Download a free 24-page PDF sample of Samak the Ayyar (introduction and first two chapters).

"This medieval Persian romance which enjoys enormous popularity in the Persian-speaking world is translated in a very attractive way... Conveying the spirit of the original, Mechner and Rassouli are an exceptional match to carry out this difficult task. Samak the Ayyar will attract a broad readership with different cultural backgrounds."

— Asghar Seyed-Gohrab
Author of Courtly Riddles: Enigmatic Embellishments in Early Persian Poetry

"This ancient Persian tale of adventure and romance comes to marvelous life in Jordan Mechner’s fluent, fast-paced rendering of Freydoon Rassouli’s modern translation. Epic in its sweep and human passions, it conjures a captivating world of warriors, princesses, renegades, viziers and witches. A treasure of world literature to place beside Gilgamesh, The Odyssey and the Thousand and One Nights."

— Eric Jager
Author of The Last Duel and Blood Royal

"The first major English-language rendering of these tales, Samak reveals a charmed world fit for a blockbuster HBO series, but more than that, it shows a sweep of heroism, betrayal, and friendship worthy of Gilgamesh or the Odyssey."

— Kevin Blankinship
for L.A. Review of Books

In Jordan's Words: About Samak the Ayyar

Despite having spent a certain number of the past 30 years delving into Persian culture and lore for video game and film development-related purposes, I'd never heard of Samak (or ayyars) until the day my translator and collaborator Freydoon Rassouli took down a dusty out-of-print volume from his shelf and declared: “This is what you've been looking for.”

As he began reading to me from its pages, translating on the fly from archaic Persian, shivers ran down my spine. Here was a fantastic adventure set in ninth-century Persia, featuring a treacherous vizier, a star-crossed romance between a noble prince and princess, kings, warriors, and an agile trickster hero who scales walls and sneaks into palaces. It was the source material my Prince of Persia games (and movie) had always wanted but never had. If only I could read Persian!

I really, really needed to read that book. So... we had to write it. Rassouli translated, I adapted, and now Columbia University Press has published our first volume as a beautiful 450-page paperback.

What are ayyars? A concept as specific to Persia as ronin and samurai are to Japan, and as universal. Samak is a hero and bandit, a man of the people with the skills of a ninja and the ideals of a knight. You could call him a Persian Robin Hood, but he and his band of male and female ayyars have a unique and compelling spirit all their own. Armed with a dagger, a lasso, and his wits, he accomplishes things even kings can’t. I hope readers who've enjoyed Prince of Persia will be as enchanted by Samak’s adventures as I am.