When I searched online for a listing of “A Wicked History” Series, I discovered that the biography of Genghis Khan was one of the first. Disappointed that none of my local libraries had this one about Genghis Khan, I requested the item through interlibrary loan (ILL). Before reading this slim volume on the guy, I knew next to nothing about him – he was a scary man who still had the world talking, he left numerous descendants, and John Wayne, of all people, played Genghis Khan in a movie sans accent.
Genghis Khan was born Temujin in the twelfth century on the harsh Mongolian Steppe. Here, many tribes duked it out constantly – fighting for survival and turf. His parents were the tough Yesugei and his kidnapped bride Hoelun. This was all but a dog eat dog world where the Mongols and others nomads of the treeless plain lived in yurts and eeked out an existence. When Yesugei died from a poisoned dish, Temujin and his family were left to fend for themselves. Where most perished, Temujin was scrappy and ornery enough to survive.
Temujin grew strong and conquered his world. His warriors maded up the best army and, with them, Temujin terrorized cities, raped and pillaged, rendered people homeless. He punished his enemies mercilessly.
However, Temujin became Genghis Khan (thought to mean “universal ruler”), a man also known for his loyalty and providence. He unified the clans and the tribes of the Steppe. Genghis Khan was even called religiously tolerant and he established a sort of pony express and even a written language.
Not much is certain about Genghis Khan; he permitted no one to paint his portrait and his grave site is unknown. A copy of The Secret History of the Mongols turned up in China in the 1880s. This work depicts a son born in a bad situation, who pursued his own life ruthlessly.
Whether or not Genghis Khan was wicked seems to be an easy call for me. What do you think?
Three Out of Five Pearls
The leaders of the Mongols said to the young Genghis Khan: We will make you khan . . . . And if we disobey your command, separate us from our families, from our ladies and wives. Separates us, and throw down our heads upon the ground! If we disobey you, exile us and throw us out into the wilderness.
– Excerpt from The History of the Life of Genghis Khan: The Secret History of the Mongols
Word Bank: (from the glossary of this book)
- alliance – an agreement to work together
- ally – a person or country that gives support to another
- andas – in Mongol culture, friends who proved the closeness of their bond by drinking each other’s blood
- ballista – a weapon that worked like a giant crossbow; it shot arrows that could break through the walls of buildings
- Buddhist – a person who practices Buddhism, a religion based on the teachings of Buddha and practiced mainly in eastern and central Asia
- caravan – a group of people traveling together
- civilized – highly developed and organized
- clan – an extended family group
- descendant – a person’s child, grandchild, or other such relative on into the future
- empire – a group of countries or regions that have the same ruler
- exile – a situation in which one is forced to stay away from one’s homeland
- firelance – a spear-like weapon with a tube containing gunpowder
- Genghis Khan – Mongol words meaning “universal ruler”; Mongol leaders gave Temujin this title in 1206
- khan – a Mongol word meaning ruler or leader
- Muslim – someone who follows the religion of Islam, a religion based on the teachings of Muhammad
- nomadic – wandering from place to place
- ruthless – cruel and without pity
- sable – a small animal that looks like a weasel; its soft brown fur is very valuable
- sacred – holy, deserving great respect
- scribe – a person who copies documents by hand
- shaman – a person who communicates with the spirit world to help tell the future, control events, or cure the sick
- steppe – treeless plains found in Asia
- sultan – an emperor or ruler of some Muslim countries
- tribe – a group of people who share the same ancestors and customs
- Yasa – the code of law created by Genghis Khan
- yoke – a wooden frame placed around a person’s neck to hold him or her prisoner
- yurt – a circular tent made of felt stretched over a light, portable frame of branches
Places: Mongolia, China, Persia, Armenia, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia
For more on Genghis Khan, please check out the following sites:
- The Legacy of Genghis Khan (LACMA)
- Mongolia : Country Studies – Federal Research Division, Library of Congress
- Genghis Khan @ nationalgeographic.com
- Wild Horses of Mongolia with Julia Roberts – Introduction | Nature