Aoki Ôkami: chi hate umi tsukiru (aka Genghis Khan:

To the Ends of Earth and Sea; The Blue Wolf: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea)

 

 

Director:     Shin'ichirô Sawai.

Starring:     Takashi Sorimachi (Genghis Khan), Rei Kikukawa (Bolte), Mayumi Wakamura (Hoelun), Ken'ichi Matsuyama (Jochi), Yoshihiko Hakamada (Khasar), Eugene Nomura (Borchu), Ara (Mistress Kulan), Takahiro Araki (Chimbe), Kachiwo Endo (Todoen Gilte), Yusuke Hirayama (Jamuqa), Naoki Hosaka (Yesugei), Sôsuke Ikematsu, Satoshi Jinbo (Thargtai), Ryô Karato (Yeke Chired), Shunsuke Kariya (Charaka), Koyuki, Hiroki Matsukata (Toyril Khan), Kairi Narita (Bergdai), Takuya Noro (Chilaun), Rihoko Shimomiya (Temulun)m Togo Shimura (Munlik), Ami Takeishi (Young Bolte), Masahiko Tsugawa (Khequchu).

a Japanese-Mongolian depiction of the life of Genghis Khan

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

1161. "In this era, the nomads of the Mongolian plateau lived in communities built around individual tribes. Tayichi'ut, Tatar, Merkit, Mongol, Kerait and so on. The number of tribes was great and there was frequently conflict between these tribes."

Mongols race after a woman in a cart surrounded by her escort. The Mongols get close enough and let loose their arrows. Most of the guards are hit by arrows and fall off their horses.

The woman's name is Hoelun. She tells the leader of the escort, her husband, to get out of here for now, but come back for her. The leader says he will and he and another man take off. The Mongols continue to chase the two men.

The chief of the Borjigins, a clan of the Mongol Tribe, stops and introduces himself to Hoelun. His name is Yesukhei Baghutur. He will take her to his ayil (i.e., camp).

In one of the huts called yurts, Yesukhei asks her not to cry. She says why shouldn't she when she, as a newly wed, was snatched from her husband? She is from the tribe of the Merkits. Her husband is Yege Chiled of the Merkits. Yesukhei tells her that now she is his wife. He has sex with her.

Ten months later. Hoelun gives birth to a baby.

Yesukhei and his men defeat another tribe. Yesukhei speaks to the leader of the Tatar people and is told that the man's name is Temujin Uge. Yesukhei now cuts Temujin's throat open with his saber.

A messenger rides up to Yesukhei saying that his wife has given birth to a boy. Yesukhei is very pleased. He names the boy Temujin. Hoelun says her son was thus born to a "bloody destiny of carnage". Mother also knows that hee son has a red spot on his right palm.

At the age of 14, Temujin and his father traveled together in search of a wife. Hoelun has five children of her own and two from another woman. On the trip Temujin looks back and tells his father to look at how far behind them is Burhan Khaldun, a mountain of the Khentii Mountains in today's Khentii Province of Mongolia. Dad says that ". . . upon that mountain is our forefather, born with a destiny of Tengri. It's the Blue Wolf." He adds that the Blue Wolf's blood flows in Temujin's veins.

Temujin and his father visit another tribe. Father gets to taste a drink that comes from beyond the Uyghur lands. It is called "wine".

Dad says they are on their way to the Olkhunuts, his mother's kin, to get a bride for his son. A young girl comes over to the men and the chief introduces his daughter Borte to Yesukhei and Temujin. Temujin and Borte go out alone riding their horses. A group of young boys come riding up to them. The leader of the group asks who is this fellow that she is with? She says he's her betrothed. The leader says he's Jamuga of the Jadirat Clan. Jamuga says he has known Borte since they were little children. Jamuga challenges Temujin to a contest to prove which of the two of them is the best master of archery. Temujin easily wins the contest and Jamuga even admits that he knows of no one capable of doing what Temujin did with the bow and arrow.

Jamuga says his people are also of the Mongol Tribe so they should together swear the oath of anda (i.e. blood brothers). They take the oath surrounded by many young boys. Jamuga says that they shall be friends that are even closer than brothers by birth.

At night Jamuga tells Temujin that he dreams of uniting the Mongols into one nation that will be free of at least interior war between the tribes. The conversation is interrupted when Munrik and Borte ride up to the two fellows. Munrik says that Temujin's father has been poisoned by the Tatars. He is dead.

