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“He came into the world with little else except the strong instinct to survive,” writes a modern historian1 about Temujin, son of Yesugei: the child who was to become Genghis Khan. And this is not merely a true statement concerning the baby; it is the key to the man’s whole life; the explanation — if there be any — of the conqueror’s extraordinary career. There is no impersonal inspiration, no disinterested love behind Temujin’s long, stubborn struggle against tremendous hostile forces — a struggle that any onlooker would have judged hopeless, at the time. There is no “ideology” of any sort behind his battles, and behind the iron discipline — the order — which he imposed upon the people of fifty subdued kingdoms. There is only a patient, methodical, overwhelming will — the will to survive, — assisted by clear intelligence, and unfailing knowledge of men, or, rather, by an unfailing instinct, clearer, surer and more powerful than that which we generally call intelligence; a mysterious but absolute knowledge of all that was (or could be made) useful to him, and a constant readiness to act in accordance with what he knew. Admirable qualities, which would raise any man far above all men, and which did not fail to set Temujin aside as the greatest conqueror and one of the greatest men of all times. But they were means to an end. And the end was first to keep Temujin alive and then to make him and his family secure. The vision that was to fill the consciousness of the great warrior more and more compellingly as time and victory increased his power beyond all limits was neither the salvation of the world for its own sake, nor its destruction, but the organisation of the world for his own benefit and that of the Altyn Uruk — the “Golden Family” — his family; for the survival of himself and of his power in his sons and grand-sons, clad in luxury and seated upon thrones.

1 Harold Lamb, “The March of the Barbarians” (edit. 1941), p. 41.


Moreover, Temujin — Genghis Khan — is, as far as I know, the first man in history to have shaken two continents while prompted by such a simple, eminently practical aim. There was no vanity in him, as in many a lesser conqueror; no lust for dramatic effects, — although his career be, no doubt, one of the most splendid living dramas ever staged upon this earth. And, despite the “pyramids of skulls” and other such grim realities connected with his name, no superfluous cruelty either; no cruelty out of impulse as occasionally, in Alexander the Great; and no cold-blooded, yet purposeless cruelty for the sheer pleasure of it, as in Assur-nasir-pal, King of Assyria.1 He was too strong — and too practical — to be impressed by the by-products of power. He knew what he wanted, and patiently made himself ready. And when ready, he struck straight at his aim, with the irresistibility — and the divine indifference — of lightning. He is perhaps the first historic figure embodying to the full that which I have called, in the first part of this book, the power of Lightning — the power of Time in its merciless onward rush. His destructiveness was the passionless destructiveness of Mahakala, all-devouring Time. And his aims, so personal, so precise and practical, were but the pretext used by the everlasting forces of disintegration to quicken the march of mankind towards its doom. No one has indeed deserved, more than he, the title of “Scourge of God” given him, in fear, by whole crumbling civilisations. But “God” was, in reality, not the man-loving God of the Christian and Muslim chroniclers, but the impersonal creative-destructive Power immanent in all growth, in all life. The “scourge” came from within, not from without. Genghis Khan was an instance, not a punishment, For his attitude to the living world, manifested on the broadest possible scale, his merciless self-centred claims, were but those of every man in a decaying humanity in which all activity has become more and more self-centred — provided every man had the sincerity, the courage and the strength to admit that, in his eyes, nothing matters but himself, and to carry on that attitude to its logical conclusion. It was the attitude of a doomed humanity, but completely devoid of that monstrous hypocrisy which makes a doomed humanity so repulsive.

1 884–859 B.C.


And it is that harsh frankness of purpose, along with his almost miraculous achievements on the plane of physical reality, that give Genghis Khan that sombre, god-like grandeur in comparison with which the glory of so many men of fame, nay, of so many men of war, appears feeble — “all-too human.”

* * *

From the very beginning, Temujin was schooled by circumstances to believe that he alone mattered. In the rough society in which he was born, many a son of a chieftain doubtless thought the same. Men did outside Mongolia, with less commendable innocence. But most men, at least most children, had protectors and friends, whom they could trust. Temujin was, very early in life, left with none. He had to be ruthlessly self-centred in order to live.

We get a glimpse — but just a glimpse — of his person in his very early years in the words Dai Sechen, the shrewd old father of Bortei the Fair, addressed Yesugei, as he met him riding with the boy towards the camp of the Olhonod (Hoelun’s clan) in search of a bride for him: “Shining eyes and a bright face has thy son...,”1 and in the much less flattering last words of Yesugei himself to Dai Sechen as, after the betrothal, he left the future “Emperor of all men” to his care, according to an old custom: “My son is afraid of dogs. Do not let dogs frighten him...”2 Temujin was then a mere child. And however proud the Mongol chieftain, his father, might have been — as every one of the baghatur (valiant men) of the steppes was, — he was far from suspecting how amusing his simple statement and request would one day appear, when printed in history books, in many foreign languages. And old Dai Sechen’s praise indicated nothing extraordinary in the lad’s physical features or bearing. Many a healthy and intelligent child has “shining eyes and a bright face,” whether on the banks of the Onon or on those of the Rhine. As far as we know, there was, in Temujin, nothing that foreshadowed a conqueror, apart from his latent capabilities and his horoscope — his nature, which circumstances would reveal, and his

1 Ralph Fox, “Genghis Khan” (edit. 1936), p. 57.
2 Ralph Fox, “Genghis Khan” (edit. 1936), p. 59.


destiny. Even in later years, when chroniclers of East and West started recording his world-shaking deeds, none was to dig out of the great warriors remote childhood any significant episode, sign of irresistible might to be, as others had once, for instance, pictured nine year-old Hannibal swearing ever-lasting hatred of Rome before the altar of his grim gods. And, which is more, if one possesses any of that particular historical intuition that puts one, so as to say, in direct touch with the great men of the past, one feels that, had Temujin remembered such an episode from his boyhood, he never would have referred to it in following years. As I said before, he was more interested in his precise purpose than in the exaltation of himself; in solid power than in glory. There was not a trace of conceit in him. Action alone — victory alone — mattered in his eyes; not the long genealogy of victory. That was to be lived; the resplendent result alone, to be recorded. Personal latent capabilities mattered only when they ceased being latent.

