“Through all this, [Jamuka], the sworn-brother of Chinggis, remains a relatively shadowy figure, an anti-hero in some ways, who appears almost on cue when needed,” Moses writes (172). Jamuka, as Temujin’s final and in many ways most formidable opponent, indeed takes on a key role in The Secret History, though little beyond this text serves to fill out his character.
As Temujin rose in prominence, Jamuka was attempting to build a confederation of his own, and took on the title of Gur-khan, “chief of all chiefs,” a direct challenge to Ong Khan as well as Temujin, who allied against him in several battles.
However, when Temujin defeated the powerful and wealthy Tatars, a tribe of thousands, and assimilated them in much the same way as he had assimilated the Jurkin, he had become too powerful for the Ong Khan, who plotted to kill him (Weatherford 56). In response, Temujin’s army, now organized into units of tens and hundreds intended to melt away tribe affiliations, attacked and defeated the Ong Khan’s Kereyid tribe, which was absorbed into Temujin’s even larger federation.
In the final battle for control of Mongolia in 1204, Temujin sought to defeat the Naiman, a tribe larger than his own which Jamuka had joined. In this battle Temujin’s highly organized units and battle strategies slowly picked the Naiman apart. Jamuka fled into the forest with only a small band of followers. When those followers betrayed him by turning him over to Temujin, he executed them for their disloyalty to their leader Jamuka (Weatherford 63).
The Secret History depicts the blood brothers’ last meeting as a lengthy conversation between the two warriors as they reminisce of their youth together. Jamuka, however, requested death and received it (Weatherford 64).
So Temujin became the ruler not of the Merkid, the Jurkin, the Tatars or the Mongols — but of the People of the Felt Walls, as he named them, a million people united not by religion, tribal affiliation or kinship, but by their loyalty to him alone.
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