundiata epics underscores their indispensable roles as pillars of strength, wisdom, and resilience. While bound by societal expectations, women in these narratives transcend conventional boundaries to shape the destinies of heroes and kingdoms. Through their agency, adherence to values, defiance of norms, and endurance of consequences, these women exemplify the multifaceted nature of female influence in society. The audience is meant to learn that women are not passive bystanders but active participants in shaping narratives of heroism, sacrifice, and legacy.


In conclusion, the origins of heroes like Rustem and Sundiata are intricately woven with familial ties, early challenges, and influential women who guide their paths. Their early circumstances serve as crucibles that temper their characters and prepare them for the epic journeys that await. Through the lens of women in these epics, we gain insight into the complexities of agency, adherence to societal values, defiance of norms, and the enduring impact of choices made. Ultimately, these narratives offer profound lessons on the indispensable roles women play in shaping heroic sagas and societal constructs.




Title Page

– Name: [Your Name]
– Title of Presentation: Comparison of Heroes in Shahnameh and Sundiata
– Date: [Date]
– Course: [Course Name]
– Professor: [Professor’s Name]

Thesis Statement

In both the Shahnameh and Sundiata, the early circumstances and backgrounds of the heroes, Rustem and Sundiata, play a significant role in shaping their worldview and prepare them for the heroic journeys that follow.


– Brief overview of the Shahnameh and Sundiata.
– Introduction of Rustem and Sundiata, highlighting their family backgrounds and early lives.

Rustem and Sundiata: Family Backgrounds

– Rustem: Son of Zal, a legendary warrior, and Rudabeh, a princess. He is born with exceptional strength and courage.
– Sundiata: Son of King Maghan Kon Fatta and Queen Sogolon. His birth is prophesied to bring greatness to Mali.

Impact of Early Circumstances

– Rustem’s upbringing among warriors and his innate abilities shape his identity as a fearless hero.
– Sundiata’s early struggles due to being crippled as a child instill in him resilience and determination.

Heroic Journeys

– Rustem’s journey involves numerous battles where his strength and skills are tested, ultimately leading to his legendary status.
– Sundiata’s journey includes overcoming adversity, reclaiming his throne, and uniting Mali, fulfilling the prophecy of his greatness.

Women in Shahnameh and Sundiata

– Female characters in both epics play crucial roles in influencing the heroes.
– Shahnameh: Tahmineh’s love for Rustem motivates him in battle.
– Sundiata: Queen Mother Sassouma Berete’s ambitions challenge Sundiata’s claim to the throne.

Agency and Influence of Women

– Despite societal norms, women like Tahmineh and Sassouma Berete exercise agency in their decisions.
– They adhere to traditional values while also challenging norms to assert their influence.

Lessons Learned

– The audience learns about the complexity of women’s roles in society, balancing tradition with personal agency.
– Women pay a price for their choices, highlighting the challenges they face in patriarchal societies.

Works Cited

– Shahnameh. Author(s), Publisher, Year.
– Sundiata. Author(s), Publisher, Year.

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