All people feared the Mongols of the thirteenth century. There are many reasons as to why people cringed when they heard the word Mongol. King Louis IX was especially fearful of the Mongols. He was so anxious he sent William of Rubruck to infiltrate the Mongol society, unravel their plans, integrate Christianity into their society, and show the world the culture of the medieval Mongols.
William of Rubruck was a traveling Franciscan monk. He lived from about 1200 to 1256. He accompanied King Louis IX on the seventh crusade and became close with him. Louis feared Europe was next on the Tartars list to be conquered. His reaction was to send William to the Court of the Great Khan in 1253 to convert them to Christianity and to assure that Europe was safe from invasion.
The first reason Louis feared the Mongols wasn’t because of their superior weaponry; it was the traditional horse riding skill of the Tartars. Stirrups were standard for the horsemen. These stirrups allow the riders to attain great agility. The Mongols were such skilled horsemen that they could be riding full speed and accurately shoot arrows and skillfully wield swords. This dexterity allowed them to be incredibly deadly. Although horsemanship is a great factor in the effectiveness of the Mongols’ military attacks, it is not the main reason the Mongols were greatly feared.
The most important constituent to the Mongols success was ‘a ruthless use of two psychological weapons, loyalty and fear’ (Gascoigne 2010). Ghengis Khan, the Mongol leader from 1206-1227, was merciless and made a guileful contrast in his treatment of nomadic kinsfolk and settled people of cities. For instance, a warrior of a rival tribe who bravely fights against Ghengis Khan and loses will be rewarded for his courage and asked to join the campaign of Ghengis. The only reason an opposing tribe shall be punished is if they are cowards. This cannot be said however for the stationary people of unknown lands. The rules are reversed for these people. Cowardice and treachery is encouraged for if they bravely fight back, they will be massacred. ‘The people who resist are herded outside the walls to confront Mongol troopers with battle-axes. Each trooper is given a quota of people to kill. A tally of ears is sometimes demanded as proof that the work is done’ (Gascoigne 2010). This struck fear into the hearts of many, which is apparent in the typical peaceful surrender.
‘William’s travels started in Paris with Louis on his crusade. Then he traveled from Constantinople, over the Black Sea, and continued eastward. He reached the Great Khan on Easter of 1254’ (Schlager 1912). There he lived among the Mongols and started writing his observations: ‘The Mongols had no settled city. They were a nomadic people. Their houses had a circular base made of sticks. The rest of the dwelling is made of these same sticks...