If the name of Genghis khan is relatively well known in France (even if moreover it is not a name, but a title ...), it is not the same for its history. For many Genghis Khan is vaguely a conqueror bloodthirsty Mongolian steppes. Few are able to say more. This comic strip from the “They Made History” collection, completed by a historical record, comes to lift the veil in a playful way on this key character of the 13th century.
Temüdjin before Genghis Khan
August 1227, Genghis Khan died during a final military campaign in central China against the Tangut. The body of the one who united the nomadic tribes in an unprecedented empire is buried in an undisclosed location. Genghis Khan is no more, but this empire remains, because the sovereign took care to put in place a coherent structure based on solid man-to-man relationships. This backbone of the empire is family, but they are also loyal friends.
Chang Chun, a Taoist patriarch who knew the Khan well, tells his student how this empire was born, an empire that Temüdjin certainly built, but not alone.
We therefore follow the story of young Temüdjin, son of a Khan, from the assassination of his father to the birth of his empire. Temüdjin knows the exclusion of his family before getting married and again entering the game of alliances and vassalage. Djamuqa will really be the one who will put his foot in the stirrup and help him defeat his enemies, especially the Merkit. But this friendship is severely broken and yesterday's ally becomes the new enemy. Temüdjin, who after rallying more and more tribes to his cause is proclaimed Khan. He is waging a merciless war against Djamuqa marked by atrocities and abuses of all kinds. A war that only ended in 1204, when all the Mongolian peoples were federated. In the spring of 1206, Temüdjin obtained the supreme title, unprecedented, created especially for him: Genghis Khan, "the powerful emperor".
This comic of about fifty pages stands out for its graphic beauty. The work of Manuel Garcia (drawing) and Sara Spano (colors) is remarkable and we take the time to admire the steppes swept by the winds, the snow-capped mountains or the skies set ablaze by the setting sun!
Denis-Pierre Filippi's screenplay does not relate to the great conquests of Genghis Khan, but more specifically to the character's youth. This approach allows to show the reader that the conqueror is not born ex-nihilo and that the nomination to the title of Genghis Khan was not irremediable and results from a chain of events, games of alliances, friendships, betrayals, military successes and setbacks. However, the story of young Temüdjin, whose year of birth we do not even really know, poses many problems of sources. On this point, the author is very clear on his approach and explains in the making of having worked from the Secret History of the Mongols (13th century) and the writings of the Persian Rachîd ad-Dîn (14th century) completed on certain aspects, especially architectural, by the contributions of archeology. Of course, the author does not hide it, there are gray areas that the screenwriter fills with a part of fiction and Denis-Pierre Filippi takes the time to list several moments in the life of the character where he cruelly lack of sources. Let us therefore salute the screenwriter's perfect transparency on his work, a proof of certain intellectual honesty which allows the enlightened reader to know what to expect and to savor all the more this moment of pleasure that is the reading of A comic.
Finally and to finish, this comic contains like all those of this collection a very interesting historical file. This six-page file, richly illustrated, is produced by Marie Favareau, researcher at the University of Oxford, specialist in the Mongol Empire and the Tatar, known in particular for her book published this year by La Flandonnière: La Horde d 'Gold. Genghis Khan's heirs. This dossier reviews, among other things, the origins of the Mongols, the context that saw the birth of Temüdjin, the gradual unification of the nomads and the birth of an imperial elite around Genghis Khan, whose conquests it briefly recalls (a map rightly illustrates these explanations). Finally, Marie Favareau opens the subject on the post Genghis Khan, the pursuit of conquests and the amalgamation in the West between Mongols and Tatars. We recommend reading this dossier before reading the comic strip so that the reader is initiated into the geopolitical context of the 13th century steppes and especially the names of people and tribes that are generally unfamiliar to us.
Finally, let's salute the work done for this comic book dedicated to a character still too little known in France! A popular work of quality, beautiful, catchy, intellectually honest, and supported by a historical file, a chronology and a bibliography which allow the interested reader to deepen his research!
An exemplary approach in the field of historical comics.
Screenplay: Denis-Pierre Filippi
Historian: Marie Favereau
Drawing: Manuel Garcia
Colors: Sara Spano
Publishing: Glénat Fayard