But Destiny was soon to begin forging its instrument. A few days after Temujin’s betrothal to Bortei, Yesugei was dead — poisoned on his homeward journey by some Tatar chieftain whose treacherous hospitality he had enjoyed for a night. Temujin was sent for. He came back at once, only to find that his father’s followers had deserted the ordu, that his mother had been refused admission to the tribal sacrifices by the Shaman, and expelled with her children, with ignominy by the other women of the clan. Riding after them alone, with the banner of the nine yak tails, — the standard of the Yakka Mongols, — in vain had the courageous widow tried to shame some of the tribesmen and urge them to return and swear allegiance to the son of their deceased khan. According the law of the steppes, she was now the head of her husband’s ordu, and their legal chieftain until her sons came of age or until a new khan was elected. But the warriors who had come back for a while had slipped away again. “The deep water is dried up,” had they declared, in the poetic language of the nomads; “the strong wheel is broken. Let us go!” And they had joined the Taijiut chieftains, who were powerful.

An outcasted woman and her children — four sons and a daughter — and two other boys, sons of Yesugei by another wife, and an old slave, left to fend for themselves by the


River Orion while the many tents and flocks moved on towards the summer pastures under the guidance of new khans: that was all that remained of Yesugei’s ordu; that was all Temujin’s inheritance; — that and his indomitable will; the will to survive; the will to endure; the will to win a place for himself among the merciless men who had thrown hint aside like a useless burden. A place “among” them? No, but at the head of them, for he was their khan; — the will to hold his own in the merciless world that belonged, belongs, and always shall belong to the single-minded, the cunning and the strong.

He was a mere boy in his early teens. He knew not how to read or write — nor was he ever to know. But he possessed that superhuman will, and he knew what he wanted: first, to live; and then, to live well: to acquire power for himself and for his family, and plenty for his people; to put himself in his place in the world as a khan by divine birth-right. The situation that he now faced could not have been more accurately summed up than in that tragic dilemma which another staggering Embodiment of the Will to survive (but of the collective Will, this time)1 was to set, seven hundred and fifty years later, before a whole great nation: “Future, or ruin!” He did not bother to analyse it. He was too young. And also, abstract thought would have taken time; and he had no time. He set about to hunt; — to live. And he kept in mind his mother’s constant talk about the vengeance that he was one day to wreak upon his enemies, the two Taijiut chiefs, Yesugei’s kinsmen, for whom his people had deserted him.

He hunted — or trapped — whatever there was to be caught: small game; marmots, even field mice; anything that would fill his stomach. He even caught fish and brought them home to he cooked and eaten — such despised food, in the eves of the Mongols, that none would touch it unless bitterly compelled by the pangs of hunger; but Temujin was hungry. He struggled to keep himself alive — and fit — at any cost. He quarrelled and fought with his brothers and half-brothers over the game they captured, and angry shouts and

1 Adolf Hitler, one of whose first great public speeches was on the subject: “Zukunft, oder Untergang.”


hard blows were a. feature of his and their everyday life, in the tiny settlement on the fringe of the woods by the Onon. Already at that early age, Temujin seems to have known no scrupules, and no pity. Apparently — like all naturally single-minded people, from the absolutely selfless idealists, men “against Time” as I have called them, down to people such as himself, with no ideology and no idealism whatsoever, but just a precise, self-centred and unwavering purpose, — he classified the rest of mankind under three well-defined categories: the useful; the useless (but harmless), and the dangerous. In his case, this meant the useful to him, the useless as far as he was concerned, and the dangerous to him — those who stood in his way. His brother Kasar, strong, and skilled with the bow, and full of an almost dog-like devotion to him, was eminently useful, and was to remain so all his life. But Bektor, his half-brother, although he had not his cunning, was stronger than he, and often robbed him of the best part of his hunt. Temujin decided in his heart that he was dangerous. And one day, taking Kasar with him to help him if need be, he walked to the place where Bektor, unprepared and suspecting nothing, stood, peacefully herding the few horses that the family possessed, and he killed him straight away with an arrow.

He does not seem actually to have hated him. In cold blood, he just removed one of the first obstacles from his path. And when the unfortunate lad, dying, begged him not to harm or desert Belgutei, — the other son of Yesugei by the same mother, — he readily promised that he would not. And he kept his word — without difficulty. For Belgutei was not dangerous. (He even proved useful in later life).

Such an episode shows already, in the lad Temujin, the remorseless ruthlessness of the future Genghis Khan. But, however important it might have appeared to him in the heat of his anger, the issue was not worth the deed. The eldest son of Yesugei had better things to think of. And the wise widow, Hoelun, — a woman not merely of courage, but of vision also, — reminded him of the greater issue; of the one issue worthy of all his strength, watchfulness and cunning at that stage of his life: vengeance upon his foes; the reassertion of his rights; his rise, from the status of an outcast to that of a chief, once more. She reminded him and his


brothers of their absolute isolation in the midst of a hostile world, and of the compelling struggle constantly before them — the struggle that should make them forget all pettiness, all jealousy and hatred among themselves. “Save your shadows,” said she, “you have no companions. Save your horse’s tail, you have no whip. The wrong done unto you by the two Taijiut chiefs is unbearable. And when you should be thinking of avenging yourselves on your foes, you go and do this!”1 She was burning with bitter indignation and contempt. She did not blame her sons for killing another boy, and a defenceless one, and their own half-brother. She blamed them for wasting precious time and energy by doing so — already by wishing to do so, — instead of thinking solely of their revenge upon their real enemies. She blamed them — she blamed Temujin — for allowing a side-issue to take, even for a short time, the first place; for not being sufficiently possessed with the one-pointed will, without which the most outstanding qualities are as naught.

