Genghis Khan – Temüjin the Child – Extra History – #1


A young, woman gives birth to a son, on an isolated hillside under the vast Mongolian sky, surrounded by strangers and far away from everything she had ever known. He would grow up to be a leader. To unite the nomadic tribes of northeast Asia. To found the largest contiguous empire humanity has ever known. He would grow up to be Genghis Khan. Music (Birth of the People) The story of Genghis Khan truly begins with his mother, Hoelun. A young warrior traveled to her tribe in search of a wife. He brought gifts for her and her family, and he lived and worked with them for several years. Then, according to steppe tradition, they married. Once married, they set out on a week’s long journey back to his homeland and his tribe. But as they crossed the isolated mountain valleys together, they were ambushed by a group of hunters. These valley hunters, who were far too poor to afford the wedding gifts necessary to secure a marriage with a woman like Hoelun, Resorted to the second most common way of obtaining a wife on the steppes: kidnapping. The couple knew that it was only a matter of time before the hunters found them. Hoelun, barely more than a teenager, embraced her husband one last time. And then, in a moment of true sacrifice, convinced him to escape without her. If she stayed behind, the hunters would be so preoccupied with her that her husband would have a chance to escape. As legend tells, as her love turned to ride away, She took off her shirt and gave it to him, so that he would remember her smell. In the tradition of the steppe, each person’s breath and smell constitutes a part of their soul. By giving her husband her shirt, she was offering him a reminder of her love and her very essence. This was the last time Hoelun and her husband would ever see each other. She was brought to live with her kidnapper, a man named Yesugei, and his extended family, including another wife and their three young children. Not long after, Hoelun gave birth to her first child, a son. The boy was named Temüjin, after a respected warrior that Yesugei had recently killed in battle. But Temüjin did not appear to live up to his namesake. He was a very timid child, easily frightened, scared of dogs, often bullied by his half-brothers. His father spared no love for him, once even forgetting him, and leaving him behind when the tribe packed up to move to a new camp. So when Temüjin turned 8, the earliest age at which it was acceptable to arrange a marriage for a boy, his father went out to find the family to marry him off to. Hoelun asked that they try to find a wife from her tribe, so he could grow up knowing some of his extended family. And it was agreed, they would ride to Hoelun’s tribe. A few days into their journey, they stopped at a small yurt to eat and rest. The family hosting them had a young daughter named Börte. The children seemed to get along, and after some negotiation, Yesugei arranged for Temüjin to work for the family for several years, as a sort of dowry. By the time his service was complete, the children, would be old enough to marry. Thus, Temüjin was betrothed to Börte, and his father left him behind to return to his wives and other children. Along the way back, Yesugei came across a group of warriors celebrating a feast. As he sat down to join them, one of them recognized him as the man who had killed their comrade Temüjin, the man Yesugei had named his son after. To exact revenge, they secretly poisoned his food. The poison didn’t kill him immediately; he survived long enough to stagger home to his camp. His family realized the end was near and sent a messenger to summon Temüjin but they were too late. By the time Temüjin returned, his father had died. Without anyone to provide for them, the two wives and seven children Yesugei left behind were forced to fend for themselves, as their tribe abandoned them. Hoelun mounted a horse and, mile after mile, followed them, holding her husband’s horse hair spirit banner aloft to remind them of the service he’d done. An old man took pity on them and spoke up, saying that the band should be ashamed of abandoning the family of a warrior. That moment forever changed Temüjin, because for his kindness, the old man was run through with a spear. Temüjin was devastated. This tragic event marked the beginning of a long harsh road that would eventually turn this young boy into Genghis Khan. That night, the tribe stole the family’s animals and left, seemingly condemning them to certain death. But once again Hoelun saved not just her children, but the entire extended family. She spent days foraging for food. The children bent her sewing needles into fish hooks, and made arrows from sticks to hunt rats and small birds. They learned to tie bones to their shoes to