The Qesse-ye Sanja¯n (hereafter QS) is a late sixteenth-century Zoroastrian text in Persian, comprising some 433 verses (couplets). According to Wehr’s Arabic dictionary, the root qassa ‘cut, trim’ yields the noun qissa ‘manner of cutting’ and, by extension, ‘narrative, tale, story’; closely related is the word qasas ‘clippings, cuttings, chips, snips, shreds, narrative, tale, story’. Steingass’s Persian-English Dictionary has (inimitably) a string of meanings for Persian qissa/qesse ‘a thing, affair, business, negotiation, history, tale, romance, fable, apologue, narration, pudenda’. Unlike English ‘history’, or contrastingly ‘tale’ or ‘fable’, there are no strong implications of either facticity or of make-believe in the word qesse. It is, more neutrally, ‘text’ (that is strands woven together), or ‘narrative’. It begins with the poet, Bahman Kay Koba¯d, singing in the first line:

A little later, after the initial doxology, he begins to tell us what he has in store:

and then, with a nice assonance of ba¯sta¯n, da¯sta¯n, ra¯sta¯n and ra¯zha¯-ye ra¯sta¯n, he makes clear what we are about to hear:

The author sees himself as stringing together, from the traditions of ‘the ancients’, the ‘precious pearls of past events’, private and hidden to all except the faithful.