Foreign Policy Blogs


Mongolia Web reports that New York's Lincoln Center Fest will present the Secret History of the Mongols July 22-29, 2007.  Nine musicians and storytellers will perform the work at the Clark Studio Theater.

This passage is from The Secret History of the Mongols:

In time Dobun passed away
and after he was gone Alan the Fair, without a husband,
gave birth to three more sons.
They were named Bughu Khatagi, Bughutu Salji, and Bodonchar the Fool.

The first two sons, Belgunutei and Bugunutei,
talked to each other about this:
“Even though our mother has no brothers or kin here
and now has no husband at all
she's given birth to three sons.
The only man in her tent is the servant,
. . .
These three must be his children.”

Even though they were careful to say all this out of her sight,
their mother, Alan, could hear them talking about her.
Then one day in the spring,
while boiling soup from dried mutton,
Alan the Fair assembled her five sons together.

She seated them all in a row,
gave them each a shaft of an arrow,
and said to them: “Break it!”

A single arrow shaft,
it took no great strength to break it,
so each of them broke it and tossed it away.

Then she bound together five shafts in a bundle,
and giving the bundle to each in his turn,
said to each of them: “Break it!”

Each of the brothers held the five bound together
and no one could break them.

. . .

Then Alan the Fair spoke to her five sons and gave them this advice:
“You five were all born from one womb.
If, like the five single arrows that you held
you separate yourselves, each going alone,
then each of you can be broken by anyone.
If you are drawn together by a singular purpose
bound like the five shafts in a bundle
how can anyone break you?”