Although Temujin thought no more about the incident, he never forgot the lesson.

* * *

Hoelun also told him of his ancestors, the Borjigin, the Blue-eyed heroes, sons of the legendary Blue-Wolf. “Their voices,” said she, “rolled as thunder in the mountains; their hands were as strong as bears’ paws — breaking men in two as easily as arrows. In winter nights, they slept naked by a fire of mighty trees, and they felt the sparks and embers that fell upon them no more than insect bites.”2

And the lad listened with elation to those ancient tales, in the evenings, by the fire of his mother’s yurt, while the bitter wind, — that same wind that had stirred the steppe with aimless fury, on the night he was conceived, — howled in the near-by birch-tree forests and over the grassy expanses, endlessly. And the howling of the wind sounded like the unearthly lament of ten thousand hungry hounds; like the persistant call of ghostly trumpets; like the cry of dying men and horses upon a battle-field as broad as the world. Terrible

1 Ralph Fox, “Genghis Khan” (edit. 1936), p. 61.
2 Harold Lamb, “The March of the Barbarians” (edit. 1941), p. 41.


presences from the superhuman sphere — kelets; spirits of the Everlasting Blue Sky, whom even the bravest dread, for one cannot fight that which one cannot see, — filled the freezing starry night. But Temujin was not afraid. In those moments of pride and elation, his deep instinct told him that the kelets of the Sky never would do any harm to him; on the contrary, that they would help him in whatever he would undertake; that he was their Chosen One for some great work of power, of which he knew nothing yet. He felt within himself their frightful, impersonal irresistibility. But he was no dreamer. And when the morning came, he put that might, stirred in him by the voice of his racial past and by the voice of the Unseen, to the service of the one aim which he understood and pursued as worth its while: his own survival; his own victory over hanger, poverty and humiliation; over the difficulties of his everyday life as an outcast, keeping in mind, all the time, that the first condition of security for him was the annihilation of his father’s kinsmen who had robbed him of his ordu. For, young as he was, he already knew that he was to spare no man who stood in his way.

His mother’s tales of the half-mythical Borjigin only stimulated in him the natural self-confidence which is the privilege of the strong. He too had blue eyes, like those ancestors who, visualised through Hoelun’s poetic speech, appeared as demi-gods. And his thick hair had the colour of fire. He too was a son of the Blue-Wolf. He set himself to his day to day task the hunt for food; and the watch against constant lurking danger — with increasing determination to snatch the best out of every circumstance, turning even the greatest set-backs to advantage.

Guided by his hunter’s instinct, patiently, methodically, he traced his eight stolen horses — all his, horses but one, — for three days over the trackless plains, found them, and drove them back, shooting his unfailing arrows at the pursuing thieves until at last night fell, and they lost sight of him. And at the same time, he won the friendship of Borguchi, a lad who had helped him in this difficult undertaking and who was all his life, to remain his faithful retainer.

On another occasion, captured by Targutai-Kiriltuk and Todoyan-Girte, the Taijiut chiefs, his foes, he escaped them, although a heavy Chinese stocks had been locked around his


neck; and he hid himself entirely in the icy-cold waters of the Onon for a part of the night, the top of his head concealed among the reeds, until a serving man, who admired his courage and cunning, helped him to free himself from the stocks and to reach his tent in safety. And so he grew in years, in strength, in skill, in self-possession. And the irresistible appeal of his personality grew with him. Indeed, from these early days of his life as an outcast, he seems to have developed his ability to bind to his service, for ever, the very best among all those who came in touch with him. And, as in all men predestined to stir multitudes into organised action, the appeal of his personality was the almighty appeal of natural leadership, which leaves none unmoved, save of course those whom their jealousy and envy of the born-leader have rendered stubborn in their hatred of him, and... the congenital idiots.

His strength increased. Constant danger quickened his instinct, sharpened his wits. Repeated reverses stimulated his determination to overcome whatever might have caused them; multiplied his resourcefulness; roused his genius. And the field of his struggle broadened as years passed, and was to broaden throughout his life until it reached gigantic proportions. But his aim always remained the same: his own survival; the survival of his family; his revenge upon the bitterness and destitution of his early years — the very aim he had when he used to trap and eat marmots and mice, failing better game, and wait for hours in hiding until he could no longer hear, in the distance, the hoofs of the Taijiut horsemen who had been seeking to kill him.

Temujin was now a hardy, crafty young man with a handful of admiring friends — ready followers — and his first task lay before him, namely, the task of winning back his people from the Taijiut chiefs. But he never was rash. He took his time felt the ground before proceeding, and allowed the patient play of circumstances — his invisible allies — to work for him. However, as soon as his instinct told him that the auspicious moment for a decisive step bad come, he acted straight away.

Just now, he rode once more to the tents of the Olhonod clan to claim Bortei, his betrothed, from old Dai Sechen. The latter, feeling in him a promising young baghatur, did not hesitate to give her to him, although Temujin was poor and


still powerless. But he was far from suspecting that, by doing so, he was making the beautiful young girl immortal. Along with her, he handed over to his son-in-law a black sable coat: her dowry. It was a magnificent gift, and the first treasure the son of Yesugei ever possessed.

