The men, excluding Genghis Khan were nineteen in number. The water that he refers to are the muddy waters of the Baljuna (perhaps a lake, or a river).
Upon arrival at the Baljuna, the provisions were used up. It happened that from the north a wild horse ran up. Kasar brought it down. From its skin they made a kettle; with a stone they got fire, and from the river, water. They boiled the flesh of the horse and ate it. Genghis Khan, raising his hand toward the sky, swore thus: ‘If I finish “the great work”, then I shall share with you men the sweet and the bitter; if I break my word, then let me be as this water.’ Among the officers and men, there was none who was moved to tears. [Genghis Khan, by John Man, Bantam Books, ISBN13: 9780553814989]
This, according to John Man, ‘marked Temujin’s [Genghis Khan] nadir in military terms, but a turning point in terms of leadership.‘ This situation, is brought upon Temujin by way of treachery, because of which he retreats to Baljuna.
The most authoritative document on the history of Mongols is the “The Secret History of the Mongols,” and it fails to mention this.
I can imagine why.
Such instances are the ones that go off record. You may know about it, but there is never a document about such incidents. For one, they potentially expose a weak moment about a hero, for the other, and perhaps more important, these incidents are so intimate that they are necessarily off the record. Even if you were a part of the incident and were charged with documenting history. There is something about men in difficult circumstances that binds them, bonds them.
We might think that this was pure rhetoric and exaggeration, but, you might agree that we aren’t new to rhetoric and exaggeration. I invite you to read today’s newspaper (or any day’s newspaper for that matter).
And while we are at it, here is some more, from “The Secret History of the Mongols”:
Thus Jamuqa, attempting to demoralize the Naiman soldiers
on the eve of battle with Chinggis Qahan, attributes qualities of superhuman toughness to the Mongol commanders:
Their foreheads are of cast copper,
They have chisels for snouts,
They have awls for tongues,
Their hearts are of iron,
They have swords for whips.