Notes: The Secret History of the Mongols II

28 Oct 2021

Temujin grows up by a river, living on rodents and such with his brothers and mother. Lady Hoelun fed them on wild garlic, onions, and other forage until they were old enough to hunt. One day, some people steal their eight horses, which are the only way they can stay mobile enough to survive as young men on the steppe. The brothers jockey to be the one to chase them, since there is only one horse left. Temujin chases the thieves. He comes upon a large herd of horses, and a boy among them. The boy offers to help when Temujin asks if he saw the horses. They borrow two of Bo’orcu’s father’s horses, and take off to find the stolen horses. Here I’ll note that each of these horses are given very specific descriptions, so pretend I said something like “Temujin took off to find his brother’s red 99 Honda Civic DX in his new friend’s 2018 Silver Nissan Rogue” or something. Temujin then tells Bo’orcu he’ll take care of the fighting, because he doesn’t want him hurt on his account, so exchanges arrows with the guy guarding the stolen herd. It gets dark, and that’s when Bo’orcu and Temujin get the herd out.

When they return to Bo’orcu’s place, his father is angry because he thought his son disappeared. Bo’orcu explains that he was helping his new friend, and refuses Temujin’s offer of a reward, instead claiming friendship. Bo’orcu’s father says they must be good friends, and tells them to stick together.

Temujin’s family is happy that he’s back, but he’s only back for a little while when he goes off to look for Borte, the wife he was promised to when she was 9 and he was also around that age. He finds her, and her father gives her to him in marriage. Borte’s mother takes Borte to Temujin’s place, which at that time is by a stream in some mountains in northeastern Mongolia.

For their wedding, Temujin’s mother-in-law gifts them a sable fur coat. Temujin tracks down his father’s old friend and gives him the fur coat, suggesting that since his father is dead, Ong Qan is like his father. Ong Qan tells Temujin that he will unite Temujin’s people for him.

An old man from the Uriangqai tribe, a smith named Jarci-udai, finds Temujin and offers him his son, Jelme. Jarci-udai tells Temujin that he gave him sable cloth to be wrapped in when he was a baby, and he is continuing his promise to him then by delivering his son now.

Lady Hoelun’s servant old Qoaqin wakes up, hearing horses in the distance through the ground of her tent. She wakes Lady Hoelun up, who in turn wakes her sons. Everyone gets on horses, but there’s no horse left for Borte, Temujin’s wife. They hide her in a black covered cart, which Qoaqin leads. Some men stop her and asks about where Temujin is. She says she doesn’t know, and claims she’s just out shearing sheep. She hurries forward after they leave, but the axle of the cart breaks. They catch back up to her. They ask her what’s in the cart. “Wool,” she says. They get the youngest of the men to check the cart. They find a Lady. They drag them both behind them and chase after Temujin.

Temujin uses the swamp and thick woods around a mountain (Burqan Qaldun) to evade them. It turns out that these were Merkit men, who came in revenge for the fact that Temujin’s mother Hoelun was a stolen wife. They figure that stealing these two women (Temujin’s wife Borte and Hoelun’s servant Qoaqin) settles the score. Temujin sends his brothers (note which of these are brothers by blood) Belgutei, Bo’orcu, and Jelme to make sure the Merkit aren’t going to ambush them. They observe and report. Temujin comes out of hiding.

Temujin thanks the Mountain for keeping him safe, and sacrifices to it every day. He declares that he’ll make sure his descendants know of how the Mountain saved him. Even today, it is considered an extremely sacred site by UNESCO and the Mongolian government, which has reserved it as a wildlife preservation site. Tourism there is apparently highly constrained.