He valued it, no doubt, for he loved splendid and precious things. Still, his reaction was neither to remain happy in its ownership, not to exchange it for gold or silver — other treasures of the same class. There was but one treasure worth struggling for, in Temujin’s eyes: a life of freedom and of plenty, which implied — which always implies — a life of power; his birth-right; the life of a khan of the blood of the Blue-Wolf, son and father of khans. He presented the sable coat — all he had — as a gift to the powerful chief of the Kerait Turks, Togrul Khan, whose numerous tents, some of which were said to be made of cloth of gold, were pitched not far from the Great Wall of Cathay. And he asked him nothing in return... save his friendship, i.e., his potential usefulness. The Khan, a crafty old man, whose reputation of riches had even reached far-away Europe,1 had been pleased to bestow his protection upon some of the smaller chieftains of the steppes and he had accepted to be Yesugei’s anda or sworn brother. Temujin turned to him. He needed an ally in his bitter struggle for survival, and this one could prove handy. In a gesture of diplomatic genius, he gave him his all, and spoke to him of the old oath and of the son’s filial allegiance to the father’s patron. Togrul Khan was flattered and felt inclined to help the young baghatur, if ever need there were.

Need soon came. The forest Merkit had never forgotten the insult done to them by Yesugei when he had snatched Hoelun away from one of their men. They raided the small camp on the border of the Orion, carried off newly-wedded Bortei to avenge upon her the old wrong, and pursued Temujin as long as they could — until he reached Burkan Kaldun, the “mountain of Power,” and took refuge in the thick woods upon its slopes.

All seemed lost, now. All was lost, save Hoelun, the

1 A convert to the Nestorian form of Christianity, Togrul Khan the fabulous “Prester John” of mediaeval tales.


grim, warrior-like mother, the prophetess of deadly struggle and merciless revenge, and Temujin himself, with his invincible determination to win back his right to live, and with the seal of Destiny set upon him, already before his birth. While the exultant Merkit, shouting and singing and jeering, carried Bortei the Fair and Yesugei’s second wife, Belgutei’s mother, to their camp; while they feasted and got drunk round the bright camp fires, until dawn, the future master of Asia slept under the cover of Burkan Kaldun’s living mantle, the dark forest. He wasted no energy in grief for his losses, nor in anticipated fears for what was likely to befall him. He just slept — leaving the forces of the invisible world to work for him in their mysterious way, since there was nothing else lie could do. And when morning came — while his enemies slept a drunken sleep, — he humbled himself before the Unseen and All-pervading, the Power of the Eternal Blue Sky, Which the Mongols worshipped.

In a ritual gesture, as a man making submission to an over-lord, he took off his cap and hung it upon his waist, and unbuckled his leather girdle and hung it round his neck, and thus bowed down nine times before the rising Sun, acknowledging his own nothingness in the face of the Source of all life and all power. And he poured a libation of kumys, mare’s milk, and made a promise: “Burkan Kaldun has saved my poor life,” said he; “henceforth I shall make sacrifice here, and call on my children and grand-children to do likewise.” He was grateful to the Unseen for his survival. He now realised that a Power far beyond him wanted him to survive; was his ally. But he did not know yet to what purpose, or if he did, dimly, — for he was ambitious, and no dreams were too great for him, — he did not allow the lure of an undefined future to interfere with the stern, precise preoccupations of the present. He only knew that the spirits of the Sky, and also the spirits of the earth and forests and waters were with him, and that he would triumph, in the end, over his immediate enemies: over those who had hunted him on that night and also over those who had been hunting him all his life; he knew that he would, one day, make good for his losses, and live as a khan should live.

In the meantime, he stood before the radiant Blue Sky, on Burkan Kaldun, near the head waters of the Onon, of the


Kerulen, of the Tula — of the tributaries of the River Amur as well as of those of Lake Baikal; of the rivers flowing east as well as of those flowing west and north, he who was, one day, to conquer in the four directions. He stood there, grateful and humble — strong, as only the sincerely humble can be. And the rays of the Sun, Source of power, shone upon his greasy face1 and upon his thick, fiery-red hair, that the wind shuffled. And in this blue eyes — sign of the more-than-human blood of the Borjigin, — one could have read the joyous serenity of a man who knows that nothing can crush him.

Soon, with the help of Togrul Khan’s warrior’s and of Jamuga Sechen — Jamuga the Wise — who had become his sworn brother, Temujin raided the Merkit camp, bringing back much loot (or what appeared to him as “much loot,” at this early stage of his career) and a number of captives who swore allegiance to him. He won back Bortei. But he was never sure whether her first-born, Juchi — “the Guest” — was his son or that of the man to whom she had been given on that night of shame. However, the boy was sturdy — a future warrior. He would be useful. (In fact, he was, one day, to conquer and rule the steppes beyond the Caspian Sea). He was welcome, whosever son he might have been. For Temujin was too intelligent, too practical not to realise that “healthy children are the most precious possession of a nation.” But, unlike the superman who uttered these memorable words on several occasions, in our times,2 he was no idealist. He was only interested in potential warriors inasmuch as their devotion to him, and their efficiency, would help him to assert himself as a lord in the steppes, after crushing all his foes. The very Power of the Eternal Blue Sky before which he humbled himself — conscious as he was of its awful limitlessness, — he regarded as his ally in his struggle for power and plenty, like most primitive men look upon their gods as helpers in the pursuit of personal ends. At the bottom of his heart, he believed in himself alone. He felt as though the forces of the great Unseen were the first to come under the spell of his boundless, magic will.

But the impersonal Power of the Blue Sky — if at all

1 The Mongols used to smear their skin with fat, to keep out the cold.
2 Adolf Hitler.


conscious of itself and of him, — must have regarded him as one of the most perfect instruments of its everlasting, serene and merciless Play.

