How Lady Borte was rescued from the Merkits, The Secret History of the Mongols – Part 1

Having thus spoken, Temujin, with Khasar and Belgutei, went to Toghrul Wang Khan of the Khereit who was then staying in the Black Forest by the Tuul River. Temujin said to him, ‘The three Merkit came, taking us by surprise, they seized my wife and carried her off. We have come now to ask you, Wang Khan my father, to rescue my wife and return her to me.’

To these words Toghrul Wang Khan replied, ‘Did I not speak with you last year? When you brought me the sable coat, you said, “Since in my father’s time you two declared yourselves sworn friends, you are, indeed, like a father to me.” When you put the coat on me, there and then I said, “In return for the sable coat, I shall unite for your scattered people, In return for the sable coat, I shall bring together for you Your divided people. Let the place of good faith be in the heart, just as that of the kidneys must be in the back. Did I not say this: I shall now fulfill that promise and in return for the sable coat, Even to the complete destruction of the Merkit, We shall cause your wife Borte to return, bringing her back to you.

Send a message to younger brother Jamukha who must now be in the Khorkhonag Valley. I shall set forth from here with two units of ten thousand to form the left wing. Let Jamukha decide on the time and place of our meeting.

When Temujin, Khasar and Belgutei came back, from Toghrul Khans camp and arrived at their tent, Temujin sent both Khasar and Belgutei to Jamukha saying, ‘Give my sworn friend Jamukha this message: “When the Three Merkit came, my bed was made empty. You and I, are we not from one family? How shall we take our revenge? My breast is torn apart. You and I, are we not of kindred blood? How shall we avenge this injury?’

He sent this message and these were the words he had them convey to his sworn friend Jamukha. He also told them to report to Jamukha the words spoken by Toghrul Wang of the Kereyit: ‘Remembering the help and good things done to me in former days by his father Yesukhei Khan, I shall stand by Temujin. I shall set forth with two units of ten thousand and I shall form the right wing. Send a message to younger brother Jamukha that he should set forth with two units of ten thousand. As to the time and place of our meeting and joining farces, let younger brother Jamukha decide.’

After they had finished delivering this message, Jamukha said, ‘To know that my sworn friend Temujin’s bed has become empty, Brought pain to my heart. To know that his breast was torn apart, Brought pain to my liver. Taking our revenge, wiping out the Uduit and Uvas Merkit, We shall rescue our Lady Borte!

Taking out vengeance, Crushing all the Khaad Merkit, we shall rescue your wife Borte, causing her to return! Now, That Togtoa, who takes fright when one strikes the saddle-flaps, for he takes it for the sound of the drum, he must be in the Buur Steppe. Dayir Usun, who on hearing the rattle of a loose quiver Deserts his own companions, he must now be at Talqun Aral, Between the Orkhon and the Selenge.

Khaatai Darmala, who when the saltwort is carried by the wind, Quickly flees into a dark forest, he must now be in the Kharaji Steppe. Now, by the shortest way we shall cross the river Kilqo may the sedge be in good growth! We shall bind our rafts with it, we shall enter their land. Descending on the smoke-hole, of that coward Togtoa’s tent, its proud frame, we shall smite, so it collapses; we shall kill his wives and children to the last one. Of his door the sacred frame, we shall smite so it shatters; we shall utterly destroy his people till nothing will left. Further, Jamukha said, ‘Speak to my sworn friend Temujin and elder brother Toghrul Khaan, and say to them on my behalf, “As for me, I have consecrated my standard which is visible from afar; I have beaten my bellowing drum covered with the hide of a black bull; I have mounted my black horse; I have put on my armor and grasped my steel spear; I have placed on the bowstring my arrow with its nock of wild peach bark. I am ready, let us start and give battle to the Khaad Merkit.

