You are here

Water Monster

Primary tabs

A Water Monster Begs Rūmī's Wife to Intercede for Him

Tarjuma-i Thawāqib-i manāqib (A Translation of Stars of the Legend), in Turkish
The translation was ordered in 1590 by Sultan Murād III (r. 1574–95) from the Persian abridgement of Aflākī.

Iraq, Baghdad
1590s
179 x 145 mm

Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911

MS M.466, fol. 63v
Item description: 

On their way to the bath of Ilghin, outside Konya, Rūmī and his party camp by a river inhabited by [S]u Essā, "the lord of the water." Every year the monster drowns a person or animal from the neighboring community. After Rūmī jumped in the river to meet him, [S]u Essā wanted to change his ways. Not considering it proper to present himself to Rūmī, he asked Kerā Khātūn, Rūmī's second wife, to intercede on his behalf. The strategy worked: Rūmī forgave the monster, who then brought precious pearls to his wife.

Here Rūmī's wife, regarded as a second Virgin Mary on account of her purity, modestly hides her face as her husband approaches. The lake is teeming with life; the artist indicated the far side of the lake by drawing the landscape upside down.

Exhibition section: 

Rūmī, Persian Mystic And Poet
The sixteenth-century miniatures presented here concern the life and miracles of Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, called Mē vlāna (Our Master), the most famous member of the Mevlevī order and Persia's greatest Sufi mystic and poet. He was born in Balkh in 1207, but his family emigrated after his father foresaw the Mongol conquest. They eventually resettled in Konya, Turkey, then the capital of Anatolian Rūm (thus Rūmī), where the poet died on 17 December 1273.

Several Persian accounts of Rūmī's life have been written, the first by his son, Sultan Walad. The third, laden with moralizing miracle stories, was ordered by Rūmī's grandson Ulu ˓Ārif Chelebi. It was written by the dervish Shams al-Dīn Aḥmad, called Aflākī (d. 1360). Aflākī also incorporated verses from Rūmī's works, notably his six-volume Masnavī (a poetical form of rhyming couplets) and the Dīvān-i-Shams al-Dīn Tabrīzī, named after Shams of Tabriz, the mystic who changed Rūmī's life and transformed him into a poet when they met in 1244.

In 1590—three and a half centuries after Aflākī wrote his life of Rūmī—the Ottoman sultan Mūrad III ordered a Turkish translation of a 1540 abridged version of Aflākī's text entitled Tarjuma-i Thawāqib-i manāqib (Stars of the Legend). The translator was Darvīsh Mahmud Mesnevī Khān of Konya. Two illustrated copies of the Murād translation, both made in Baghdad, survive. One, dated 1599, is held by Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, and has twenty-two miniatures. The other, richer manuscript is held by the Morgan. It dates to the 1590s and includes twenty-nine miniatures. They are all featured here, along with two folios from other collections that are believed to have once been part of the Morgan manuscript.