The Conference of the Birds: A Companion

The Conference of the Birds is a poem written by Sufi poet Farid ud-Din Attar in the twelfth century. In the Persian epic poem, birds around the world gather and under the guidance of the Hoopoe, embark on a journey in search of a king. The journey they embark on is a spiritual one, which reflects Islamic mystic teachings. The poem outlines the sufi path through the bird’s hesitations and fears as they begin their journey and as they pass through seven valleys in order to reach the legendary Simorgh. 

This book is a companion to Attar’s poem, rather than a retelling of it. The first part is a bestiary of twelve birds in the story. It consists of illustrations of the Hoopoe, who guides the other birds, the Simorgh, the legendary bird whom the travelers hope to seek out to become their sovereign, and the ten birds that voice their hesitations as the Hoopoe calls on them to leave on the journey. The illustrations are coupled with passages from the translated text that capture the essence of their characters. The second part consists of illustrations of the seven valleys the birds pass through on their journey, also coupled with passages from the text. As supplementary material, this book is aimed at introducing readers to Attar’s work and helping to guide them on their own journey of reading the poem. The journey the birds in the story embark on requires collective determination and collaboration, which can teach us something about the kind of artistic and communal work we as producers and performers of anthropology hope to engage with.

A Link To The Translated Poem:

The Birds

The Seven Valleys