Women and Adversity: Hoelun
Mother of Genghis Khan
Most people recognize the name Genghis Khan even if they don’t know when he lived, what he did or why he is memorable. Who, though, recognizes the name Hoelun, the mother of Genghis Khan? The few facts written about her indicate she was a powerful, determined and influential woman of her time.
It is said that Hoelun was abducted in 1159 as she and her new husband, Chiledu, were on their way back to their camp. She told Chiledu not to fight the kidnappers because he’d be killed. The Secret History of the Mongols reveals that Hoelun told her husband, “If you but live, there will be maidens for you on every front and every cart. You can find another woman to be your bride, and you can call her Hoelun in place of me.”
Some accounts say a chief named Yesügei was the kidnapper, others say kidnappers brought Hoelun to Yesügei. Whatever the story, Hoelun became Yesügei’s wife. The couple had four sons: Temüjin, who became known as Genghis Khan; Qasar; Hachiun; and Temüge; and daughter, Temülün. Yesügei took a second wife, Sochigel, who had two sons with Yesügei, Behter and Belgutei.
Yesügei was poisoned by a rival group, and Hoelun was expected to marry one of her husband’s brothers or even Sochigel’s son. However, Yesügei’s tribe turned against Hoelun and the other survivors because no one wanted to support her and her family, so they deserted Hoelun and the others. They were all expected to die, but Hoelun took charge. She searched for roots, berries, and other food for the seven children, herself, and Sochigel. As the boys got older, they hunted and fished to help the group survive.
Hoelun taught her sons unity and support for one another, yet Temüjin murdered Sochigel’s oldest son, Behter out of sibling rivalry. Sochigel and her other son, however, did not bear any ill will toward him.
Hoelun’s determination, fortitude, and diligence influenced her son Temüjin to be the great Genghis Khan. He founded the Mongol Empire in 1206, which became the largest contiguous land empire in world history, covering about 9.15 million square miles of land. It encompassed central Asia and went from the Pacific Ocean to the Danube River and the shores of the Persian Gulf.
Hoelun is said to be crucial in securing her son’s political supremacy. She demanded strict family standards, and her son held those same standards. She probably arranged his marriage, proving to be politically beneficial. She became one of her son’s most trusted advisors.
No specific date and month are available for the birth of Hoelun, but facts show she was born to the Olkhunut tribe, known for the beauty of its women, about 1142 and died about 1208.
You can read about Hoelun and other outstanding mothers in my ebook Women and Adversity, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers.