A mysterious being inhabits the Veil. It has been referred to as the Bird, the Eye of the Bird, the Bird King, the Simurg, and
. This creature is so enigmatic that it is difficult to form conclusions about it.
- 1 Evidence regarding the Simurg
- 2 Themes
- 3 The Simurg in religion and folklore
- 4 Other instances of the Simurg
- 5 References
Evidence regarding the Simurg
The following is a collection of evidence regarding the Simurg and its nature.
During a hypnotism session with Dr. Wakefield, Devitt recalled seeing an eye:
- "It was like an eye, perfectly rounded and dark. Deep and empty, accompanied by the most horrifying, pain-filled screams I've ever heard. Inside, a complete darkness where an evil dwells deep below. A forgotten fear for human reasoning but undoubtedly, still rests deep down inside our being. In my case, that fear has already awoken."
- "It's very hard to describe. Something beyond human logic. He was bathed in darkness. Not a darkness of shadow but of malice. A sinister force, lying in wait. It communicates not in a language of the human tongue but in a language of fear. The tendrils of this fear creep and entangle my soul, swallowing me within the maw of its darkness. I resist yet am drawn to the eye."
At the end of the chapter, Father Ernest described seeing a bird’s eye in the Veil:
- "It was our curiosity that damned us. We opened that which should not be opened. In doing so, we shorn The Veil that separated our world from His. In seeking vision we were ourselves seen by the Eye of the Bird… The Eye of the Bird saw us, it remembers us, it looks for us, it calls us from its dark nest, from its abominable lair. All these years I have attempted to return to it but I have no strength left."
The Four Witnesses
A violin player told Devitt,
- "In the fog we haven't eyes but we count on our ears. To find your way, you must search [for] the Simurg."
When Devitt looked through a keyhole into a bookshop, he briefly saw a bird's eye staring back at him.
When Devitt asked the shadowbook reader about the Simurg, the man responded,
- "Simurg... Simurg... Ahh, yes, The Bird King. There is a book of ancient poetry here that makes mention of him. I'm sure you can find it here somewhere."
When Devitt found the book, he remarked,
- "On the ground lies a book entitled "The Songs of Zhai-La." The page to which it was open has been torn out but the remaining fragment identifies a song title: 'The Search for Simurg'."
The song's lyrics
- "First into the wind,
they sought for the King.
But lost were the birds;
they wept in suffering
And flew to the sea,
compelled by a need.
They found there silence;
their quest was complete."
At the end of the chapter, Alexandre also mentioned a powerful bird.
- "The Bird protects us. It is by his design that we should meet again. But we are not the only ones who take shelter beneath his wings… His influence and power is ever expanding, ever reaching. Do you not feel him beckoning?"
- "When you meet the lady that reads tarot cards, fill up the lantern before going to the area in front of the house that leads to the fog. Once you have filled up the lantern go to the house and follow the man inside, then go straight to the garden of the house to see his shadow turn into crows and fly away."
Also see Achievement:Master of the Occult in this wikia.
When Devitt and Alexandre returned to the Veil, Alexandre mentioned the bird again:
- "I am waiting for you. Here, in the mist... It's nearby... I can hear it."
- "What is nearby? What do you hear?"
- "I hear the beating of its wings.... It knows we are afraid."
- see "Beyond the Curtain" (below)
My Dearest Visitor
- No known references (though see "King and protector," below).
- No known references (though see "An unbearable gaze," below).
Beyond the Curtain
- "My father discovered several ancient myths pertaining to the Veil. They come from a variety of cultures and hence take many different forms. But they all say something similar about what resides near the Threshold. An ancient being that sleeps within the fog, protecting the Door from intruders. A vengeful Custodian… Those tales… they all say that if an intruder ventured too close to the Door, and was seen by what sleeps in the fog... It would pursue the intruders and destroy them, wherever they might hide. There would be few ways to protect themselves from its rage."
The Custodian is apparently the sentinel that Captain Skidd and Sergeant Conghill encountered in Majuba Hill. In Chapter 5, they described the encouter to Wakefield.
