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Origin

To the Persian hero and king Saam was born an albino son with white hair; because of this he was called Zāl by his parents. His father was a renowned protector of the kingdom of Iran; because of his genetic defect Zāl was rejected by his father, left as an infant upon the mountain Damavand, the highest peak in Iran. Zal was rescued and reared by a mythical beast known as the Simurgh, a very large and wise bird which darkens the sky with its flight (scholars suggest it may be related to the Phoenix). Rumour of an astonishingly well-built pale man in the wilderness reached Saam from a trade caravan years later. Traveling to see the sight for himself he lays eyes on his son and attempts to climb the mountain to the Simurgh's eyrie. He is spotted by the mystical bird who knows that he has come for her ward. The Simurgh then gives Zal a plume of three feathers, saying: "Burn these if ever you have need of me, and may your heart never forget your nurse, whose heart breaks for love of you."

Reunited with his son, the King made every effort to redress past wrongs. When Saam went off to fight in the province of Mazandaran Zal was recommended to the elders as heir, and given control of the kingdom. Soon after, while on royal tour of his territories, Zal is said to have lost his heart in love to Rudaba, but the affair would progress slowly. Zal was afraid (and rightly so) that his father and Rudaba's would disapprove of the union. Cashing in on the debt Saam owed him for abandoning him as a child Zal wrote a letter to his father and requested him to agree to the marriage, reminding him of an oath he made to fulfill all of Zal's wishes. Saam referred the question to his court astrologers, looking for signs in the stars as to the eventual outcome of a culturally undesirably union. He was summarily informed that the child of Zal and Rudabeh would be the conqueror of the world. When Zal arrived at the court later he was received with unexpected honour, and the marriage was formally approved. Go figure.

Rostam, the great Persian warrior, is the fruit of their wedlock. One of the feathers the Simurgh gave Zal is used to save Rudaba's life in labour; he Simurgh appears with medical advice, telling Zal to run a feather across his wife's belly like a knife. Rustam

Zal appears in the Hyperwerks title Rostam: Tales From the Shahnameh, adapted from the original Persian text for comics in 2005 by Persian-American writer Bruce Bahmani and illustrator Karl Altstaetter.

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