With the death of the father and chief, Talgutei of the Tayichi'uts named himself the successor. He then took the people of the tribe away from their traditional lands. His order is to follow the Onon River to new pastures. [The Onon River is a river in Mongolia and Russia that is 818 km in length. Its origins are the eastern slope of the Khentii Mountains. It flows to the Shilka River which goes into the Amur River to produce one of the world's ten longest rivers.]

Temujin asks some of the people why are their leaving? His mother asks the same question. Temujin says to Talgutei that this is a betrayal against his father. Talgutei says that Temujin is not even a Mongol, but a Merkit.

Abandoned by the tribe, Temujin and his family had to forage in order to survive.

A larger boy known as Bekhter denigrates Temujin as just a Merkit. Temujin and his brother Qasar now surround a sleeping Bekhter with their arrows pointed right at him. Bekhter tells them it's not right to shoot him, but Temujin says with Bekhter around they will never be able to be united. Temujin shoots Bekhter in the front and Qasar gets him in the back.

Mother is very upset and says that Bekhter was also their brother. Temujin tells her that Bekhter not only hurt the entire family's unity but he also insulted mother. Temujin runs outside to be alone. As narrator, mother says: "He showed absolutely no mercy to those who disobey orders. To those who betrayed. Such was Temujin's stern nature."

There is a lot of unhappiness amongst the Mongols forced to move. Munrik brought his people back to be with Temujin and his family. They set up a defensive fence with sharpened poles pointed toward  the enemy.

A message comes that horse thieves have stolen eight of their horses. Alone, Temujin goes after them. He can't find the horse thieves, so he goes to a nearby settlement and finds his horses in a corral. Temujin is about to shoot a supposed horse thief. The man begs for his life saying he did not steal the horses. The same horse thieves had stolen his horses before and so he went to confront the thieves. They got scared and rode away on their own horses, leaving the stolen horses behind.

Temujin is listening. The man says he assumes these horses are his. Yes. He tells Temujin to take the horses with him. Temujin is very surprised that the man knows his name. The man says that news travels fast on the plains. And the news is that Temujin was betrayed by the Tayichi'uts. He adds that his name is Bo'orchu. And he asks that Temujin remember his name. Temujin tells him that he will not forget him.

The following year, after seven long years, Temujin goes to get his bride. He went to visit Dei Seichun of the Onggirat. And now Temujin learns that after seven long years they presumed that Temujin was dead and he gave Borte to Jamuga for his bride.

Jamuga and his warriors come into the camp. The two blood brothers hug each other. Temujin congratulates Jamuga on his upcoming marriage. Jamuga suggests that they let Borte chose between the two of them as her husband.

Without much hesitation, Borte chooses Temujin. She grabs him by the hand and pulls him out of her father's yurt over to another yurt. Borte tells him that she was unfaithful.  Upon her father's advice, she exchanged vows with Jamuga. Temujin says it is he who is at fault for this. He neglected her for seven years without even notifying her of his intentions.  Borte is upset with Temujin, because when he learned of the situation with Jamuga he did not protest, he did not call out for his wife Borte. He was going to leave without even saying goodbye to her. And she regards this as unfaithfulness and that is the same as betrayal.

Temujin and his wife arrive home. The family finally get to meet this Borte.

Two years after their marriage. To strengthen the alliance with Toghrul, the Khan of Kerait, Temujin goes to see the Khan and brings some tribute to him. The Khan tells Temujin to support him faithfully and their safety will be secured.

Autumn of that year. The pounding of hooves is heard in the distance early one morning. It's the Tayichi'uts. They have between five and six hundred troops. The enemy troops charge the village. And now they realize that it's the Merkits who are attacking them. Now Temujin orders his forces to retreat.

Everyone gathers at another sight in the woods. Mother asks if Temujin has Borte with him? No. Mother says then she was already gone by the time Coaquchin went to look for her.

Temujin now learns that the story of his mother being stolen by his father from her husband is actually true. That was 20 years ago. Temujin says: "And yet, they stole away Borte as revenge for that?" He now asks his mother if he is of Merkit blood? Mother says that his father never questioned her about her first son's paternity. He always said that Temujin one day will prove by his deeds that he has the blood of the Blue Wolf in his veins.

Mother now tells Qasar to work with his elder brother and bring Borte back to them.

Six months went by. Bo'orchu tells Temujin that now is the time to asks for reinforcements from Toghrul and Jamuga.

Temujin speaks with Toghrul and Jamuga. It is decided that they will launch a sneak attack on the Merkits at night. Temujin with his 300 men will be reinforced by 500 of Toghrul's men.  They will attack the front while the other two leaders will be in in charge of the flanks, left and right.