- "In the cold air of dusk, a thick fog formed quickly, masking everything around us. We could barely see each other. Then, the others started to disappear in the fog, which was getting thicker and thicker. I could still hear their footsteps for a while… then nothing. I called their names aloud, even though I knew I shouldn't. Something about the fog terrified me. I felt something in there, not far. A murmur or a beating, something alive. Waiting. I couldn't help walking towards it. All of a sudden, my feet felt something in the mud. A body. They were all there! Dead. Only Captain Skidd was missing. Then the mist cleared out."
- "I will never be able to forget that day. Nobody knew what really happened. Command decided that we must have been ambushed. Now I know better. There was something in that fog. Something that did not like us entering its domain. A... sentinel of some sort. That thing is what killed my soldiers."
In Chapter 8, Devitt and Alexandre described this encounter to the other members of The Playwright.
- "[Skidd’s] results are extraordinary, Anthony. It is the best chance we have of avoiding the gaze of the Custodian."
- "There can be no doubt that the Captain survived an encounter before. He even kept a companion from harm."
Skidd agreed to lead The Playwright on an expedition into the Veil, but the Custodian attacked them. This attack took the form of a giant X. As a way of dealing with the trauma of the attack, Hugo made several paintings of the X.
When Alexandre recruited Hugo to take part in Professor Wright’s experiments, he mentioned the Custodian again.
- "[Professor Wright] is eccentric indeed, but I think his thesis may be proven correct. If so, we might have found a way of reaching the Threshold without attracting the attention of the Custodian. A shortcut, you might say. The problem is in the method itself. It has some… unusual requirements. And we would need a man of great sensitivity, who knows the peril of reaching the Door…"
When exploring Zha'ilathal, Wakefield encountered several shadow creatures. One creature resembled a flock of small birds that combined into a large bird. At the very end of the chapter, he described this creature as being the Simurg.
- "As I removed my coat, I found a feather in one of the pockets, the same one that I had discovered before being engulfed by the black mass of the Simurg."
Near the Simurg/shadow creature, Wakefield found a statue of a mythical creature that bore the inscription, “Thirty Birds.” This creature resembles the "simurgh" as it is depicted in Persian folklore (below).
It is difficult to reconcile all of this evidence into a single coherent narrative. However, certain themes seem to present themselves.
An unbearable gaze
- "It was like an eye, perfectly rounded and dark. Deep and empty, accompanied by the most horrifying, pain-filled screams I've ever heard… I resist yet am drawn to the eye."
- "In seeking vision we were ourselves seen by the Eye of the Bird… The Eye of the Bird saw us, it remembers us, it looks for us, it calls us from its dark nest, from its abominable lair."
Other people have also reported feeling the presence of oppressive gazes. Anthony said, “I’m done with their censorious gazes.” Anna said, “I can’t stand their stares” (Chapter 1). Alexandre felt that sculptures were stalking him (Chapter 4). An inmate in the East Hill isolation ward was terrified of an “eyeless gaze” coming from Alexandre’s cell (Chapter 5). When Devitt and Wakefield crossed into the Veil, they both saw clusters of eyes (Chapters 4 and 7). Perhaps these eyes are manifestations of the Simurg.
When Devitt was hypnotized, he saw a giant bird's eye. Ernest specifically described the eye in the Veil as "the Eye of the Bird." When Alexandre referred to "the Bird," he specifically mentioned its wings.
In Chapter 1, crows stalked Beechworth Manor. In Chapter 3, Devitt and the Tarot card reader both heard crows in the distance.
In Chapter 4, dark birds burst out of Alexandre's basement. In Chapter 5, a flock of birds appeared over Miss Konhe's hideout, just as she vanished. In Chapter 6, Professor Wright kept a menagerie of birds, which apparently protected him from "visitors." In the mini-episode, "Wanderer in the Fog," Ms. Parnell had a vision of a beach filled with birds. Any of these birds might be connected to the Simurg, or they might even be the Simurg.
It’s conceivable that there is no Simurg, or that it’s more of an abstract concept. The “compulsion” of the Simurg might be simply the compulsion that we feel when we witness a terrible truth. However, that theory does not explain why birds are a common motif.
It should be noted that the sentinel at Majuba Hill does not seem to fit this pattern. Neither Conghill nor Skidd reported feeling an oppressive gaze coming from the sentinel, nor does it seem to physically resemble a bird. Conghill did report feeling "a murmur or a beating" coming from the creature, which might suggest the beating of wings. However, the sentinel does not appear to have wings.
