Friday, August 07, 2009

The Genghis Khan We Don't Know

Last weekend I enjoyed watching the Russian-made film Mongol: the Rise of Genghis Khan. I had always thought of Genghis Khan as a power-hungry brute, but the film convinced me to see Genghis Kahan more as a visionary leader. Without irony or digital effects, Mongol, an old-fashioned epic movie and the first installment in a planned trilogy, tells the story of how Genghis sought to unify the warring Mongolian tribes into one nation. In the film, he was fair to his soldiers, a devoted husband, and a tolerant step father. He loved the Mongolian language and made it the national language. His rules for Mongols were: no killing of women and children, pay your debts, and respect your kahn.

Then on Monday morning, the NYT had an article on Mongolia’s rising tourist industry. A 131-foot-tall statue of Genghis on horseback, wrapped in 250 tons of gleaming stainless steel, is the pride of Mongolians and a new tourist attraction. Eventually it will be large park, where tourists can sleep in yurts on the steppes, just like you see in the movie.

Fictional biographies of Genghis Khan have been published recently, and the Library has all four.

The Blue Wolf is an imagined tale about the life of Genghis Khan. The author Inoue Yasushi was a prolific Japanese writer and a Harvard professor best known for his sweeping historical epics. He pieces together a psychological portrait of this "lone wolf" from the materials of myth and history (relying largely on The Secret History of the Mongols[1227], written shortly after the khan's death). Focusing on the relationship between Genghis and his father, and the warrior's obsession with his true paternity, Inoue tries to uncover the root of the khan's insatiable appetite for supremacy.

If you want more of page-turner, but less authenticity, then read the masterful series by Conn Iggulden, coauthor of the megaseller The Dangerous Book for Boys.

Genghis: Birth of an Empire
Genghis: Lords of the Bow
Genghis: Bones of the Hills

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love, love, love the new layout! -Jennifer (on vacation)