Kawa the Blacksmith: Maybe More than a Bedtime Story

I keenly remember sitting in the front seat of my dad’s car when I spotted a statue of a masculine man with an axe in hand in the middle of town. I was barely five years old, and like every inquisitive kid who wanted to know everything, I told my dad, “Who’s that man, dad?”

He told me the man was Kawa the Blacksmith and that he’s the hero of a Kurdish myth where he kills the evil king, Dehak, with an axe. Then I realized that he was the same guy in the bedtime stories that they told me – the guy in the Newroz story!

Ever since childhood, I thought of the Legend of Kawa as nothing but a bedtime story and didn’t bother to think about it or look through the tale. Recently, though, I came across a version of the tale and scrutinizing through the tale I spotted lots of illustrations and morals replete with philosophical truth. It was no longer a bedtime story for me. It seemed like the history of a nation’s struggle.

The tale begins with the evil spirit, Ahriman, wanting to seize power and therefore using Dehak to murder the loved king, Jamshid; Dehak usurps the throne and becomes king. He was a horrible king and was deeply hated by his people. He brought pestilence and famine to his entire kingdom; what was once a fertile land had become barren.

The evil spirit, disguised as a cook, prepared Dehak’s food and kissed him; instantly two snakes appeared from his shoulders. These two snakes gave him excruciating pain, and he was told the pain would only lessen if the snakes were fed the brains of young children. Consequently, children were slaughtered and their brains were presented to the snakes. While the brains reduced the pain temporarily, the pain would later strike again stronger than before.

If we take a minute to analyze and think of the following as an illustration, it shows deep philosophy. Dehak was told that feeding the snakes brains would diminish the pain, but the pain would come back stronger and the snakes would get bigger demanding more brains.

He was stuck in a constantly increasing turmoil. All through this, the pestilence and hardships were increasing. Constantly in life we see addictions and habits that guarantee satisfaction, but as we constantly feed them, our cravings increase rampantly and leave us in frustration.

More and more children were slaughtered daily and 18 of Kawa the Blacksmith’s children were taken and slaughtered, and all the while the anger against this tyrant king increased in his heart and the heart of the people.

Constantly the people’s anger grew with the memory of their lost family, and finally they charged the castle. Kawa killed Dehak the King; the snakes died and Kawa lit the fire of victory and responding fire beacons were lit all over the mountains declaring freedom from tyranny.

Dehak’s malevolence and tyranny led to his destruction. The revolt against Dehak was not rooted in rebellious or usurping ambitions but rather rooted in love and freedom. They have had enough of watching their loved families slaughtered.

The tale demonstrates the constant struggle between tyranny that always devours and freedom that always flourishes. Today, as we light our Newroz fires, we remember the rise of freedom over tyranny and the constant Kurdish struggle for freedom. We remember our heritage.

The legend of Kawa the Blacksmith is not only a bedtime story. It’s a valuable tale that holds deep philosophy and summarizes the historical struggle of a nation. It’s definitely worth your time to sit down and scrutinize this amazing tale.

By: Yad Qurbany

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