King and protector
- "The birds were travelling to meet their King when they reached a crossroads. The wretched crow tried to lead them astray and onto the path of mists.
Many birds followed him and were lost forever beyond that veil.
Only the wisdom of the crested hoopoe and the prudence of the red-feathered robin could lead the remaining twenty-eight back onto the path of righteousness. Ever since, the birds have sung their praise, for without the hoopoe and the robin silence would have fallen forever."
- "Hoping for a sign from their gods, they set camp on the beach, where thirty birds awaited to meet their crowned."
- "First into the wind,
they sought for the King.
But lost were the birds;
they wept in suffering."
It is noteworthy that these thirty birds explicitly do not include the crow. In Persian folklore, the Simurg is considered to be equivalent to thirty birds. There is also some evidence in Persian folklore of an evil counterpart to the Simurg. If the thirty birds are collectively the Simurg, then perhaps the flocks of crows are a sort of "anti-Simurg," an unwise, disharmonious being. In Chapter 1, Devitt saw a flock of crows murdering one of their own. Perhaps the crows were a manifestation of that being. When Devitt was hypnotized in Chapter 2, he recalled seeing a large bird's eye that was surrounded by dark feathers. If the "eye of the bird" was specifically the eye of a crow, and crows are not associated with the Simurg, then perhaps the Simurg and the Eye of the Bird are two separate beings.
- "Do you hear them? It's the crows, searching for the moans of the weak and dying. They're calling to each other. They must have found something."
At the end of the chapter, Alexandre said,
- "The Bird protects us. It is by his design that we should meet again. But we are not the only ones who take shelter beneath his wings…"
These statements could be interpreted to mean that Devitt was dying, but the Simurg saved his life. It's possible that the Simurg somehow helped the nuns at St. Gall locate and rescue Devitt after he had been buried alive, or at least gave him the strength to endure until his rescue.
It should be noted that Anthony's father's journal does not describe the Custodian as being either a king or a protector. The creature described in the journal would have no reason to protect Devitt or Alexandre, as Alexandre claimed the Simurg had done in Chapter 3. It's possible that the Simurg is not the Custodian.
The Simurg in religion and folklore
The Simurg appears in many Persian folk tales, where it is described as being a benevolent flying creature, roughly akin to the mythological phoenix. The creature is known by the Persian word سیمرغ, which has been variously translated as simurg, simurgh, simorg, simoorg, simorgh, seemorgh, and simourv. In some legends, the Simurg is so old that "it had seen the destruction of the world three times over. The simurgh learned so much by living so long that it is thought to possess the knowledge of all the ages." 
In some myths, the Simurg lives on the imaginary Qaf of Elburz Mountain, on the top of the Gaokerena tree, which contains the seeds of the elixir of immortality. Qaf (also spelled Kāf, Cafcuh, Kafkuh, and قافکوه) is a mythical mountain that is considered to be the highest mountain in the world.
In Persian, si means thirty and morgh means bird. Hence, simorgh can be read as “thirty birds.” 
The Conference of the Birds
In the poem, all the birds of the world undertake a journey to seek the great Simorgh, whom they hope will be their king. They are led by the hoopoe, the wisest bird. Ultimately, only thirty birds reach the Simorgh's abode, at which point they realize that they have collectively become the Simorgh.
Sholeh Wolpé provides the following summary.
- "The poem begins with the birds of the world gathering together to seek a king. The wisest of them, the hoopoe, suggests they undertake a journey to the court of the great Simorgh (a mythical Persian bird roughly equivalent to the Western phoenix), where they can achieve enlightenment. The birds elect the hoopoe as their leader for the quest. Each bird has specific faults, the sort of shortcomings that generally prevent humans from attaining enlightenment. The hawk, for example, says that he would not wish to continue his journey because working for the great earthly king he serves is good enough for him; the nightingale suddenly decides that he cannot leave his lover, and so on. The hoopoe answers each bird with allegorical stories and great wisdom. The birds eventually decide to continue and throughout the journey ask questions, which the hoopoe answers with wise anecdotes. The last question concerns the length of the journey, to which the hoopoe describes seven valleys that must be crossed before reaching the abode of the great Simorgh. In Persian, si means thirty, and morgh means bird. Hence, Simorgh can be read as “thirty birds”, and in the end only thirty birds make it to their destination. There they find that they themselves, collectively, have become the great Simorgh."
