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The life of the Mongols was not easy. Many rules had to be followed and broken at the same time. Many promises were given, and many disappointments took place. There were many topics for discussion during that period. People wanted to believe in their power and the possibility to change the world. There was one theme to which not many Mongolian people paid much attention. The role of women in Mongolian society cannot be neglected or misunderstood. On the one hand, it was clear that the 1100s and the 1200s included the period of male power. The role of men was impressive indeed. They started wars, conquered the land, and spread their rulings around the whole world. “All the nations were at war with each other. Unable to lie beneath their blankets, they attacked each other every day” (Kahn 152). Not many female leaders were observed among the Old Mongols. It was the time when men ruled and became heroes. On the other hand, even such an impressive leader as Chinggis Khan could become a different man without several women in his life. One such woman was me, Borte, the first and the supreme wife of Chinggis Khan.
The first meeting that changed human lives
It is wrong to think about me as a woman whose main function was to give birth to nine children of the great Chinggis Khan. If I treated myself that way, I could hardly accept my life as it was and achieve all that power and opportunities. Our relations with Temujin, known to many people as Chinggis Khan, were defined when I was ten. I was introduced to him as a girl “whose face filled with light, whose eyes filled with fire” (Kahn 15). I was ten years old the first time I met with Temujin, who was one year older than me. I wanted to believe that such a difference in age could not influence his attitude toward me. However, I also wanted to believe that the fact made me strong and ready for any kind of challenge.
The power of connection
Together, we survived the period when I was kidnapped and raped by the Merkids. I was captured for eight long months. Though I was treated better than other women of the Merkids, I was able to observe how unfair and cruel the attitude of men to their women could be. They could hardly be compared with the relations I dreamed about when I was with Temujin. When I heard his voice in the darkness of the cart, I was filled in with strength and power to cope with any challenge. I believed that it was my husband, who supported me and empowered me. Still, I also saw in his eyes that my presence in his life made him as strong and ready for battles as never before.
A variety of attitudes
Even though there were several women in his life, he always called me his “wise queen” and “first wife” (Kahn 186). We were like sisters in his kingdom. Still, I also tried to help my people and left Temujin from time to time to rule the Mongol homeland along with his brother and establish the court. Therefore, it is possible to say that intelligent people could perform important roles in case they knew how to represent them and how to achieve the required goal.
Unfortunately, not all women were lucky to have good and loyal husbands. Many men believed that “a woman has a face like a dog… a woman is always unfaithful to her husband” (Kahn 92). It was hard to prove the opposite, and women had nothing to do but to respond to these words and make the choices that could hardly be justified or understood. It was wrong to assume that all women were similar and treat them in the same way. A woman should have a voice. Still, not all women of the 1100s were able to demonstrate it. Therefore, gender roles in the nomadic society were complicated and varied: some men demonstrated their respect for their women, and some women suffered a lot from the inability to find a good man and protector.
However, without any doubts, the relations between warriors I observed in my life were amazing because they were built on trust and recognition of each others’ possibilities. “You became my companion for no other reason than the courage in your heart” (Kahn 118). Courage and loyalty were identified as the main virtues in people’s lives. Therefore, it was hard for a woman to become an equal part of the man’s life. I tried to use all possible ways to prove that female power could mean something as well. Still, the power of man was so dangerous and so just at the same time. Men were ready to give their children to achieve their goals. “Every nobleman who rules over people should send his eldest son off to war… captain of ten thousand, captain of a thousand, a hundred, or ten” (Kahn 167). For many mothers, it was hard to accept such a requirement. I was not one of them. I loved my children. However, I also respected and used the power of my man who knew what to do.
The Mongols were complicated with their rules and truths. They could be called cruel and heartless. But they always were just and purposeful. Women knew their places, and men did everything possible not to make other nations conquer them.
Kahn, Paul. The Secret History of the Mongols: The Origin of Chinghis Khan. Translated by Francis Woodman Cleaves, Cheng & Tsui Company, 1998.