Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Sacred Exchange of Knucklebones

June 11th, 2010 · 6 Comments

We’ve been lassoed into some emergency parenting today, and Microkhan Jr. is tugging on the hem of our deel as we type these very words. So let us just quickly share with you two things that bring much gladness to our collective heart: the above Donny Hathaway gem, an Afro-Cuban spin on “The Ghetto,” and the following account of the childhood bond that Genghis Khan (née Temujin) forged with his pal Jamukha:

When they first became bond-brothers, Temujin was ten years old. They were playing “knuckle-bones” on the ice of the Onan River, and Jamukha gave Temujin a playing-piece made of roebuck-bone. In return Temujin gave him a “knuckle-bone” piece with molten bronze poured into it, and they became bond-brothers. Afterwards, when spring came and when they were both shooting with their little wooden bows, Jamukha gave Temujin a bone arrow-head with perforated calf’s-horns stuck on to it, that whistled as it went through the air, and Temujin in return gave him an arrow-head with a top of cypress-wood. That is the story of how they twice became bond-brothers.

Alas, as was so often the case in Medieval Mongolia, things didn’t end well. The two men ended up bitter rivals for supremacy, and Genghis Khan eventually executed his vanquished foe. However, remembering their childhood alliance, the ersatzerstwhile Temujin granted Jamukha’s request for a bloodless death. Instead of being put to the sword, Jamukha had his back broken by Genghis Khan’s royal guards. Such treatment apparently passed for tenderness back in the day.


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