Flaming arrows are shot into the village and then the frontal attack begins. In the village Temujin calls for Borte. Someone tells him that the enemy took her in a cart into the woods. So Temujin heads in that direction.

They catch up to the cart and the Merkit escort runs away. Borte is found in the cart, but now she is obviously pregnant. After a long pause, Temujin tells his men to take Borte back home.

Other troops catch the kidnapper. He is Chiled. The prisoner says that Yesukhei Baghutur stole Hoelun from him! Temujin takes a spear and rides a little way from the group. He now charges the man and throws the spear right through Chiled's body. Temujin then takes out the spear and over and over again spears the dead man's body.

A child is born. It's a boy. Temujin goes over to Borte's yurt. Borte tells mother that she is afraid that Temujin will kill the child. He comes in and wants to take the baby away. And, yes, his plan is to kill the boy.

Borte asks him how can he know that this is not his own child? And the baby is a girl and not a boy. Temujin says he will spare the child, but he never wants to see the girl again.

But the real truth is that the child is a boy. So Temujin wants to kill the child. His mother intervenes to say that the child is a gift from Tengri. She adds that his father took Temujin as his own child despite the rumors that Temujin's father was a Merkit. She also asks Temujin if he would take Borte's child away from her?

Temujin says it's his own fault for failing to stop the abduction. He relents and says the boy's name is Jochi. Temujin now leaves the yurt.

The women say that the name Jochi means outsider. Borte says she doesn't care if her child's name is Jochi, the little one has survived and lives on.

As the fame of Temujin became greater and greater, more and more tribes flock to him.

Toghrul visits Temujin to tell him that the Chinese Emperor of Jin has been having trouble with the Tatar people. But Temujin hates the Jin empire. Toghrul reminds him that it was the Tatars who poisoned and killed his father. He says don't think about the Jin, but come with him to attack the Tatars for the vast spoils of war they shall take.  Toghrul says he didn't go to Jamuga because he has great faith in the talents of Temujin.

Temujin gives a speech to his men about getting revenge on the Tatars. The Jin's army attacked from the front and the combined forces of Temujin and Toghrul Khan attacked from behind. The battle lasted for ten days with the result that most of the Tatar forces were destroyed.

Temujin is ready to go back home. But Toghrul tells him that Temujin is such a fine commander that he could easily defeat Jamuga's forces. He adds: "Temujin, crush Jamuga while you can." He says Jamuga will come after Temujin. Temujin says he can't because he and Jamuga swore blood brotherhood. They both have the dream of uniting all the Mongolian tribes into one nation.  Toghrul laughs at this saying all that Jamuga wants is to become number one. Nevertheless, Temujin says he can't go against his blood brother.

A brother of Jamuga tells Jamuga that Temujin and Toghrul have joined forces, leaving Jamuga completely out of it. Brother says Temujin will become the one Khan over the Mongolian peoples.

Temujin and his men are led into a small ambush designed to kill Temujin. The ambushers all wear black bandanas around their lower faces. Temujin personally duels with one of the assassins. He knocks the sword out of his opponent's hand. Now he goes over to look at the assassin's face. He finds that it is a young woman.  He is impressed by the woman's spirit and tells her to join them and she can be a Mongol soldier. Her name is Kulan. Kulan joins Temujin's army.

Back home, 17 year old Jochi is bored staying home. He wants to be a soldier. His mother asks her husband to find a place for Jochi in his army. Temujin says that the people to the north are taking in Merkit and Tatar stragglers. With a larger army, the northern tribes can constitute a threat to the Mongols. "Strike them down before they do."

Grandmother is worried about Jochi. He is so young and inexperienced. He might not come back from such a mission. One of Jochi's uncles tells him that this is a very tough mission, so he better be careful.

Kulan has her own yurt. She has asked that Temujin to visit her. When he comes in, she asks him why does he not bed her? He says that she gave up on being a woman once she became a soldier. But Kulan says she is still very much a woman. Now she wants to give the woman in her to the man who is just towards women. Temujin says that he will take that woman in her. They embrace.

Jamuga is upset that he is losing warriors and their families to Temujin. His brother again reminds him that Temujin is trying to become the sole Khan of the Mongols. So Jamuga recruits his brother Teichal to go to Temujin and say he is breaking away from his brother's dominance and wants to serve with Temujin. In other words, he wants brother Teichal to be a spy.

Teichal goes to see Temujin and bad-mouths his brother Jamuga so harshly that Temujin has to tell him to stop speaking so ill of Jamuga. When Temujin turns his back to Teichal, the fellow goes after Temujian with a large knife. Just before he gets to Temujin, Borte throws a knife into the side of his neck. So now Temujin knows that Jamuga is at war with him.