- —Wolpé (2014)
Mateo Pérez, a writer for The Game Kitchen, has stated,
- "we were indeed inspired by the Mantiq al-Tayr and more specifically by the short description that Jorge Luis Borges wrote in his tale The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim."
- —Pérez (2014)
Jorge Luis Borges summarizes the poem by saying,
- "The pilgrims go forth in search of an unknown goal; this goal, which will be revealed only at the end, must arouse wonder and not be or appear to be merely added on. The author finds his way out of this difficulty with classical elegance; adroitly, the searchers are what they seek."
- —Theophanidis (2015)
- "The simurgh is found as a symbol of Sufism (tasawwuf-Muslim mysticism) in literature, where oneness in existence (Vahdet-i Vucud), that is the idea that there is only one existence in the cosmos, is treated. The only being is God, the Creator. Everything that is seen are his various reflections. "God's essence is diffused throughout the world." The Creator is manifested continuously in different forms; therefore, everything seems to be real. Attar and his followers treat this basic idea, represented by the simurgh, for the simurgh is a symbol of God's manifestation. According to the story, the simurgh is nothing but all of the birds. But in order to be able to comprehend this, the birds must pass some stages through the travel of the Soul. The travel, that is the spiritual evolution, is described by means of myths, symbols, and allegories related with the simurgh."
- —Sari (2000)
Book of Kings
Book of Kings (also known as Shahnameh and شاهنامه) is an epic poem and the national epic of Iran. It was written between 977 and 1010 by Ferdowsi, a Persian poet. It includes the story of Zal, a legendary king who was abandoned as an infant because he was albino, only to be rescued by the simurgh.
The Smithsonian Institution provides the following summary.
- "Zal, the father of the hero Rustam, is born with a "face like paradise, ... but his hair was that of an old man." Born an albino, his snow-white hair is considered an ill omen. His father, Sam, ashamed of the newborn's strange appearance, orders Zal to be left in the mountains where the mythical simurgh makes her home. When the phoenix flies from her nest in search of food for her fledglings, she takes pity on the infant and raises him as her own.
One day, a passing caravan catches sight of the noble youth, "whose body was like a cypress tree, whose chest was like a mountain of silver, and whose waist was as slim as a reed." News of the event reaches Sam, who deeply regrets abandoning his son. Sam and his retinue arrive to find young Zal perched on a mountain peak. At first Zal is reluctant to leave the only home he has ever known, but the magical bird convinces him to go with his father. The phoenix hardens her heart for their parting and gives Zal two of her feathers to burn whenever he needs her help. She urges Zal to "go and see what fate has in store" for him."
- —Smithsonian Institution
Zādspram’s Anthology (also known as the Vizīdagīhā ī Zādspram) is a sacred text written by Zādspram, a 9th-century Zoroastrian scholar. It includes a description of the Saena bird of Zoroastrian mythology, which was later known as the Simurgh. In the anthology, the bird is described as
- "resting on the tree of all seeds that grows in the middle of the ocean: when the bird rises from the tree, the motion scatters the seeds into the water, whence they are caught up with the rains and showered back down onto the earth."
- —Stewart, Mistree, & Sims-Williams (2013)
Although the Simurg is usually depicted as being benevolent, there are also legends in which it is evil or morally ambiguous.
- "The simurgh, which comes forth as an important symbol in art and literature, is described and illustrated in two ways in the Turkish-Islamic culture. One is a symbol of goodness and is equivalent to the idea of the good spirit in the pre-Islamic Turkish faith... The other one is a symbol of evil."
- —Sari (2000)
- "The Simurgh is not always depicted as a benevolent ruler and is depicted [as] complacently watching the destruction of the world three times from her nest in the branches of the Tree of Knowledge."
- —Simurgh restaurant
- "The Simorḡ, protector of Zāl and Rostam, has an evil counterpart called by the same name. She lives on a mountain and looks like a mountain or a black cloud; she can carry off crocodiles, panthers and elephants... It is not impossible that both birds are originally identical and the Simorḡ is ambivalent... In the contemptuous description of Zāl’s origin it is said that the Simorḡ spared the child because she could not stomach him."
