Hoelun was an extraordinary beauty. In those far gone days Mongolian girls did not have a say in choosing a husband: usually the father and sometimes pure chance would seal the fate of a young girl. Oftentimes the girls were abducted or taken by force – just like Hoelun. Genghis Khan’s father, Yesugei Bagatur, the chief of the Borjigin tribe, who traced his lineage back to Alan Goa, the foremother of the Mongols, took Hoelun away from her husband Chiledu – the youngest brother of the neighboring Merkid tribal chief. According to “The Secret History of Mongols” – Mongolian historical chronicles – Hoelun loved Chiledu: otherwise, she would not have torn the shirt off her body, thrown it at Chiledu and cried out: “Remember my scent as long as you live!!!” Sobbing with anguish, Hoelun was desperately thrashing about in the cart. And yet, despite Yesugei’s unusual matrimonial methods, Hoelun eventually came to terms with her destiny. Of course, Yesugei’s distinguished position in the tribe, his tenderness and affection towards her, did not hurt either. Soon Hoelun’s life was stable and tranquil.
Around 1162 Hoelun had her first child. From “The Secret Chronicles” we learn that the infant was born squeezing a blood clot in his fist, which was interpreted as a sign of strength. He was born with fate predestined from above. In accordance with tradition, Yesugei gave his son the name of the foe he had captured – Temujin. Thus was born the future founder of the Mongol Empire – Genghis Khan. After Temujin, one after another, Hoelun gave birth to healthy, strong children: Jochi – Qasar, Khachuin, Temuge and in the ninth year of marriage – a baby girl Temulun. Willful and reserved, Hoelun was confidently governing her household.
The life of the family drastically changed after Yesugei’s death. Yesugei Bagatur had not managed to become a khan, and so his relatives rushed to take the power in the ulus into their own hands. Hoelun would not cede the power and the position belonging to her husband by birthright. Filled with indignation, Hoelun demanded that she- as Yesugei’s widow, and her children – as his heirs, ought to be treated with due respect. Today, Hoelun’s behavior would hardly surprise anyone, however, then, she had caused sheer terror in the Mongol society - with her speeches and actions she had violated the ancient Law of the Steppe – the law that her ancestors had been living by for centuries.
Hoelun was bravely defending the rights of her family, striving to keep the tribe under her own rule. However, her husband’s relatives refused to submit to her authority: Yesugei’s kinsfolk and his vassals alike started to leave the camp. Spirited and determined, Hoelun raised the bunchuk – the flag embellished with a white falcon, the symbol of the Borjigin clan – and dashed after them, in pursuit of the traitors. She succeeded to round up a few of them, but not for long.
Genghis Khan’s mother and her son still remain a unique phenomenon in Mongolian history. Hoelun was the first woman, described in the chronicles, who had caused a true revolution against the old customs of the nomadic society.
People, awestruck by her daring actions, moved as far away from her as they could lest they were contaminated too. Along the way, the relatives took Yesugei Bagatur’s entire property, including the cattle: for Mongols this was tantamount to a death sentence and meant utter destitution. Much more credit is due to the mother who was inspiring her children with own exemplary valor. Besides her own five children, Hoelun took under her wing Yesugei’s youngest wife and her two sons.
Some of the most poignant pages of the “Secret Chronicles” are dedicated to those dreary days of hardship in Hoelun’s life and the heroism of Hoelun as a mother. Reading the Chronicles, we see a woman with a stick in her hand. The tip of the stick has been sharpened. The woman hikes up and folds over the hem of her skirt, then, with a sure hand pulls down her hat of a noble woman and goes on digging out grass roots and marmot bulbs, she is gathering wild berries and fruits from the bushes and trees on the slopes of Barkhan-Khaldun. “Wild onions and garlic were food for the sons of the noble mother, before they became rulers”. Even in the most cruel and harsh circumstances, Hoelun did not stoop to pessimism herself and would not allow her family to fall into despair, she kept telling her children: “A hard-working person cannot die of starvation”.
Young Temujin might have felt despondent if not for his mother and her belief that her eldest son would be a great warrior. She used to predict (program) Temujin, convincing him that as the chosen one he was destined for great deeds:among Mongols of the times described the most importance was attributed to ancestral origins and not the wealth. Her son was of divine origins, therefore, as Hoelun kept convincing her son, he was worthy of becoming a khan, the king of kings, and so were his brothers. Besides, he was chosen by her to take vengeance on those who had condemned her children to starvation. Giving all of herself, she was determined to elevate her children to such unattainable heights, so that all the traitors would grovel at their feet and bow to them. Probably, this was the mother’s plan for taking revenge. We read along in the “Secret Chronicles” that Hoelun was raising her children by the examples of heroic epic tales.She told them about their brave uncle Khabul,who was the first chief to rule all Mongols and the first Ho-Loma to have obtained khan’s title. Temujin, mesmerized by her stories, tried to memorize the ancient tales. This is how, early on in life, he was led to the notion of the ideal khan – the unifier of Mongols.
Temujin always remembered his mother’s valuable lessons and many virtues. Even as an adult – he continued to heed her opinion. For him his mother was sacred.
