The Legend of Shahmaran

It’s well known that I love me a good legend and while in Tarsus recently I came across a doozy.

This is the story of Shahmaran and Camasb.

Camasb is a young man who lived in Tarsus. While out foraging in the forest he explores a cave where he finds Shahmaran. Shahmaran is a mythical creature, half snake and half woman. He falls in love with this exquisite creature (no judgment) and they live together for many years in the cave. Eventually Camasb decides he wants to return home but promises he will never share the secret of Shahmaran.

Many years pass and the king of Tarsus becomes ill. The only treatment for his condition requires the flesh of a Shahmaran. Camasb double-crosses Shahmaran (well, duh!) and discloses her whereabouts. Shahmaran is killed but before she dies she gives a dire warning to the vizier “blanch me in an earthen dish, give my extract to the vizier and feed my flesh to the sultan”. The king eats her flesh and survives while the vizier drinks the extract and dies.

Personally, I think that Camasb deserved that extract more than the vizier who was only doing his job.

If you visit Tarsus there is a hamam called “Shahmaran Hamam” where, it is said, she was killed. I’m not sure that’s a great endorsement for any hamam but that’s not for me to question.

A statute of Shahmaran remains in Tarsus today to commemorate her sacrifice to save the King.

If you visit Kırk kaşık Bedesten (Forty Spoons undercover market) you can find a range of souvenirs of Shahmaran and many vendors ready to tell you her story.

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3 thoughts on “The Legend of Shahmaran

  1. That legend was told in one of the Inspector Ikmen books by Barbara Nadel, have you read them? Excellent series of books about an Istanbul polis inspector and his cases, excellent series for winter reading when the tv is less than entertaining.

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  2. I read another version where the guy was tortured and forced to tell Shahmaran’s secret, when captured she said her head has poison that kills anyone who eats it, while her tail will grant wisdom. Regretting his actions he ate her head to commit suicide but ended up gaining her wisdom instead. I think it makes a whole lot more sense, basically Shahmaran gave him a chance at redemption for betraying her trust.

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