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Jelme: Genghis Khan’s Outstanding General

During the fight, Genghis Khan was shot by a poisonous arrow in the neck. Jelme stayed with Genghis and sucked the blood out of his neck for the whole night.

Jelme at a Glance

Who was Jelme in the Mongol army?

Jelme was a member of the Uriankhai clan of the Mongol army, who was a brilliant general under Genghis Khan. He was also the older brother of another outstanding general, Subutai, and a close friend of Genghis.

What was Jelme’s role in the life of Temujin (Genghis Khan)?

Jelme played a central role in the life of Temujin as he quickly established himself as a trustworthy companion. He and his fellow nökör (“free companion”) Boorchu set out in pursuit of Temujin’s wife Borte when the Merkit tribe, who were at odds with the Mongols, abducted her.

What was Jelme’s legacy in the Mongol army?

Jelme was awarded one of the thousands of noyans distributed at the 1206 All-Mongol kurultai (“assembly”) for his devoted devotion to Temujin. Genghis Khan also made Yesuntei (or Yesuntege), son of Jelme, the leader of the Kheshig, the elite military bodyguards of Mongol royalty, including Genghis Khan.

Jelme, a member of the Uriankhai clan of the Mongol army, was a brilliant general under Genghis Khan. Jelme was the older brother of another outstanding general, Subutai, and he was also a close friend of Genghis. Rashid al-Din referred to Jelme in “A Compendium of Chronicles” by his nickname, “Uhe.” One Persian historian claims that this moniker means “daring [man], robber and hero,” which is interesting.

Early Life of Jelme

Jelme was the oldest child of the Uriankhai blacksmith Jarchiudai. Although Jarchiudai had wished to put him into the service even before the birth of Temujin (Genghis Khan), he got rejected due to Jelme’s young age. Jarchiudai later reintroduced Jelme to adult Temujin, before he became Genghis Khan.

Jelme's statue at the entrance of the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue.
Jelme’s statue at the entrance of the Genghis Khan’s Equestrian Statue.

Jelme quickly established himself as a trustworthy companion. He and his fellow nökör (“free companion”) Boorchu set out in pursuit of Temujin’s wife Borte when the Merkit tribe, who were at odds with the Mongols, abducted her. Therefore, he played a central role in the life of Temujin.

Both Jelme and Boorchu were promoted to higher positions in the khan’s headquarters following Temujin’s ascension to power. Today, there is a statue of Jelme at the entrance of the Equestrian Statue of Genghis Khan in Mongolia.

Jelme’s deeds have been recorded throughout history numerous times. In one instance, Jelme stayed up all night the next day tending to Temujin, who had been wounded in the neck by an arrow during the Battle of Thirteen Sides (also known as the Battle of Chakirmaut) in 1204.

See also: How Many Wives Did Genghis Khan Have?

Even after taking a poisonous arrow to the neck during the fight, Genghis Khan persisted in fighting until he passed out. Jelme stayed with Genghis and sucked the blood out of his neck for the whole night. (According to other sources, this happened in the Battle of Koiten in 1201.)

Jelme

Jelme risked his life to go to the enemy camp and return with a horn of sour milk for the khan when Temujin requested a drink after coming to his senses.

“The Four Dogs of War”

After three years, in the fight with the Naimans on Mount Nahu-Gun, Jelme stood out with Jebe, Subutai, and Kublai (not Kublai Khan) as the “Four Dogs of War.” Even Temujin’s foes acknowledged the bravery of his nökör forces.

They are the Four Dogs of Temujin. They feed on human flesh and are tethered with an iron chain. They have foreheads of brass, their jaws are like scissors, their tongues like piercing awls, their heads are iron, their whipping tails swords. They feed on dew. Running, they ride on the back of the wind. In the day of battle, they devour enemy flesh. Behold, they are now unleashed, and they slobber at the mouth with glee. These four dogs are Jebe, and Kublai, Jelme, and Subotai.”

