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Chinggis Khan’s mother Hogelun in The Secret History of the Mongols

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Annotation

The Secret History of the Mongols, the story of the rise and rule of Chinggis Khan and his son and successor Ogodei produced by an anonymous court scribe in about 1240, is full of close mother-son relationships. One of these is the relationship between Temujin (the future Chinggis Khan) and his four brothers and their mother Hö’elun (or Hogelun). Their father Yesügei was poisoned when the boys were children, and the allied Tayichigud clan abandoned the family, leaving Hö’elun to raise them through her own efforts. The Secret History of the Mongols details many of her actions, and she is held up as the perfect Mongol woman. Unsurprisingly, being a good Mongol woman involved being a good mother, but being a good Mongol man also involved being a good son.

This source is a part of the Masculinity and Femininity in the Mongol Empire teaching module.

The Secret History of the Mongols, c.1240

Text

When Hogelun Ujin saw the people were leaving her
she grabbed up the standard of Yesugei the Brave
and rode out into the travelling camp.
Just the sight of her holding the banner
and shouting caused half of the people to stop and turn back with her.
But the ones who turned back couldn’t stay.
They were forced to return with the others by the Tayichigud
and told to move on.
After the Tayichigud brothers had abandoned the old camp,
leaving only Hogelun Ujin,
her sons and her little ones,
after the Tayichigud had taken all of the people away,
leaving only the mothers and sons,
Hogelun Ujin, a woman born with great power,
took care of her sons.
Proudly she put on her headdress and gathered the folds of her skirt.
She went up and down the banks of the Onan
and gathered pears and wild fruit.
Day and night she found food for their mouths.
Mother Hogelun, a woman born with great courage,
took care of her sons.
Taking a juniper stick in her hands
she fed them by digging up roots.
These boys who were nourished on the wild onion and pear,
who were fed by Ujin, the Mother,
became the great Lords of all men.
These boys who lived on the roots that she dug for them,
who were cared for with pride by Mother Ujin,
became the wise men who gave us our laws.
These boys who were nourished on the wild onion and pear,
who were fed by the beautiful Ujin,
grew up to be fine, daring men.
Once they’d grown into men,
they pledged to themselves: “Now we’ll feed our mother.”
They sat on the banks of the Mother Onan
and bent needles they’d found into fishhooks.
With these hooks they caught a few misshapen fish.
They made nets to sweep through the river
and they caught tiny fish.
With these in their turn they helped feed their mother.

Credits

From The Secret History of the Mongols: The Origin of Chingis Kahn, adapted by Paul Kahn (Boston: Cheng and Tsui Company, 1984), pp. 19-20.

How to Cite This Source
Chinggis Khan’s mother Hogelun in The Secret History of the Mongols in World History Commons,