Weird History

Genghis Khan's Great-Great-Granddaughter Was Just As Fascinating As He Was 

Laura Allan
Updated January 14, 2020 8.8k views 10 items

Most people have heard of Genghis Khan and his destructive, bloodthirsty ways. But few people know Genghis Khan's great-great-granddaughter was just as hardcore as he was, maybe even more so. Khutulun proved, throughout her life, she had been born with her ancestor's fighting spirit. She may have had many brothers, and may have been the youngest, but she was known as a fierce and formidable warrior. At one point, she was even poised to take over as chief. Historians still debate as to why she was never placed in charge, and a working theory states murder may have been involved.

When it comes to Khutulun facts, it's hard to tell what's real and what's legend, similar to the various stories surrounding Genghis Khan. For one thing, many facts have just been lost or covered up over time, such as whether or not she was married. This warrior princess may not get her own Netflix special, but she was noteworthy enough to be included in the Marco Polo series.

She Allegedly Bested Nearly 100 Men In Wrestling, Winning 10,000 Horses In The Process
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Photo: Marco Polo/Netflix

Khutulun's clan held a fighting spirit and physical prowess in high regard. If you could hold your own in a hand-to-hand battle, you gained the respect of everyone around you. Her clan would continuously bet on these battles, and if you were able to come out on top, (and win some money for your backers) you were considered to be gifted by the gods. In a story collected by Marco Polo, and corroborated by historians, Khutulun was apparently undefeated when it came to wrestling men of all ages and sizes. 

Her father had been attempting to find her a suitor for a long time, but Khutulun wasn't enthralled by the idea of marriage. She made a deal with her father, however, that if a man were able to best her in combat, she would marry him. However, if they lost, they would have to surrender 100 horses over to her. At the end of this combat period, "She ended up with 10,000 horses and no husband." Some suitors even showed up with 1,000 horses, because they were so confident they could beat her.

She Caught The Attention Of Marco Polo
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Photo: meritxell-anfitrite/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

One of the reasons we know as much as we do about Khutulun is she absolutely captivated famed explorer, Marco Polo. He wrote at length about her, from the way she appeared in combat, to her physical features. He was traveling across Central Asia and documenting his exploration, when he crossed paths with Kaidu, and his daughter. Upon meeting her, Marco Polo called her "Aiyurg," a term that meant "Moon Light" in Turkish, rather than her Mongolian Hotol Tsagaan name, which meant "All White."

He then cataloged her fighting ability, her wrestling, her relationship with her father, and all her accolades in battle. His account of her history - written from personal experience - contains most of the (albeit little) historical evidence we have left of her.

She Was In Line To Be Leader Of Her People, But She Declined The Position
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Photo: Marco Polo/Netflix

When her father grew ill from dysentery, (due to some bad medication he'd been given) he called his children to his bedside, including his beloved daughter. When they gathered around, some accounts say he informed them he'd chosen a successor to be the next Great Khan. He'd decided Khutulun would become their new leader, even if she was a woman. 

Unfortunately, this decision wasn't exactly a popular one. Her many brothers all voiced their frustration and concerns with their father's choice. Other dissenters were vocal about it, stating she had no place in politics. Her brothers did get a say in the decision, and they firmly decided they did not want her to be leader. Luckily, some sources say she didn't really want to be leader anyway. She said she would instead back one of her brothers, as long as she was allowed to continue on as a military leader. Her brother, Orus, ended up taking over, while she continued to be leader of the military, where she was more comfortable. 

People Were Spreading Incestuous Rumors About Her
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Photo: Marco Polo/Netflix

If you think the story of Khutulun sounds unusual, you're not alone, the Mongolian people shared this sentiment as well. Many people were not fond of the warrior princess, nor the fact she seemed to act so boyishly. Some writings of her speak about her actions as if they are wrong, and that her father doting on her was a sign of his weakness, especially when he had so many other sons to choose from. Some said she was becoming romantically involved with her cousin, and would someday go live like a proper Muslim woman in Persia, but that never happened. Some even went further with their rumors.

For a time, her critics began to say she was having an incestuous relationship with her father. They said this was why she refused to marry, and was why her father seemed to shower her with more attention than his sons. Khutulin didn't seem bothered by most rumors, but in this case, she allegedly went out and got married shortly afterwards, perhaps hoping to shut up her detractors once and for all. There's no way of knowing whether or not this story holds any water, the details on her marital status have been lost in time.