- —Encyclopædia Iranica
- "The Sēnmurw has an evil counterpart in the bird Kamak, who is one of the monsters killed by Karšāsp. The SaddarBundahišn gives a description of its activities which are the exact opposite of those of the Sēnmurw: When Kamak appeared he spread his wings over the whole world, all the rain fell on his wings and back into the sea, drought struck the earth, men died, springs, rivers and wells dried up."
- —Encyclopædia Iranica
Other instances of the Simurg
Science and technology
Simurgh is a stand-alone proxy software for Microsoft Windows that was developed in 2009. It has been used by residents of Syria and Iran to bypass censorship. In 2012, malicious versions of the software were observed that allow persistent access to the victim’s computer and provide data exfiltration capabilities.
Simorgh is the name of an aircraft and a small-capacity orbital carrier rocket, both of which are manufactured in Iran. On April 19, 2016, the Iranian government conducted the first launch of a Simorgh rocket. It did not deliver a payload into orbit and the purpose of the launch is unclear.
Operation Seemorgh was a security/clearing campaign conducted on July 23, 2013 by Afghan military forces against resurgent enemies in the Loghar province. It was the largest Afghan-led combat operation in more than 30 years.
Seemorgh is one of three orchestral works that comprise the Persian Trilogy. Inspired by the Book of Kings, the trilogy was composed between 1989 and 2000 by Behzad Ranjbaran, an Iranian classical musician. The Seemorgh is "a tone poem in three movements describing the fabulous magical bird Seemorgh... her involvement with humankind and the natural elements surrounding her: the mountain, the moonlight and the sunrise." 
Seemorgh is a website that is devoted to Iranian business and culture.
Games and fiction
Simurgh is a board game by Pierluca Zizzi. It was published in 2015 by NSKN Games. According to the product description,
- "it is a game for 2-5 players who become heads of powerful clans in a fantastical world where humans and dragons live, hunt and go to wars together. As a head of a powerful family, each player will breed mighty dragons, make use of their special abilities, gather resources and try to make their house the most powerful by gathering the most Power Points."
In the web series Worm by John McCrae, the Simurgh is one of the Endbringers, an order of supernatural beings that periodically attack locations around the world. The Simurgh takes the form of a giant woman covered in wings. It can see into the past and future, but it is blind in the present.
The Simurgh Timberland is a location in Guild Wars 2, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game that was published in 2012 by NCSOFT. The timberland was a forest in the Fireheart Rise until it was burned to the ground by the Flame Legion in order to make more space for their bases.
In the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, simurghs are massive creatures that have "the body of a resplendent bird but the head of a regal canine."
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- "Simorḡ", Encyclopædia Iranica [link] [archive]
- "Mount Qaf", Wikipedia [link] [archive]
- "Simorgh, Thirty Birds: On Translating Farid ud-Din Attar", by Sholeh Wolpé, PEN America [link] [archive]
- Mateo Pérez, The Last Door forums (March 7, 2014) [link] [archive]
- "Borges and the Simurgh: We are what we are looking for", by Philippe Theophanidis, APHELIS (March 29, 2015) [link] [archive]
- "The Simurgh: A Symbol of Holistic Medicine in the Middle Eastern Culture in History", by Nil Sari, Proceedings of the 37th International Congress of the History of Medicine (September 10-15, 2000 Galveston Texas, USA). Galveston, Texas, 2000: 156-158. [link] [archive]
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- "Zal and the Simurgh", Smithsonian Institution [link] [archive]
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- "Simorgh First Launch – an Iranian Success or Failure?", by Tamir Eshel, Defense-Update (April 24, 2016) [link] [archive]
- "Flying lead; Afghan Air Force takes over instruction of crucial air mission planning course", by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot, U.S. Air Forces Central Command (November 25, 2013) [link] [archive]
- "The 35th Fajr Film Festival is on its way", Cultural Institute of Art [سی و پنجمین جشنواره فیلم فجر در راه است موسسه فرهنگی هنری] (January 3, 2017) [link] [archive]
- "Behzad Ranjbaran: Persian Trilogy", a review by Blair Sanderson, AllMusic Guide [link] [archive]
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