make ice skates, both to play and also to hunt animals across the ice. Temüjin learned not only survival techniques but fundamental tactics. Temüjin had few friends aside from his siblings and half siblings in the isolated step, but he did manage to befriend another child whose family sometimes camped nearby, a slightly older boy named Jamukha. The boys hunted, and played and explored the mountains together. Twice in their childhood they swore an oath to be Anda, or blood brothers. The first time, early in their friendship, they traded dice made from the knuckle bones of sheep, one of the few luxuries available to a child on the steppe. The second time as young teenagers they traded handmade arrowheads. After years of surviving as outcasts, Temüjin’s older brother began to assert himself as the leader of the family. To show his dominance, he stole a fish that Temüjin had caught. Later that same day, he stole a bird that Temüjin had shot while hunting. Upset, Temüjin and his half-brother Belgutei went to their mother to tell her what happened. She said that they should worry more about the tribe who had abandoned them than fighting amongst themselves. Emotions raged, and Temüjin stormed out. He would take matters into his own hands. He had had enough of other people taking from him. Killing his half-brother would make him the oldest male in the family, then he would answer to no one. Temüjin and Belgutei tracked their older brother to a secluded spot in the woods. Their half-brother warned them that without him, they would have no allies left in the world, but the two brothers fired their arrows, And the shots were true. When they returned their mother could read their actions on their faces. She was distraught. Before they had been living as outcasts, but spilling blood made them criminals. As a wanted fugitive, Temüjin was forced to flee, he was quickly tracked down and captured by the very clan that had abandoned him years before. He was put in stocks and made to live as a servant to the tribe’s slaves. But Temüjin did not resign himself to this fate. He bided his time, waiting for the right moment. One day, he had been put under the care of a particularly small and easily distracted young boy. The warriors in the tribe were intoxicated after a day spent drinking. When nobody was looking, Temüjin quickly swung his stocks around and knocked his young guard unconscious. Putting his self-taught tactics to work, he hid in some reed nearby. He knew that his captors would assume that he had tried to run away, and attempt to chase after him. Once the warriors had left the camp, Temüjin escaped his stocks with the aid of a sympathetic local family, and fled into the night. Now sixteen years old, Temüjin had not seen his intended wife in seven years. He went to find her, and, surprisingly, she had waited for him to return,. Despite knowing of his troubles with the steppe tribes, her family agreed to let the wedding proceed. According to custom brides made a gift of clothing to the fathers of their husbands. The family offered Temüjin a fine coat of black sable, the most prized fur on the steppe. But since Temüjin’s father was long dead, he had a better idea for how to use the coat. He approached an old ally of his father, Ong Khan, the leader of a prosperous tribe. Yesugei had fought by Ong Khan’s side long ago and helped him overthrow his uncle to become the tribe’s leader. Family ties were sacred in steppe culture. Alliances were never forged in ink, only by blood. Anyone related to you was an ally. Literally everyone else was assumed to be an enemy. By presenting the coat to Ong Khan, Temüjin was symbolically recognizing as his father. Ong Khan accepted, recognizing Temüjin as his son and thus entitling both him and his family to the Khan’s protection. He offered to make Temüjin a local leader over other young warriors, but shockingly Temüjin declined. With his family’s protection assured, he returns to his home camp to finally enjoy a peaceful life at home. His troubles must have seemed far behind him now that all the children were old enough to work in some way. They had their own camp, and they were under the protection of a powerful Khan. Temüjin would have preferred to remain the ruler of this intimate clan, but the chaotic world of the steppe would not allow such a life. Learning that Temüjin had married, the tribe from which Temüjin’s father had abducted his mother, Hoelun, decided that the time was ripe to take revenge for her abduction. Although Temüjin’s father was no longer alive, revenge was a family obligation. But the Mergids came not to reclaim Hoelun, now a widow who had grown old struggling to raise five children, but for Börte, Temüjin’s young bride. Music (The Infinite Steppe)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *