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Omidsalar, M. (1984). Invulnerable Armour as a Compromise Formation in Persian Folklore. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 11:441-452.

(1984). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 11:441-452

Invulnerable Armour as a Compromise Formation in Persian Folklore

Mahmoud Omidsalar


The tale of a hero with invulnerable armour (or, in general, an invulnerable hero) manifest two wish fulfilments. The first is a desire for a regression to the womb and the feelings of absolute security and safety that such a regression entails. The second is the typically heroic omnipotence fantasies of extreme physical prowess and agility. The invulnerable hero wants to be in the mother's womb without being restricted by it. The fantasy which can satisfy both of these conditions is a compromise formation, one that can afford the hero the blissful and invulnerable state of intra-uterine life without robbing him of his agility or of his freedom of movement. The compromise involves, therefore, the wearing of the mother's womb (as an armour or an impenetrable skin) as this state satisfies both conditions.

At least in Indo-European tradition, the invulnerable hero owes his invulnerability to his mother or a mother symbol (cf. Balder and the goddess Fregga; Achilles and Thetis; Karna and Kunti, etc.). In the folk legend of the Iranian hero Rostam's invulnerable armour, we find a symbolic statement of ambivalence towards the mother. The form of this ambivalence is the by-product of the particularly severe misogyny and identification with the father that is so characteristic of Persian culture. The negative components of this ambivalence manifest themselves in the latent wish to be born of a male mother.

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