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Mulan Is An Iconic Legend. Now, Meet Khutulun, Who Was Quite Real.

Rather than folk legend, the Mongolian warrior princess Khutulun lives in history, battling enemies into retreat and throwing countless aspiring suitors to the ground.

Today's post is offered, not to glamorize war and battle, but to introduce one -- famous-at-the-time, but now little-known -- woman, living in a society of many self-confident women fighting for survival and engaging in many male activities on terms of equality. In Khutulun's nomadic steppe culture, girls and boys wore the same practical clothing and both learned horseback riding and archery from a young age. This ensured that women could ride horses, as was essential to hunting and caring for animal herds, and defend against enemies, as necessity demanded. Khutulun's society was certainly not dominated by women, far from it, but woman had a more equal status in a world where "all hands on deck" was essential to survival. That Khutulun pushed the boundaries of even that society is part of her story as a dauntlessly courageous impetus to history.

There are no historic images of Khutulun, so any portrayal of her is imaginary and often fanciful. The modern-day Mongolian women above, in historic Mongol battle dress, are probably as close as we'll get to the real Khutulun. Beyond that, below, we have a rather dainty, if properly ornate, Khutulun princess; a Khutulun huntress in hunting garb (yes, Mongols of the time used both hawks and cheetahs to hunt); and a vastly remodeled Khutulun-inspired character to suit European tastes for the opera Turandot.

The Mongol Princess: Khutulun - This 6-minute video is the best of a number of weak attempts to profile this dauntless woman. In spite of the annoying narrator, it offers a decent overview of her story.
The Wrestler Princess - Written by an expert on the Mongols and their Empire, this short article provides a more detailed portrait of Khutulun and her significance in history.
The Travels of Marco Polo - This is a link to the actual chapter in Marco Polo's famous account of meeting Khutulun (known to him as, Aigiarm) and of his witnessing an instance of her wrestling prowess.
Hua Mulan - If the reference in today's post title to Mulan doesn't click in your mind, check out this Wikipedia article about her.

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