* * *

Nothing seems to bring further success as success itself. Now, after this first victory, Temujin witnessed many followers come to him of their own accord, to offer him their services. He already had his own devoted brother, Kasar, the Bowman, and faithful Bogurchi — the youth who had once lent him his horse to ride in search of his eight stolen ones, — and Jamuga, his anda or sworn brother, and Jelmei, the son of one of Yesugei’s former vassals, who had joined him after the rumour had spread over the steppes that he had renewed his father’s friendship with Togrul Khan.

Now Munlik, to whom Yesugei had once entrusted him, as a helpless boy, soon to be an orphan, and who had nevertheless deserted him like the rest of the ordu, came back to, him with his seven (presently grown-up) sons, one of whom, named Kokchu, was to win fame as a shaman. Others came too: some from Temujin’s own Kiyat clan,1 some from other clans, some from altogether other tribes: Jebei, Kubilai, great warriors; and the very embodiment of valour, virtue and military genius, Subodai, destined, one day, to lead the Mongols across Europe, now a bare youth in his teens, full of passionate devotion to the rising Khan.

Few men in history have inspired in their followers such absolute loyalty as Temujin. “I shall gather for thee like an old mouse, fly for thee like a jackdaw, cover thee like a horse blanket, and protect thee like al felt in the lee of the wind. So shall I be towards thee,”2 young Subodai is said to have told him, as he joined his nucleus of heroes. And if so, he indeed kept his word to the end. The other paladins, whatever picturesque similies, different from his, they might have Used to express their devotion, were equally eager to stand or fall, with Temujin in his bitter struggle for survival. They loved him, not for the sake of any great idea behind him

1 Harold Lamb, “The March of the Barbarians” (edit. 1941), p. 41.
2 Ralph Fox, “Genghis Khan” (edit. 1936), p. 76.


there was none — but for himself; for the magnetic appeal of his person and personality; for the complete satisfaction which he gave, in them, to the natural need of man to be led by a real leader and to worship a living god. He was a leader, if ever there has been one. And he was a god in the sense that, even before his staggering victories, nay, even in the depth the forest where he hid, upon the slopes of Burkan Kaldun, at a hair’s breadth from destruction, he had in him all the qualifications that were to give him, in years to come, the empire of Asia. The forces of the Invisible had actually set him apart, above other men, and associated him with their power. As the shamans of Mongolia were soon to say, “the power of the Everlasting Blue Sky” had “descended upon him.” Here, upon earth, he was “Its agent.”1

I repeat: there was no ideology behind any of his undertakings. Even the great dream of Mongol unity, which was soon to take shape within his consciousness, if it had not already done so by now, was not the dream of an idealist. In its materialisation, Temujin merely saw a preleminary condition of his own survival and security. It is for his survival and his security that his paladins fought. Also for the loot that they would share with him, naturally, — and they knew that he was generous, and that he never broke the promises he made to his friends — but, first of all, for him; for the sheer pleasure of fighting at his side.

Few men in history have understood — felt — as keenly as Temujin the eternal, meaning of war, that vital function of healthy mankind (so long, at least, as man lives “in” Time) as natural as eating or mating. Few have painted out as clearly as he that destructiveness without hate — such as that of the hunter, — can never replace the intoxication of victory over human enemies whom one does hate. His companions, to whom he had once asked what they considered to be a man’s greatest joy, had replied, as simple Barbarians would, describing to him the pleasures of the chase. But the future “Scourge of God” said: “No, ye have not answered well.” And he gave them his conception of happiness in a few typical sentences: “The pleasure and joy of man,” said

1 Harold Lamb, “The March of the Barbarians” (edit. 1941), p. 54 and 57.


he, “lies in treading over the rebel and conquering the enemy; in tearing him up by the root; in taking from him all that he has; in making his servants wail, so that their tears flow from eyes and nose; in riding pleasantly upon his well-fed geldings; in making one’s bed a litter upon the belly and navel of his wives, in loving their rosy cheeks and kissing and sucking their scarlet lips.”1

Not that he was not always ready to strike, even without the feeling of aggressive hostility — lust of vengeance, or mere hatred of opposition — at those whom he regarded as obstacles. That, he surely was, as one can clearly see in every act of his career, from the casual murder of Bektor, in his childhood, to the systematic wiping out of all the useless (or those whom the Mongols considered as such) among the population of conquered cities, years and years later. Expediency, of course, always came first, with him, the ultimate incentive of all his actions being his reckless determination to survive and succeed. But his emotional incentive, whenever he had one also, was always the pleasure of breaking down whomever and: whatever prevented his own expansion; whomever stood in the way of his fullest possible self-assertion; whomever threatened his person, his security, his hold upon things: the rebel; the rival; the enemy. It is the everlasting incentive of all men of action-warriors and others — who live entirely “in Time.” But only the best ones among them, — those who are, like Temujin, free from hypocrisy, — have the sincerity to admit it to themselves, let alone to tell it to others as plainly as he did. Of such ones, the son of Yesugei is, perhaps, the first one in date to have made history on a continent-wide scale (the first in date, at any rate, about whom enough is known to enable us to trace his psychology, to a certain extent). That is why we find that frankness in him. Of the other great self-centred destroyers after him, hardly any is without a notable amount of hypocrisy in his make-up. And that amount increases — as it is to be expected — as we get nearer our own times, while in Temujin, — the “Lightning” — man par excellence, as I have called him, — there is no pretence.

* * *

He did not remain’ idle after his victory over the Merkit.

1 Ralph Fox, “Genghis Khan” (edit. 1936), p. 88.


The powerful Taijiut chiefs, still in possession of the greatest part of his father’s ordu, viewed his alliance with Togrul Khan with suspicion and his first victory with resentment. This son of Yesugei was surely a baghatur full of possibilities. They hated him all the more for it, and regretted they had not killed him years before, when he had been a helpless captive in their hands. Now he knew of their hatred — his mother had been reminding him of it all his life — and he knew that he would never survive unless they were destroyed. And he waged war upon them at the first opportunity.

