Genghis Khan is considered to be one of the brightest figures in the world history; his cruelty and the desire to conquer and rule created quite a scare and, at the same time, respectable picture of him and made him both a hero and a miscreant for many people of different nations.
Lister (2000) describes Genghis Khan as the most fearful warrior of all the times, a brilliant ruler, and a qualified manager, who was able to gather so many people and unite them with one simple goal – to listen to him, be proud for being under his ruling, and be afraid of Genghis Khan’s strengths.
Nowadays, it is very difficult to find out reliable primary sources, which provide useful information about Genghis Khan, his inborn power, his appearance, and his personal characteristics; however, lots of historians agree that Genghis Khan’s childhood was one of the most significant factors, which influenced his future attitude to people, his desire to be a leader, and his possibilities.
The issue of Genghis Khan’s childhood will be analyzed in this paper with the help of such pieces of work like The Secret History of the Mongols and The History of the World Conquer and some other sources; this analysis will certainly help to comprehend what made this person so powerful, what caused that unbelievable struggle for leadership, and how his child memories influenced his future military and even personal achievements.
Genghis Khan was born in far 1167; he was named as Temujin after one chieftain, who was captured by Genghis Khan’s father (Ratchnevsky and Haining, 17). Being a son of the chieftain, Genghis Khan could easily foresee his future: he got higher education, his father picked a wife for him, and he had to serve to that wife’s father, than they got married.
Temujin’s childhood was not too long: at the age of three, the boy knew a lot of how to ride horses and care for them; when he was six, he was aware of how to hunt and fish. The point is that the role of horse took an important place in the history of the Mongols, and Khan was one of the first leaders, who comprehended how effective the use of horses could be during the combats and used their strengths (Rossabi, 1994, 48).
His father wanted to prepare his sons for adult life as soon as possible and provide them with some time to improve their skills and train new abilities. However, one day, young Temujin got to know that his father was poisoned; his family was deprived of any kind of protection and support, and the mother of the family, Hoelun, had to care after her four sons and a daughter.
For a long period of time, Genghis Khan and his family had to care for themselves without any additional help: they were suffered from lack of money and food, they could not live under proper conditions, and they could not get any education. Their mother was too strict, and this very quality helped her to bring really powerful and independent children.
According to The Secret History of the Mongols: The Origins of Chinghis Khan by Kahn and Cleaves, the future warrior had unbelievable fear: “Seeing how angry our mother is, We’re afraid of her/We’re ashamed of what We’ve done/We’ll take our leave” (Khan and Cleaves, 140).
With the help of this source, it is possible to understand that the mother was held in both respect and fear. Lots of authors try to underline that fear was huge, and boys just could not do anything without mother’s approval. Genghis Khan got one of the most reliable and useful pieces of advice from his mother – she told him not to trust anyone; she underlined that he could not have any companion, just his shadow.
That advice helped Genghis Khan comprehend that everything he wanted to do should depend only on his powers and abilities; only in this case, he had chances to achieve the desirable success. With time, Genghis Khan’s power became growing. One time, one of his brothers made an attempt to steal a fish from Genghis Khan; in return, the latter killed his brother with an arrow in several seconds.
This way, he demonstrated his orders, his abilities, and his ruthless nature. So, absence of a father, betrayal of the tribe, shortage of food and even water, and constant care of own mother – all this played a significant role in Genghis Khan’s life and his desire to become powerful and respectable.
The point is that “true primary sources about Genghis Khan’s life are very rare… Paintings, sculpture, and other visual art can serve as helpful resources” (Behnke, 134). However, the historians cannot say for sure that the portraits of Genghis Khan, people can observe now, were created during his life. Even portraits cannot present one general image of Genghis Khan and his nature.
It is quite possible to analyze the character of the person by his/her eyes, but even here, people cannot find one similar point: some portraits represent Genghis Khan with green eyes, and on some other portraits, we can observe the conqueror with dark eyes. This is why it is still difficult to say for sure which facts about Genghis Khan were true, and which ones were false.
However, if we talk about Genghis Khan’s childhood, his child memories, and their effects on his future, his power, and his skills, we can say for sure one thing that this person had no fear. The only fear that was still inherent to this great warrior and powerful man was the fear of his mother and his wife.
Lots of primary and secondary sources prove that women had certain power among the Mongols, this is why Genghis Khan’s fear of the two most significant women in his life could be easily justified and prove that this man was not heartless. He had some feelings, but also he had power to control them and show only those people, the awareness of which did not influence his career.
Without any doubts, The Secret History of the Mongols and The History of the World Conqueror by Ala-ad-Din Ata Malik Juvauni’s are the two most significant primary sources, which describe the life of the Mongols and the times of Genghis Khan (Rossabi, 1999, para. 1).
Nowadays, it is impossible to find the original text of these sources, this is why numerous academic journals, adaptations, and books, which refer to the above-mentioned sources may be regarded as not less important works. There are lots of issues about Genghis Khan, which may be analyzed and investigated; however, one of the most interesting ones is still the impact of Genghis Khan’s childhood on his future achievements and fame.
To my mind, it is impossible to be born the greatest warrior even, this is why certain aspects from Genghis Khan’s childhood should be taken into account in order to get a clear picture what can change a person and make him fearsome, powerful, and respectable by millions of people.
Behnke, Alison. “The Conquests of Genghis Khan.” In Pivotal Moments in History. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2007.
Kahn, Paul and Cleaves, Francis Woodman. The Secret History of the Mongols: The Origin of Chinghis Khan. Boston: Cheng & Tsui Company, 1998.
Lister, R.P. Genghis Khan. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2000.
Ratchnevsky, Paul and Haining, Nivison. Genghis Khan: His Life and Legacy. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1993.
Rossabi, Morris. “All the Khan’s Horses.” Natural History 32.10 (Oct. 1994): 48-58.
Rossabi, Morris. “Genghis Khan: The History of the World Conquer.” The Historian 61.3 (1999): 702.