— The Secret History of the Mongols

Tolui, Temujin’s youngest son, had his life saved by Jelme once. After hearing a scream for aid, Jelme tracked down and murdered the fleeing Tatar of Qargil Shira who had sneaked his way into the Mongol camp and was about to butcher the infant:

When Tolui was around five years old, a Tatar called Qargil Shira almost murdered him. Qargil Shira feigned to be a guest at Tolui’s tent when he really broke in. He seized Tolui as soon as he entered the tent and fled with him.

Qargil Shira tried to stab the youngster, but Genghis Khan’s mother Hoelun‘s adoptive son Borokhul’s wife Altani pursued him and stopped the fugitive. To prevent the Tatar from escaping with Tolui, she clung to him until Jetei and Jelme arrived and murdered him. Aside from the deeds of both warriors, Genghis Khan hailed Altani as a baatar, or a Mongol heroine.

See also: How Many Children Did Genghis Khan Have?

The Legacy of Jelme

Jelme was awarded one of the thousands of noyans distributed at the 1206 All-Mongol kurultai (“assembly”) for his devoted devotion to Temujin.

It is unclear when precisely Dzhelme passed away; however, the “Collection of Chronicles” indicates it was somewhere during Temujin-Genghis Khan’s reign (between 1206 and 1227).

Jelme was one of the noyans awarded to the thousanders (an honorable military rank) at the All-Mongolian Kurultai in 1206, in recognition of his many services to Temujin even before he turned into Genghis Khan.

Genghis Khan made Yesuntei (or Yesuntege), son of Jelme, leader of the Kheshig. Kheshig were the elite military bodyguards of Mongol royalty, including Genghis Khan, which means “favored” or “blessed”.

The “Collection of Chronicles” also mentions a Yesu-Buka-taishi, who is said to be a son of Jelme. It could be another name for Yesuntei, just like Yisun-te’e.

Jelme’s Progeny

There are people who trace their ancestry back to Jelme who are now residing in Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Buryatia (Russian Republic). The connection of those people with Jelme has been confirmed as recently as the early 2000s.

Today, on Mongolian soil, there are registered members with the following last names, which are the ancestral families of Jelme: Jelme, Hun Jelme, Uriankhai Jelme, Jelmen Uriankhai, or Kostya Jelmen.

The carriers of these generic last names are known among the Khalkha Mongols (genus Zelme), and Khotogoids (genus Zelmen).

The descendants of Jelme were represented by four khoshuns (the banners of Inner Mongolia) of the Josutu League, in particular, the right, left, and middle khoshuns of the Kharchin Mongols and one khoshun of the left wing of the Tumeds.

The Uriankhais of the Jelme line, Aanchin, and Vaanchin clans migrated to the land of current Buryatia and established themselves in the Ichetui (Ichyotuy) River valley around the turn of the 18th century, after a catastrophic battle in Mongolia. Dede-Ichyotuy, in the Dzhidinsky area of the Republic of Buryatia, is where most of their descendants now reside.

Four brothers from the Jelmen Uriankhai family fled to Buryatia on the banks of the Ichyotuy River during the conflict between Galdan Boshugtu Khan and Tüsheet Khan, according to a legend that V.V. Popov recorded in 1926.

Jelme in Popular Culture

Jelme is mentioned in many parts of popular culture today. Here are some examples from literature and movies:

Books

  • “The Wolf of the Plains” (2007), a historical novel by English author Conn Iggulden.
  • “Cruel Age” novel by Isaak Kalashnikov (1978)
  • “At the behest of Genghis Khan” is a novel by Soviet writer Nikolay Alekseevich Luginov (2001).

Movies

  • “Genghis Khan” (China, 2004); Bao Hailong as Jelme.
  • “By the Will of Chingis Khan” (Russia, Mongolia, USA; 2009); Pyotr Makarov as Jelme.

References

  1. Genghis Khan’s Greatest General: Subotai the Valiant – Richard A. Gabriel – Google Books
  2. A Compendium of Chronicles – Rashid al-Din’s illustrated history of the world – Si.edu
  3. The Secret History of the Mongols – Francis Woodman Cleaves, Internet Archive

By Bertie Atkinson

As a history and science writer for Malevus, Bertie Atkinson writes about a wide range of subjects, including ancient civilizations and world wars. During his leisure time, he enjoys reading, watching Netflix, and playing chess.