Years went by. Due to Hoelun’s courage and “iron will” her children thrived and grew up. Temujin was coming of age and turning into a mighty warrior. After winning several battles, so what if they were small – he decided to marry the girl betrothed to him. When the young groom brought his young bride Borte home, his mother-in-law followed along and presented Hoelun with a gift worthy of a queen – a black sable coat. In the future this very coat would play a crucial role in Temujin’s speedy promotion. Hoelun could have gainfully bartered her coat for an entire flock of sheep, once and for all having had ridden her family of poverty. Nonetheless, as a superb politician, with her keen intuition and the ability to take risks, Hoelun decided to invest the wealth which happened to have fallen into her hands, in the political career of her son. It seems highly unlikely that during his honey-moon Temujin would be thinking of anything else but his young wife. Hoelun made a suggestion to use the coat in order to “buy the disposition and the support” of Togril Khan of Keraite. Moved by such an expensive gift, Togril said: “In exchange for the sable coat - I shall bring together your scattered people”. The mother and son’s brilliant plan had worked.
The coat, having been gifted at an opportune time, caused an avalanche of events. Having received Togril Khan’s protection and by becoming his vassal, Temujin obtained a certain status in Mongolian society. With a little help from Hoelun and at a remarkable rate, rumors started to circulate among the people of Mongolian tribes, rumors that the young Temujin was the Chosen One from Above. And so, from every corner of the land nomads were coming to see Temujin, and one after another they would tell him about new prophecies and signs. One man said that he had heard how an ox bellowed: “The gods of the earth and of the heavens wish for Temujin to be the master of the entire nation”. Hard to imagine how was the pre-election campaign organized in those ancient times in the Mongolian steppe. One thing is absolutely certain and true: then and nowadays - there is always a strategist and a visionary behind each campaign, whereas the tools of the trade – an ox or a TV ad – are of no significance. Hoelun fits the description- she had created Temujin’s image, made him the Chosen One.
These were the circumstances of Temujin’s ascend to power. The wise Hoelun, as usual, was fervently guarding his interests, vigilantlyobserving people around him. Always well-informed of the steppe news and rumors, she had timely advice for Temujin. As with many great politicians and brilliant military commanders, Genghis Khan’s first steps on his road to glory had also begun with a loyal “gray cardinal”- his Mother.
The Mongolian people had a new leader – The Chosen One Sent from Above, the descendant of the royal house of Mongols who were born from the loins of their foremother Alan Goa: Genghis Khan himself, thanks to his mother, sincerely believed in his divinity - this belief gave forth to his charisma, which inspired his comrades-in-arms and subjects for great conquests. In the home of Temujin and partially that of his mother, Hoelun –Eke, a new union of intertribal alliance – the Horde – was taking shape. At her son’s side, Hoelun became an influential political figure. Even while Temujin was in Chinese prison for as long as ten years, Hoelun succeeded to hold together the backbone of the Horde and to retain the power of the “golden Borjigin clan.” Hoelun was the core of still small but an army,nonetheless. Hoelun went on developing a reliable security system, as she realized that she could keep the nomads settled for long periods of time only if they felt absolutely safe and protected.
Genghis Khan’s mothergave the Mongols hope that things could change; people trusted her and kept waiting for their leader’s return. Although formally Temujin was replaced by his brother Jochi – Qasar, the latter is credited by history merely as a “good marksman”, nothing more. The real power was in Hoelun’s hands, she was the one to whom people came for help, for advice, to have disputes and conflicts resolved. People were composing songs about her wisdom while she was still living.
After returning from captivity, Temujin defeated all possible contenders for the rank of the Khan of Mongols, afterwards he set to attain a fantastically ambitious goal – the creation of the Great Mongol Empire. Owing much to his mother, Genghis Khan gradually had reached his goal and became his people’s political and religious leader. Hoelun had played a significant role in fostering her great son. She had inspired him with the idea of his divine destiny. By her own example she taught him lessons of courage With her wisdom she helped him to make his first steps on the way to power and to retain it during tumultuous times.Only she had a right to point out his mistakes and lecture the Shaker of the Universe. Till the end of her days Hoelun remained an immense influence on her son. She had lived a long life and was fortunate to witness Genghis Khan’s great victories and his triumph in 1206.
Hoelun is revered as a saint by Mongols.
Historical Note: Genghis Khan (1162–1227), born Temüjin(meaning "ironworker"), was the founder, Khan (ruler) and Khagan (emperor) of the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous empire in history.He came to power by uniting many of the nomadic tribes of northeast Asia. After founding the Mongol Empire and being proclaimed "Genghis Khan", he started the Mongol invasions and raids of the Kara-Khitan Khanate, Caucasus, Khwarezmid Empire, Western Xia and Jin dynasties. During his life, the Mongol Empire eventually occupied a substantial portion of Central Asia.Before Genghis Khan died, he assigned Ogedei Khan as his successor and split his empire into khanates among his sons and grandsons. He died in 1227 after defeating the Tanguts. He was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in Mongolia at a location unknown. His descendants went on to stretch the Mongol Empire across most of Eurasia by conquering and/or creating vassal states out of all of modern-day China, Korea, the Caucasus, Central Asian countries, and substantial portions of modern Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
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