In one of his encounters with them he was wounded in the neck, by an arrow, and only lived thanks to the devotion of Jelmei, his faithful squire, who sucked the wound clean and risked his own life in order to bring Temujin some curds mixed with water, to drink. As one of his modern biographers says, “nothing was to come easily to this man.”1 The Taijiut were a numerous tribe, and Targutai-Kiriltuk and Todoyan-Girte were fierce warriors. Yet, in the end, Temujin’s nucleus of an army, in which he was already beginning to enforce that iron discipline that was to make the Mongols invincible, beat them in a major battle in which Targutai was slain. Todoyan-Girte, captured, was also put to death. The future conqueror was never to allow an unreconcilable enemy to live. But a number of minor chiefs who submitted and swore allegiance to him, were spared, despite some assertions of the contrary, dismissed by modern historians as tales of fear, or deeds of other baghaturs erroneously attributed to Temujin.2 And the bulk of the tribe was also spared, its able-bodied men soon being incorporated into the all-powerful military machine that was taking shape in the Mongol’s hands: the horde. Temujin could, no doubt, inflict suffering. Traitors to him, when found out, were condemned to death by torture. To such a death he had, also, after his victory over the Merkit, condemned the man who had raped Bortei. But this he did with a view

1 Ralph Fox, “Genghis Khan” (edit. 1936), p. 69.
2 Harold Lamb (in “Genghis Khan, Emperor of all men”) dismisses the story of seventy captured chieftains boiled alive at Temujin’s orders, as “most improbable,” while Ralph Fox (Genghis Khan,” edit. 1936, p. 82) states that this treatment was inflected not by Temujin upon the Taijiut, but by Jamuga, upon seventy of Temujin’s followers, after war had broken out between the two sworn brothers.


to strike terror into the hearts of potential enemies. Other-wise he was too practical to indulge in cruelty for its own sake. He killed to remove obstacles.

Now, after the defeat of the Taijiut, he was the paramount chief in northern Gobi — quite an important man among the so-called Barbarians, but nothing to be compared, in riches, with Togrul Khan; and still totally unknown to the outer world West of the Altai Mountains and beyond the Great Wall of Cathay. The Chinese, always busy playing a game of balance of power among their turbulent nomad neighbours, — seeking who was prepared to help them humble the latest tribe that had given them trouble — did not turn to him but to the Kerait Turk, to ask for his collaboration in an expedition which they led against the Tatars. But Temujin joined Togrul Khan in the expedition and defeated the Tatars. The patronising officials of Cathay gave Togrul Khan the Chinese title of Wang, which is translated as “prince,” while Temujin was named something which means “Commander of the frontier” — a modest military distinction, in comparison. But he does not seem to have cared. As all practical and single minded people, he never attached undue importance to external signs of power. The Tatar chiefs now swore allegiance to him. The Tatar warriors now increased the ranks of his potential army. He knew what he wanted and where he was going. He had the clear vision of a day when, in the steppes, he, Temujin, would no longer have any rival or any enemy; when he, who had been hunted all his life, would emerge at last more secure and more powerful than his father had ever been. And then... the will to survive might give way to the will to conquer.... In the meantime, he let the Kerait chief be “Wang Khan” — “the prince” — and entirely devoted himself to the organisation of, his warriors and of his increasingly numerous ordu.

The discipline he imposed at first seems to have been rude and primitive enough. At some feast, at which his drunken followers had started quarrelling, it is said that he himself brought them to their senses with a wooden club — the only argument that was sure to be understood, in that rough society. But the nomads appreciated the fact that, whatever were the methods he employed, he always managed to control his men; and also that he kept them in good fighting condition.


“He feeds his warriors, and keeps his ulus in good order”1 was the opinion the tribesmen had of him. And it was a much higher opinion than it may sound to sophisticated people.

But then, he soon proceeded to create a real army out of his hitherto unruly warriors, and a nation out of the coalesced clans of the Mongols and of the subdued nomad people. The bravest and most efficient warriors among those who were blindly devoted to him, companions of his early struggle for survival, became at the same time his trusted bodyguard and his General Staff. Others were made officers in command of tribal levies. All those were the nokud, owing allegiance to no one but to Temujin himself, and invested with absolute power — with the right of life and death — over the men under their command. Temujin lay down strict rules, codified in the broader Yasa, of which I shall speak later on, concerning the equipment, routine and discipline of the troops. He trained his soldiers and his officers until he had in hand a force that moved and acted as a single man, — absolutely reliable; absolutely efficient. He put a stop to all feuds between the tribes that had submitted to him, crushed individual quarrelsomeness, killed the spirit of individual independence, moulded the proud Mongols (and the conquered tribes) into one increasingly numerous, highly disciplined collectivity, in which each and every unit had but one duty: to obey the authority set immediately above it, without murmuring, without questioning. The army dominated that nation in the process of formation. And he, Temujin, was the guiding and organising intelligence, the will and the soul of the army. The faithful chosen few among those commanders of genius who were to help him take the world unto himself, were, in his hands, like hounds in the hands of a mighty hunter — hounds “fed on human flesh and led on an iron leash,” as the terrorised tribal chieftains, yet unsubdued, were beginning to think; and whom they described, in the forceful language of the steppes, full of suggestive similies, the language of warriors and poets: “They have skulls of brass: their teeth are hewn from rock; their tongues are shaped like awls; their hearts are of iron. In place of horse-whips, they

1 Ralph Fax, “Genghis Khan” (edit. 1936), p. 110.


carry curved swords. They drink the dew and ride upon the wind.... The foam flies from their mouths, and they are filled with joy.”1

* * *

The friendship between Temujin and Togrul Khan, the rich Kerait chieftain, — now “Wang Khan” — was not to endure. True, Temujin had, in many ways, made himself useful to his father’s anda, whom he courteously called his “foster-father.” He had been warrying at his side not only against the Tatars but against the forest Merkit also (who, although once defeated, were yet far from subdued) and against the Naiman. He had (in exchange of payment of course) protected caravans against the attack of unruly tribes and made the trade routes safer than ever before. And in the prosperous Kerait settlements — half camps and half markets, — the merchants were grateful to “Wang Khan” for the alliance he had made. But Wang Khan started intriguing against Temujin with Jamuga, Temujin’s ambitious sworn brother, who had a personal conception of Mongol unity, different from his. And the son of Yesugei did not feel safe until he had broken booth these new foes.

