The Conference of the Birds

 

Scene from The Conference of the Birds in a Persian miniature. The hoopoe, center right, instructs the other birds on the Sufi path.

The Conference of the Birds or Speech of the Birds (Persian: منطق الطیر‎‎, Manṭiq-uṭ-Ṭayr, also known as مقامات الطیور Maqāmāt-uṭ-Ṭuyūr; 1177), is a long poem of approximately 4500 lines written in Persian by the poet Farid ud-Din Attar, who is commonly known as Attar of Nishapur.

In the poem, the birds of the world gather to decide who is to be their king, as they have none. The hoopoe, the wisest of them all, suggests that they should find the legendary Simorgh, a mythical Persian bird roughly equivalent to the western phoenix. The hoopoe leads the birds, each of whom represent a human fault which prevents man from attaining enlightenment. When the group of thirty birds finally reaches the dwelling place of the Simorgh, all they find is a lake in which they see their own reflection.

Besides being one of the most celebrated examples of Persian poetry, this book relies on a clever word play between the words Simorgh – a mysterious bird in Iranian mythology which is a symbol often found in Sufi literature, and similar to the phoenix bird – and "si morgh" – meaning "thirty birds" in Persian.

Germany, Berlin. srso@callias-foundation.org +49-30-65010810