Zal was the young son of king Sam of Zabulistan, who was a trusted advisor of the Peshdadian King Minocheher. Sam had a son by the name Zal who was in love with princess Rodabeh, daughter of King Mehrab of Kabul. Mehrab was, a descendant of Zohak, but was now an ally of Sam suzerainty.
When Zal informed his father about his love for the princess from Kabul, he declined at first. Later he consulted astrologers who saw a great future for the couple and a very promising progeny for the two. Thereafter Sam gave his consent for the marriage.
However, before Sam could inform King Minocheher of his son’s wedding, the King came to know of this marriage and was very annoyed. He was concerned that the peace brought between Iran and Turan at the cost of a war may be shattered by this alliance. He also feared that the evil of Zohak crushed by Faridun with great difficulty may resurface through the progeny of this marriage.
King Minocheher immediately sent his son Navdar to summon Sam. When Sam came to the King, hoping to seek permission for his son’s marriage, he was instead reprimanded for having consented to the marriage and ordered to launch an attack on Mehrab. Sam considered it prudent not to argue with the furious King and immediately set off with an army towards Kabul.
When Zal came to know of the King’s orders of declaring a war on Mehrab, he was shocked and surprised. He intercepted his father on his way and pleaded with him to request the King to reconsider his decision, since if Mehrab was attacked than Zal himself would be guilty for his predicament.
Sam sympathised with his son and understood his dilemma. He immediately dispatched a letter to the King with Zal. In the letter Sam recounted his faithfulness to the Iranian Kings and his services to the Iranian people like the killing of an Azdāh who resided in the Kashf river. He requested King Minocheher to reconsider Zal’s case with sympathy and revert his orders for the war. He also informed the king about the prognosis of the astrologers as to the outcome of the marriage.
Zal set off towards Kargasar like a man possessed, not waiting for food, drink or rest. When he reached the palace, he was given a royal welcome. He gave his father’s letter to the king, who, after going through the letter agreed to the request of averting the war.
The king said that he held Sam in high esteem and did not like to hurt him. He gave Zal the permission for the wedding, told him to stay in the palace and called him the following day. In the meanwhile, King Minocheher ordered his astrologers to check the outcome of the marriage between Zal and Rodabeh.
The astrologers consulted the star charts and gave a very positive forecast. They reported that the union would bear one of the greatest heroes the world would ever know, who would sincerely serve his motherland Iran throughout his life, and would be a great asset to it. Minocheher was greatly pleased with the prognosis, nevertheless he told his astrologers to keep this information to themselves, and ordered his wise men to test the intelligence of Zal.
The next day when Zal presented himself before the King, he was made to sit amongst learned men and asked the following six questions :
- In Iran, which 12 trees, each having 30 branches, are always the same ?
- Which are the two swift horses, one white and the other black, who are running behind each other, but never able to catch up with the other ?
- Thirty riders are riding past the King, but when counted they number only 29. Who are they?
- Who is the angry man in a lush jungle along a river, who with a hatchet slashes at every shrub and plant in sight without heeding their pleas.
- A bird makes its nest alternatively on two trees. The tree with the nest, becomes lush green and blossoms, whereas the other tree withers away. What do the trees and the bird represent ?
- On a mountain there is a fortified city from which its subjects come down and reside in tall houses built in jungles. They forget their former city till it totally disappears out of sight. After its disappearance, the people regret loosing sight of it. Which is that city?
Zal attentively listened to the six questions posed by the wise men, pondered awhile and replied:
- The twelve trees signify the twelve full moon days and the thirty branches signify the thirty days in a month.
- The two horses are night and day which always follow each other but never catch up.
- The riders signify the days in the lunar month which sometime seem to be 29 and sometime revert back to 30.
- The lush jungle is the world and the angry man is Time who heeds no one’s pleas and indiscriminately inflicts blows on one and all.
- The two trees signify the two hemispheres of the earth, and the bird signifies the sun. In the hemisphere where there is sun, the trees are in bloom and there is sunshine and prosperity. The hemisphere where the sun is absent experiences winter.
- The fortified city on the mountain is the spiritual world and the jungle is this material world. Men come from the former to the latter, but soon loose sight of it due to their attachments in this world, and later repent for having lost it.
King Minocheher was very pleased with Zal’s answers and so were the learned men. The King showered Zal with precious gifts in appreciation. Everybody spent the rest of the day in celebration. The following morning King Minocheher requested Zal to spend one more day with him, to which Zal agreed.
On that day Zal impressed the King by his prowess on the horse. The King was highly pleased. He sent him back the following day with a letter to Sam asking him not to go ahead with the war but instead start preparations for his son’s marriage. Shortly thereafter Zal and Rodabeh were married with the blessings of King Minocheher.
After some time a son was born to Zal and Rodabeh who was named Rustom. Even his birth amazed the world, as he was a gigantic baby. He grew up to be a fearless and courageous boy. The stories of his accomplishments are legendary.