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A section from

‘A Jedi shall not know hatred, nor fear… nor love.’ from Star Wars Episode II






Genghis: The Birth of an Empire -

Conn Iggulden



Genghis Khan - whose name is synonymous with evil and brutality was born Temujin (or Temuchin) the son of a powerful and respected warlord. In Conn Iggulden’s trilogy on the khan, reading about Temujin’s metamorphosis is like watching a train wreck; from a youthful and courageous young boy he is blinded by ambition and the harsh realities of life on the wild plains of central Asia. The metamorphosis is not unlike that of the Star Wars villain - Darth Vader, whose insecurities and fears breed an inner steel that is blind to morals and a singular vision of power. Temujin goes from being the son of a khan and virtual prince-in-waiting to an ambitious and ruthless leader of his people after surviving a trial by fire in the wilderness.


Yesugei - Temujin’s father is said to have named his second son after a rival tribal nobleman who he had defeated before the birth. Reputed to have been born with a blood clot in his palm, Temujin’s future as a blood-thirsty man is quickly foretold by superstitious tribals. Nevertheless Temujin and his brothers’ youth can only be described a idyllic until his father is murdered. Yesugei’s erstwhile second-in-command seizes power from the dead Khan’s young sons and leaves them for dead in the wilderness. There on the open grasslands of Asia Temujin, along with his brothers, mother and infant sister scrape through years of their life.


What the future warlord did next was characteristic of his myth - he killed his older brother. Fratricide should not be excused, but try telling that to a starving mother and her six children, the eldest of which is hiding food for his own consumption. In Iggulden’s book Genghis: The Birth of an Empire, Hoelun’s reaction to the murder of one son at the hands of another is narrated. She banishes Temujin from their little camp and shouts out the sign of a curse on Temujin’s birth - ‘You were born with a clot of blood in your hand, with death. I told your father you were a curse on us but he was blind. You have stolen a son from me, my own boy. I should have killed you when I saw the midwife opening your hand. I should have known then what you were.’


Blinding ambition was not uncommon among the tribes of Central Asia. Only the strong could rule and a tribal leader who could not protect himself was considered unfit to rule. Temujin’s ambition was kindled by a desire to prove himself to and succeed his father at the head of the tribe. Eeluk - Yesugei’s right hand man who abandoned Temujin and his family after his father’s death was also fuelled by ambition. But what Eeluk lacked was political foresight. For too long the people of Central Asia had fought for petty causes among themselves. Temujin sought to bind all the tribes of common ancestry and take on the Chinese in the east, Tartars to the north and the Mughals in the south. But even this ambition was the result of an evolution within the man, who learnt survival in the wild, escape from certain death, the power of loyalty, the primal nature of man and the impact of fear first hand.


Iggulden captures the youthful competition between Genghis and his brothers; the bonds that he forges with his younger brothers and the animosity with his elder brother that ends in murder.


The story narrates the formative years up to Temujin’s first major victory in which he regains control of his father’s tribe. He also becomes overlord of the largest Mongol force that comprises of three erstwhile separate tribes. However the final battle is hard fought with rivalries compounded by insecurities and scheming Chinese diplomats, double-crossing bodyguards and deep secrets.




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Genghis Khan translates to ‘Universal Ruler’ in English

The 13th century Mongolian Empire.

The Khan in popular culture

History of Legends

Falconry was the sport of Khan’s. The capture of a falcon was crucial to Temujin’s youthful learning according to Iggulden’s book.

Genghis Khan & his falcon

One of the Khan’s many massacres.