Shahmaran: the story & the meaning of the Turkish legend

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Shahmaran is a TV series released by Netflix on January 2023. A Turkish production directed by Umur Turagay, the series begins with a fascinating ancient tale about a man who came in contact with Shahmaran and learned a lesson from his relationship with her. Viewers were curious to discover who Shahmaran is, what the story is about, and what meaning we can find in this old myth: let’s find out the legend of Shahmaran.

You can watch the official trailer for Shahmaran here on Youtube.

The legend of Shahmaran: what is the story about, and what’s its meaning

According to the legend in several cultures of the Middle East, especially in the Turkish area, Shahmaran is a mythical female creature, half woman and half snake, who lived in a beautiful garden underground. Her name comes from the Persian words “Shah” (which means “king”) and Maran (which means “snakes”). Since Shahmaran is female, she’s considered the Queen of the Snakes, as also the TV show mentions in the first scene.

Legend has it that one day a young man was left alone in a cave by his friends after collecting honey. His name is different depending on the legend’s origins: for some, it’s named Tahmasp; for others, it’s Camasb or Jamsab. In the Netflix series, he’s referred to as Camsap, so we will use this name in this article.

Camsap was desperate and thought he would die, but he found a little hole in the cave. Using a knife, he worked on the hole until it was big enough to go through, and he ended up in a mysterious garden surrounded by snakes. Among them, there was this supernatural creature who introduced herself as Shahmaran.

Shahmaran was a beautiful woman, wise, intelligent, and kind, and soon enough, Camsap and Shahmaran fell in love with each other. The two lived in the underground garden for a while, but one day, Camsap started missing his family and expressed the desire to return home. Reluctantly, Shahmaran agrees to let Camsap leave her kingdom; in return, Camsap promises never to reveal anything about her existence and where she lives.

Years later, the king of the city where Camsap lived contracted a mysterious illness, and his vizier declared that the only way for him to heal was by eating the flesh of Shahmaran. He even knew a way to discover if a man had been in Shahmaran’s kingdom: if his skin gets in contact with water, it was supposed to become scaly. The king ordered all his subjects to gather at the public baths, and while soldiers forced them into the water, they saw scales appearing on Camsap’s skin.

Camsap is then forced to give up his secret: he reveals the location of Shahmaran’s kingdom, and once the soldiers reach it, Shahmaran surrenders and provides instructions about how to eat her flesh. According to the most fascinating version of the legend, she says that whoever eats her tail will live and gain wisdom, whereas those who will eat her head will die.

According to this version of the Shahmaran myth, which offers a deeper meaning, her body was divided into three parts. The king and the vizier ate the human head, trying to gain an advantage by her death, whereas Camsap ate her snake tail because he couldn’t bear the guilt after he betrayed the promise he made to Shahmaran. But to everybody’s surprise, the king and the vizier died, whereas Camsap survived, gaining Shahmaran’s wisdom. This could mean that Shahmaran’s real head was actually the snake, and her tail was the human part of her body. Camsap will live, but he will regret his betrayal until his last days.

You can find the legend of Shahmaran in its full version in this article written by Ancient Origins.

The meaning of the story

The story of Shahmaran shows how a man betrayed his connection with nature, causing the death of the creature he loved. It’s a story of regret and guilt, and according to the legend, humankind can redeem itself only if a human falls in love again with a snake-marked creature. However, this time destiny will have to be the opposite, and the human will be the one sacrificing life for love. This is the story explained in the last episode of the TV series Shahmaran, with the only difference of the introduction of Lilith, Shahmaran’s sister, seeking revenge.

Getting to the general meaning of the myth, Shahmaran teaches us a lesson about humanity, nature, and betrayal. As in a parallel definition of the original sin, humans are guilty of the way they betray nature and should seek redemption over their life. By the ultimate sacrifice of a meaningful human life, in the name of love for nature, we can redeem our guilt and find our renewed connection with the world.

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