Then say them, “My long standard, visible from afar, I have consecrated, I have beaten my deep-sounding drum covered with ox-hide, I have mounted my swift horse, the one with a black stripe along the backbone, I have put on my leather-strapped breastplate, and grasped my hilted sword, I have placed on the bowstring my nocked arrow. I am ready, let us fight to the death against the Uduit Merkit” then say them, “After elder brother Toghrul Khan has set out and, passing by my sworn friend Temujin on the southern side of Burkhan Khaldun, comes jointly with him, we shall meet at Botoqan Boorji at the source of the Onon River. When I set out from here, upstream along the Onon River where my sworn friend’s people are – with one unit of ten thousand taken from his people and I with one from here making two units of ten thousand – going up along the Onon River we shall join forces at the appointed meeting place in Botoqa Boorji.” And he sent them off with this message. Khasar and Belgutei came and reported these words of Jamukha to Temujin, who had them conveyed to Toghrul Khan. Upon receiving Jamukha’s message, Toghrul Khan took the field, two units of ten thousand altogether.

Upon receiving Jamukha’s message, Toghrul Khan

When Tooril Khan set out, as he was approaching in the direction of the Burgi Escarpment of the Keluren on the southern side of Burkhan Khaldun, Temujin who was then on the Burgi Escarpment and therefore on Tooril’s path, made way for him and, moving upstream along the Tunkhelig, set up camp on the Tana Stream on the southern side of Burkhan Khaldun. Temujin then advanced from there with his troops. When Togrul Khan with one unit of ten thousand and Toghrul Khan’s younger brother Jakha Gambu with one unit of ten thousand – two units of ten thousand in all – halted at Ail Khargana on the Khimurga Stream, Temujin joined them and set up camp there.

Temujin, Toghrul Khan and Jakha Gambu came together and started off from there. When they arrived at Botoqan Boorji at the source of the Onon River, Jamukha had already reached the meeting place three days before. Jamukha, seeing the troops of Temujin, Toghrul and Jakha Gambu, took up position, ranging his two units of ten thousand troops in battle order. They – Temujin, Toghrul Khan and Jakha Gambu – likewise ranged their troops in battle order. As soon as they came face to face and recognized each other, Jamukha said, ‘Did we not agree that we won’t be late at the appointed meeting, even if there be a blizzard, at the gathering, even if there be rain? Are we not Mongols, for whom a “yes” us the same as being bound by an oath? We did agree that we shall reject from our ranks whoever is remiss in his “yes” to the words of Jamukha, Toghrul Khan said, ‘As we are three days late at the meeting place, it is up to younger brother Jamukha to punish and lay blame!’ In this way they exchanged words of reproach about the meeting.

Starting from Botokhan Boorj they arrived at the river Khilgo. They made rafts and crossed it. In the Buura Steppe, Descending on the smoke-hole of Togtoa Beki’s tent, of his tent the proud frame they did smite so it collapsed, they plundered his wives and children to the last one. Of his door the sacred frame they did smite so it shattered. They utterly plundered his people till nothing more was left. While Togtoa Beki was asleep, some fishermen, sable catchers and wild animal hunters who happened to be by the river Khilgo, left it and, traveling all through the night, brought the news of the allies’ approach saying, ‘The enemies are coming, pushing forward at full speed.’ When they received this news, Togtoa and Dair Usun of the Uvas Merkit joined together, went downstream along the Selenge and entered the Bargujin territory.

Few in number and dispossessed of all but their bodies, they escaped by taking flight. At night the Merkit people fled in disarray down the Selenge River, but even in the night our troops were pressing hard after the hastily fleeing Merkit. As the pillaging and plundering went on, Temujin moved among the people that were hurriedly escaping, calling, ‘Borte, Borte! And so the came upon her, for Lady Borte was among those fleeing people.

She heard the voice of Temujin and, recognizing it, she got off the cart and came running towards him. Although it was still night, Lady Borte and Qoaqchin both recognized Temujin’s reins and tether and grabbed them. It was moonlight, he looked at them, recognized Lady Borte, and they fell into each other’s arms.

