Storytelling has been an integral part of life in the Middle East — and Iran in particular — for centuries. Whether spoken in the streets, played as a game or painted on a canvas, Iranian folkloric tradition, with its uniquely theatrical and magical approach to the question of what it means to be a denizen of the earth, traverses regions and generations. Fairy tales, jokes, religious allegories, and animal legends have long been a part of a continuing oral and visual history, though the number of Naghals (traditional Persian storytellers who narrate painted scenes) has dwindled in recent decades. Still, elaborate storytelling in all forms remains ubiquitous, and to be Iranian means having the ability to suspend one’s disbelief and succumb to the sometimes troubling, sometimes beautiful details of an oft-told tale.

Read More: Farideh Lashai