So the two armies meet on the battlefield The two armies are both immense. The battle goes on for three days. Jamuga's impatience to win and win big turns the tide of battle against him. He orders his men to retreat. Jamuga goes to see Toghrul. He wants Toghrul to go up now against Temujin because Temujin will eventually go after Toghrul.

Temujin hears of Jamuga being together with Toghrul and finds it hard to believe that these very different men would be working together. But he prepares his army to get ready for battle. They will be going after the Keraits.

Jochi is excited to be in the frontal attack on the Keraits, but now Temujin tells him that he is sending him north once again. He tells Jochi to bring the northern tribes under their control and secure all the woodland resources there. Temujin calculates that bringing all the Mongol tribes together will put great demands on scarce resources.

Jochi tries to get out of the assignment and Temujin asks him does he dare disobey his orders? He tells him to go immediately.

Jochi complains to his mother and grandmother that he figures that his father hopes he will die fighting up in the north. Mother gets very angry with Jochi and tells him to leave immediately and do what his father has asked him to do. Jochi leaves.

Two massive armies again meet on the battlefield. This time Temujin is fighting at a disadvantage. His men had not recovered from the great battle, they have not as many men as the enemy has and their weapons are also inferior.

Temujin is losing. And then an assassin with a poisoned arrow shoots Temujin in the side of his neck. Kulan sucks the poison out of the wound. What's left of Temujin's army slowly rides back home. Lots of men are having trouble just staying on their horses. They are saved by a detachment from home led by Bo'orchu. Temujin falls from his horse.

Jamuga tells Toghrul that it is not wise to take his troops from the area. Toghrul tells Jamuga that they have won the war and Temujin will soon be dead of a poison arrow. As they talk, someone shouts that they are under attack.

Jamuga tells everyone not to retreat, but everyone else is thinking differently. When Toghrul turns his back on Jamuga and retreats, Jamuga kills him with his sword. Jamuga is left alone to fight off Temujin's army. Jamuga is taken back to Temujin's camp.

Temujin offers Jamuga the chance be his right arm. Let them strike the Jin together. Jamuga refuses the offer. He tells Temujin to kill him quick and with his death, most of the inner strife will vanish in Mongolia. Jamuga has one last request. He does not want his blood spilled onto the land. He asks Temujin to kill him with his own hands. Temujin agrees. Jamuga reiterates that Temujin must strangle him. So Temujin wraps his left arm around Jamuga's throat and uses his right arm to help apply pressure to the left arm. The deed is done.

April 16, 1206. Temujin is elected to be the Great Khan of a united Mongol people. A huge ceremony is held for him. He walks up the steps to sit in a golden throne chair. Later he says that he was sent by Tengir via the Blue Wolf to be the Great Khan of the Mongols. The nation of the Blue Wolf has been establish with this ground as its center.

Listening to the massive crowds shout out his name, the Great Khan tells his brother Qasar that he will strike down the Jin Empire. He will do this with Jochi by his side. He tells Qasar to bring Jochi back.

The Great Khan learns that the return of Jochi will be delayed on account of illness. This makes the Great Khan unhappy. The situation becomes worse when a peddler arrives and says Jochi was never sick. He went on a huge hunt. So now Jochi stands accused of plotting to rebel against his father. Borte pleads with her husband not to take the word of a peddler over that of his own son. Grandmother asks her son if he now intends to kill his own son? She asks: "How much of your family's blood must you spill to be satisfied?"

The Great Khan travels with a large group of soldiers up north to speak with Prince Jochi. But he is too late. Prince Jochi was struck by an enemy poisoned arrow. He took a turn for the worse three days ago. Now the prince can't even see.

Jochi is able a little bit to talk with the Great Khan, but then dies. His father cries over his son and asks him to forgive him, the fool.

The Great Khan is set on conquering the Jin. Kulan asks him if he will ever rest from this constant state of war? He says he will go as far as he can. He will destroy the borders between different lands so that great sections of the earth can be united. He adds: "People will travel freely and trade will flourish. Cultures and customs will be honored and all will live well."

The Mongols now reach the Great Wall of China. The Great Khan shoots an arrow up into the sky in honor of Jochi. He then yells: "Attack!"

 

 

This film seems a lot closer to the truth than many other films about Genghis Khan, especially the ones out of Hollywood.  The film is a cooperation between Japan and Mongolia.  Takashi Sorimachi (as Genghis Khan) was very good.  He's short but he is broad-shouldered with lots of muscle.  He looks like a very tough hombre.  The film is recommended.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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