But he did not yet feel strong enough to challenge Wang Khan openly, in a war to the finish, and, after a first indecisive encounter with him, he sent him an outwardly friendly message mentioning old, bonds, old services, and expressing the desire of lasting peace — although he knew there could be no such thing. The old Kerait, and his cunning son, Sen-Kung, knew that also, and rejected Temujin’s advances. Temujin, again at one of the tragic hours of his career — again before the same momentous alternative which he had faced years before, in the pine woods of Burkan Kaldun; the alternative of “future or ruin,” to quote once more the immortal modern words — withdrew with his trusted warriors to the marshes round Lake Baljun and waited. And again the spell of the indomitable will to survive was to compel — so as to say — the power of the Everlasting Blue Sky to descend upon him and to carry hint to victory; I say “the spell,” for there is a positive magic

1 Ralph Fox, “Genghis Khan” (edit. 1936), p. 101. Harold Lamb, “The March of the Barbarians” (edit. 1941), p. 54.


potency in the one-pointed, concentrated will, that stops at nothing.

The Sun rose and set over the waters of Lake Baljun, and Temujin’s companions hunted for food in the salty marshes. One dreary day succeeded another. Temujin thought: “The victory of the Kerait would mean the end of me. Therefore I must overcome him, never mind by what means. Where force is insufficient, let cunning supplement it!” And he bade his devoted brother, Kasar, the Bowman, send a message to Wang Khan — a lying message, stating that Temujin had fled no one knew where to, and that he, Kasar, in despair, was planning to desert his banner and to surrender to the Kerait Khan, whose protection he wished to secure. “Treachery,” would say the chivalrous and the truth-loving, and those who value spotlessness more than life. “Necessity,” would reply Temujin, and, with him, all single-purposed men of action, including the most unlike himself, the selfless idealists, to the extent that they too are, practical, and wish to accomplish something in this world of untruth, hatred and stupidity; necessity — the only choice of the fighter who feels himself cornered and who, yet, is determined to win.

Wang Khan believed the clever lie — believed in peace and security — and ordered a feast. Temujin, appearing by surprise, stormed the Kerait camp. The old chief was captured and killed while attempting to flee. His son went south, only to meet his death a little later. Those of the Kerait Turks who were not slain in battle were incorporated into Temujin’s confederation of tribes under Mongol overlordship. Their most desirable women were as usual given to the chieftains of the army. Temujin kept for himself one of the two beautiful nieces of Wang Khan, allotted to him in the division of the spoils. She became his fourth wife. (He had taken his second and third one from the defeated Tatars.) The other he gave to Tuli, the youngest of his sons by Bortei. She was the famous Siyurkuktiti, fated to become the mother of three conquerors.

And now, he turned his forces against the Naiman, a numerous, semi-settled people whose Khan, Tayan, had a Uighur chancellor, and many subjects who professed Buddhism or the Nestorian form of Christianity, apart from those who clung to the old spirit-cult of the steppes. Temujin’s anda,


Jamuga, had been intriguing with Tayan against him — pointing out, in him, the enemy of the tribesmen’s proud, personal liberty (which indeed he was; for individual liberty and iron organisation do not go together.)

The Naiman, despite their number, were defeated, their chief, killed, and Jamuga, who had fled, captured and brought before Temujin. There was no longer, for him, any hope, any possibility of becoming important, let alone powerful. And Temujin, who knew this, was willing to pardon the man who had sworn him eternal friendship... once, long before, in the days when he had been poor and hunted, and without friends. In, victory, he could be generous to an enemy who had ceased being dangerous, a fortiori to an old friend. But Jamuga did not wish to live. Perhaps he felt that there could be no place for him in the new world that Temujin was forging out of discipline and war. He asked to be killed without spilling of blood so that, according to the belief of the Mongols — his spirit might continue to live, unchanged, in the world, and “help for ever the descendants of Temujin” (whom he could not keep himself from loving, at heart, for the sake of old times.) And he was smothered to death.

Temujin then broke the last resistance of the Merkit, his old enemies, taking from them his fifth wife, Kulan, whose beauty was to be praised through the ages by the minstrels of the steppes. Toktoa, the Merkit chief, was killed. Lesser tribes either were subdued by the irresistible Mongol horsemen, now organised into a regular army, or came forth and made submission of their own accord, feeling that there was nothing else that they could do.