Temujin looked at and recognized Lady Borte

After this, that very night Temujin sent a message to Toghrul Khan and to sworn friend Jamukha saying, ‘I have found what I was looking for. Let us not travel all night. Let us camp here!’ He had this message delivered to them. As for the Merkit people who had been fleeing in disarray at night, while still scattering and on the run, they too stopped and spent the night right there.

This is how Lady Borte was rescued from the Merkit tribe, and how she was reunited with Temujin. At the very beginning, Togtoa Beki of the Uidut Merkit, Dyiur Usun of the U’as Merkit and Khaatai Darmala of the Khaat Merkit, those three Merkit with three hunded men, said, ‘In former days Mother Hoelun was abducted by Yesukhei Baatar from Yeke Chiledu, the younger brother of Togtoa Beki’, and they set out to take revenge for that. It was at the time when Temujin circled Burkhan Khaldun three times that they captured Lady Borte.

They entrusted her to Chilger Bukhu, the younger brother of Chiledu. As Chilger Bukhu had been looking after her ever since, when he fled, deserting his own companions, he said, ‘To feed on scraps of skin is the black crow’s lot – yet it was goose and crane it aspired to eat. I, brutal and base Chilger, who laid my hand on the noble lady, I have brought disaster on all the Merkit. Lowly, base Chilger, I have come to the point that I shall lose my black head. To save my one and only life, I wish to creep into dark gorges. Who will act as a shield for me? To feed on rats and mice is the buzzard’s, that vile bird’s lot – yet it was swan and crane it aspired to eat. I, thieving and base Chilger, who took away the favored and fortunate lady, I have brought disaster upon The whole of the Merkit.

Boastful, base Chilger, I have come to the point that I shall lose my shrivelled head. To save my life, worth but a sheep’s dropping, I wish to creep into dreadful, dark gorges. Who will be a shelter for my life which is worth but a sheep’s dropping?’ Thus he spoke, and escaped, deserting his own companions. They seized Khaatai Darmala and brought him back, They forced him to wear a cangue made of a wooden board, They took him straight to Khaldun Burkhan.

Someone informed them that Belgutei’s mother was ‘in that ayil over there.’ Belgutei went there to fetch his mother, but when he entered her tent by the right-hand door, his mother, in a ragged sheepskin coat, went out by the left-hand door. Outside she said to someone else, ‘I am told that my sons have become Khaan, but here I have been joined with a base man. How can I now look my sons in the face?’ So she spoke and ran off, slipping away into a dense wood. Belgutei Noyan immediately searched for her, but could not find her.

Temujin, speaking gratefully to Toghrul Khaan

He then shot knob-headed arrow at any man of Merkit stock, saying, ‘Bring me my mother!’ The three hundred Merkit who had once circled Mount Burkhan Were exterminated, down to The offspring of their offspring: They were blown to the winds like hearth-ashes. Their remaining wives, Those suitable to be embraced, were embraced Those suitable to be let into the tent Through the door and serve as slaves were let in through the door.

Temujin, speaking gratefully to Toghrul Khaan and Jamukha, said ‘Being taken as a companion by my father the Khan and sworn friend Jamukha, and with my strength increased by Heaven and Earth, Calledby Mighty Heaven, Carried through by Mother Earth, we emptied the breasts of the Merkit people who take their revenge as a man does, and we tore their livers to pieces. We emptied their beds and we exterminated their relatives; the women of theirs who remained we surely took captive! Thus we destroyed the Merkit people: let us now withdraw!’

At the time when the Uduit Merkit were fleeing in haste, our soldiers found a little boy of five with fire in his eyes who had been left behind in the camp and whose name was Khuchu. He had a sable cap, boots made from the skin of a doe’s forelegs, nad a dress of otter skins cleared of hair and sewn together. They took him and brought him to Mother Hoelum, and gave him to her as a present.

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