Friendship and Betrayal in The Secret History

Teaching, research, and more

For this activity, let’s look at the two major examples of friends who turn on Cinggis Qa’an in The Secret History of the Mongols: Jamuqa and To’oril Ong Qan. All three figures are complicated characters, and the stories of their relationships and their deterioration are complex. Choose either Jamuqa or To’oril Ong Qan, and identify what you seem to be the most important or interesting factors that make their friendship with Cinggis Qa’an go wrong. Some things you might consider:

  • The personalities of the characters involved
  • Their history–how they met, family histories, etc.
  • Their relationships with other characters
  • Everyone’s political position with respect to the other tribes and nations of the steppes
  • Specific inciting incidents