young genghis khan picks a wife -- 9/11/15

Today's selection -- from Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. Young Temujin, later known as the Great Emperor or "Genghis Khan," grew up as part of an obscure and minor Mongol clan in the twelfth century CE. He picked his wife when he was nine years old, which was not unusual for his time and tribe:

"The next known episode in Temujin's life occurred when his father took him in search of a wife at the early age of nine by the Mongol count, eight by the Western count. [His father] Yesugei and Temujin set out alone on the quest to find [his mother] Hoelun's family in the east, since, perhaps, Hoelun wanted her son to marry a woman of her own tribe or at least to know her family. More important than Hoelun's preferences, however, Yesugei seemed to have wanted to be rid of him. Perhaps the father sensed the coming struggle that would erupt between his son Temujin and Begter, the slightly older son born to him by Sochigel, his first wife. By taking Temujin far away at this early age, the father probably sought to prevent the full eruption of the rivalry into trouble for his small family.

Genghis Khan, his wife and nine sons

"With only a single extra horse to present to the parents of the prospective bride, Yesugei needed to find a family that would accept Temujin as a laborer for several years, in return for which they would give him their daughter in marriage. For Temujin, this trip probably was his first venture away from his homeland along the Onon River. It was easy to become lost in unfamiliar territory, and the traveler faced the triple dangers of wild animals, harsh weather, and, most of all, other humans.

"As things turned out, the father did not bother taking Temujin all the way to Hoelun's family. Along the way, they stayed with a family whose daughter, Borte, was only slightly older than Temujin. The children apparently liked each other, and the fathers agreed to betroth them. During his time of apprenticeship, or bride-service, Temujin was expected to live and work under the protective eyes of his in-laws, Gradually, the intended couple would become ever more intimate. Because the girl was normally slightly older than the boy, as was the case with Borte and Temujin, she would initiate him into sexual intimacy at the rate and in the timing that seemed appropriate to the two of them."


Jack Weatherford


Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World


Three Rivers Press


Copyright 2004 by Jack Weatherford


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