There are some pretty fascinating female characters in history, and definitely in my top 10 favorites (possibly in my top 5) is none other than Khutulun, a bona fide warrior princess. (Step aside, Xena.) Khutulun lived during the time of the Mongolian Empire and was the daughter of one of the cousins (Kaidu) of Kublai Khan (one of Genghis/Chinggis’ Khan’s most famous grandsons). Marco Polo described her as a superb warrior–on par with and in many ways more skilled than her male counterparts. Her father valued her political advice in addition to her fighting skills, and she was highly respected by both Mongols and foreigners who interacted with her.
Probably what she is best known for is her refusal to marry a man who could not beat her in wrestling. (Again, warrior princess.) Side note about Mongolian wrestling: there aren’t weight classes, and the victor must use physical and mental skill in equal parts to defeat an opponent. Although wrestling is considered a man’s sport, that doesn’t mean that the skills can’t be practiced by women or that women cannot become excellent wrestlers. It’s just not a cultural norm, and, to be fair, I think it was probably unusual in Khutulun’s day for women to wrestle men as well.
So men of course want to marry this really cool Mongol woman and come from all over for the chance at winning her hand in marriage. You already know part of the deal: if someone bested Khutulun, she would marry him. However, the other part of the deal is that if she bested the challenger (and she bested a lot), they would give her their horses. How many? Well, it’s said that she ended up with a herd of 10,000 horses, so extrapolate from that what you will. 😉
Khutulun did eventually marry, but there are a number of differing accounts on who her husband was and how she chose him. Some wrote that she married a Mongol ruler of Persia. Others say she chose a prisoner who had failed to assassinate her father. Still others say that there were rumors circulating that she was in an incestuous affair with her father and she chose to marry a man without wrestling him first in order to stop the damaging rumors. However she ended up marrying, she remained undefeated in her physical prowess.
When he was nearing the end of his life, Kaidu sought to have her take his place as ruler in his particular area of the Mongol Empire, but her fourteen brothers pressured him otherwise. Khutulun threw her support behind the son Kaidu chose to succeed him in exchange for the political position of commanding the military.
Who’s your favorite female warrior from history?
[…] couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Khutulun on the blog, but this week, I want to jump forward a few centuries to another notable Mongolian: […]