* * *

Temujin was now the master of all those tribes which he had conquered and united, from the Altai Mountains to the Great Wall of Cathay. It had taken him years to win that position — years of patient, stubborn struggle, during which, more than once, all had seemed to be lost, while again and again his superhuman will-power had enabled him to triumph over every obstacle, compelling, as I have said before, through its invincible magic, the Powers of the Unseen to fight on his side. Thanks to that tremendous will, seconded by his


military genius — his skill at organisation; his knowledge of men; his inborn intuition of historical necessity; — he had indeed survived, he, once the hunted boy who had lived on the mice and marmots he managed to trap, robbed of his inheritance, rejected by his father’s scornful tribesmen, harassed by his deadly enemies, day and night. And not only had he regained his father’s position among the nomads, but he had created (apparently out of nothing!) that which the steppe-dwellers had not seen since the great rise of Turkish power seven centuries before: a real nomad kingdom, ruled from the saddle. From his very childhood, surrounded on all sides by treacherous foes, he had understood more and more clearly that only if he could become a king would he, at last, be safe. And he had fought to that end, and now, in the fiftieth year of his age, he was, at last, a king. It only remained for him to be solemnly recognised by the other chiefs of the steppes who, already, one after the other, willingly or by compulsion, had accepted his permanent overlordship in peace as well as in war. It only remained for him to be proclaimed by them as the khan above all khans: — the Khakhan.

So he summoned a general kuriltai — a meeting of chiefs — on the banks of the Onon, in the year 1206 of the Christian era, which was the year of the Leopard according to the cyclic Calendar of the Twelve Beasts. And the assembled chiefs elected him Khakhan, supreme Ruler “of all those who dwell in felt tents.” And he distributed honours and duties among them, fixing, in that historic meeting, the final structure of the great feudal State which he had been patiently building for over thirty years.

Every faithful chieftain was made a noyon, or prince, and given a definite domain, with its people — not necessarily all of the same tribe, — as his ulus, (his personal subjects) and the pastures that would feed their flocks. Every one had to send an appointed number of warriors from his ulus, to serve in the Khakhan’s army and fight his wars. The few most tested and trusted officers — Temujin’s companions all through his struggle, who had remained at his side in the darkest days, when his fortune had hung in the balance, — were confirmed in the command of his Guard, that élite of the Army, now a wonderfully disciplined, most powerful military machine. More will be said later on of the rights and duties of the new feudal


lords, of the equipment of the soldiers and of the organisation of the whole bulk of the people — steadily increasing — under the rule of Temujin or rather of Genghis Khan (for this was the title, variously translated, which he was now given); of the Yasa, that famous code of laws which assured the stability of rise conqueror’s life’s work, as long as his descendants would hold fast to its commandments and to its spirit. It is sufficient, here, to stress that the entire organisation of the new centralised State in the midst of the steppes was inspired by Genghis Khan’s will not only — now — to survive, but to conquer the outer world in its length and breadth; and not only to conquer it, but to make his conquests permanent; to make himself, the Mongol Khakhan, also the emperor of all amen, and the “Golden Family” — Altyn Uruk; — his blood; his race, — the ruling family of the world, for ever.

Already a middle-aged man with tremendous achievements behind him — the unification of the tribes of the Gobi was indeed something enormous, — Genghis Khan thought of anything but “settling down” comfortably as king of all the lands between the Baikal Lake, the Altai ranges and the Great Wall. As he beheld the assembled khans who had just elected him as their overlord; and his own. warriors, camped in hundreds of tents all round the place of the kuriltai; and as he looked back to his past miseries and triumphs — to that day to day struggle of over thirty years — from his conquered seat of power, he did not feel: “I am safe at last, and a khakhan. My work is done.” No. For he had in him that everlasting youth which is the gift of the unbending, one-pointed will; that youth in the eyes of which nothing is ever “finished”; in the mind of which no opportunity ever comes “too late.” He felt himself at the threshold of his career, not at the end of it. Now — now that he was at last a khakhan, — he would begin to assert himself. Whatever he had achieved up till then was only a preparation. He had survived. But why? To what end? Only to assert himself. Only to conquer; — to break new opposition, and to take more and more precious things — land; people; further sources of plenty and of safety, further possibilities, — from new enemies. His formidable war-machine — the first one of his time and one of the first ones of all times, — was ready: organised, drilled, equipped, experienced, and superstitiously devoted to him. With such an army at his


disposal he could assert himself indeed, he who had waited so long.

Beyond the Great Wall and beyond the distant Western mountains, the wide world, ripe for conquest, was blissfully unaware of him and of his kuriltai. And even if it had known, it would not have understood. It would not have realised what a momentous event had taken place in the election of this obscure and illiterate Barbarian as leader of other Barbarian chieftains, all of them as dirty, as picturesque and, outwardly, as insignificant as himself; men who, when they were not drinking and stuffing themselves with mutton and horse-flesh, or breeding, or sleeping, could do nothing else but fight, — or hunt; and who were, moreover, neither Christians nor Moslems — nor Buddhists; hardly human beings. To the Chinese, who despised soldiers, any minor meeting of scholars would have seemed far more interesting. To the Moslem world, the capture of Delhi by Mahmud Ghori — of the true Faith — only ten years before, or the rapid rise of the Khwarizm Shah (whose territory now comprised half the kingdom of the Kara-Khitai and the whole of Afghanistan) would have appeared infinitely more impressive. While Europe — destined to be trampled under the hoofs of the Mongol cavalry exactly thirty-five years later — would doubtless have found the recent exploits of the French knights of the Fourth Crusade — that pack of bombastic third rate robbers, of no character, who had settled themselves in Constantinople and in Greece little over a year before the gathering on the banks of the Onon — much more noteworthy.

Contemporary history is always misunderstood.

At the appearing of the Mongol horsemen, the East and West were to realise what Genghis Khan’s leadership meant. In the meantime, outside the steppes of High Asia, the kuriltai of 1206 remained as unnoticed as had, half a century before, the birth of the child Temujin, son of Yesugei. I repeat: great events, bearing endless creative or destructive after-effects, are never noticed at the time they happen. Still, they happen. And they bear their fruit. Genghis Khan, supreme ruler “of all those who dwell in felt tents,” was now ready to thrust his irresistible horsemen against the forces of “civilisation” and to conquer both the East and the West.

Written in Werl (Westphalia) in July and August, 1949