Poster from 13th Warrior, starring Antonio Bandaras

The 13th Warrior is a 1999 action film based on Michael Crichton's novel Eaters of the Dead, directed by John McTiernan and an uncredited Crichton, and starring Antonio Banderas as Ahmad ibn Fadlan, Omar Sharif, and Vladimir Kulich as Buliwyf (Beowulf). The 13th Warrior was a disappointment at the box office, earning only US$61,698,899 worldwide.

The novel upon which the movie is based is loosely inspired by Richard Frye's translation of Ibn Fadlan's non-fictional account of his travels up the river Volga in the tenth century. The plot, however, is largely a modernized retelling of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, with elements added from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. The movie goes to some pains to achieve a historical atmosphere, including use of Arabic, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Greek, and Latin dialogue. Norwegian actor Dennis Storhøi co-starred as Herger the Joyous, while Swedish actor Sven Wollter plays the old Viking chief. Norwegian veteran actress Turid Balke also had a small but prominent part as an old oracle woman, as did Swedish-Norwegian actress Maria Bonnevie as Olga, the servant.

Originally titled Eaters of the Dead, the film went through several re-edits after test audiences did not react well to the initial cut. After reshooting several key scenes with Crichton taking over as director (causing the release date to be pushed back over a year), the title was changed to The 13th Warrior.

Plot synopsis[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

The plot centers on Banderas' character, who angers an influential noble in Baghdad and is commanded by the Caliph to serve as "ambassador to the North"—i.e., is expelled from the city—as a result. Traveling with Melchisidek (cameo by Omar Sharif), an old friend of his father, he meets a shipload of Viking raiders whose minor king has just died.

The language barrier is awkward, as Ahmed speaks only Arabic and most of the Vikings speak only Old Norse. Melchisidek and Herger, the Vikings' second in command, however both speak Latin and rough communication is established. After Buliwyf becomes the new leader, a youth enters the camp and requests aid for his distant village, threatened by an old and supernatural force. Through the commands of an oracle, it is decided that exactly thirteen men must go to face this danger, and that the thirteenth must be no Norseman; thus is Ahmed recruited.

The sea voyage is hazardous but once they arrive, the Nordic landscapes (filmed in British Columbia) are exquisite (when not shrouded in fog, which they often seem to be). The foe, known as the Wendol, carry the appearance of both man and bear, although no bodies are left behind after their first nocturnal clash. In fact they bear a resemblance to pre-homo sapiens sapiens affecting the appearance of bears to confuse their enemies. Ahmed learns Norse quickly and to prove himself to the uniformly huge Vikings, who mock him for his physical weakness and his small Arabian horse (which they call a "dog"). His fast learning of their language, ingenuity, and horsemanship eventually earns their respect and friendship.

Losing members of their small force with each battle, and finding the town indefensible, Buliwyf opts to track the Wendol to their lair, setting up an epic final battle.

Buliwyf and the remaining 6 warriors track the Wendol back to their lair to uncover that they are in fact cannibals; whenever someone is killed the Wendol take the corpse back to their lair and feast upon it. Buliwyf kills the Mother of the Wendol, but is poisoned by her.

Discovering that they have entered the lair, the Wendol force the surviving warriors to submerge into a pool which leads out to the thundercliffs. The last remaining five warriors return to the village and prepare for a final battle. The Wendol appear and both engage in an epic battle. Buliwyf kills the leader of the Wendol and they retreat back to their lair in defeat.

Order is restored to the village, but Buliwyf dies from the poison.

Spoilers end here.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Actor Role
Antonio Bandaras Ahmad ibn Fadlan
Vladimir Kulich Buliwylf, the 1st Warrior
Dennis Storhøi Herger the Joyous
Omar Sharif Melchisidek
Turid Balke Old Oracle Woman
Sven Wollter King Hrothgar

Selected quotes[edit | edit source]

  • "I do not enjoy heights." - Bandaras as Ahmed, after mounting a small horse
  • "The Father wove the skein of your life a long time ago. Go and hide in a hole if you wish, but you won't live one instant longer. Your fate is fixed. Fear profits a man nothing." Dennis Storhøi as Herger the Joyous

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • The outcome of this film's production disappointed Omar Sharif so much that he retired from film acting. He did not take a role in a major film until 2004's Monsieur Ibrahim.:
"After my small role in The 13th Warrior, I said to myself, 'Let us stop this nonsense, these meal tickets that we do because it pays well.' I thought, 'Unless I find a stupendous film that I love and that makes me want to leave home to do, I will stop.' Bad pictures are very humiliating, I was really sick. It is terrifying to have to do the dialogue from bad scripts, to face a director who does not know what he is doing, in a film so bad that it is not even worth exploring." [1]
  • In the original novel the wendol are revealed to be Neanderthals in an afterword.
  • The sacrificial girl (played by Mona Storhøi) was watched by Herger the Joyous (played by Dennis Storhøi). *The surnames are no coincidence as the actors are in fact married.
  • The original soundtrack was composed by Graeme Revell and featured the Dead Can Dance singer Lisa Gerrard. The score was rejected by the producers.
  • The soundtrack used in the final battle scene called Valhalla was also used in the movie Kingdom of Heaven by Ridley Scott at the final siege scene.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Richard Nelson Frye, Greater Iran. Mazda Publishers. 2005. ISBN 1-56859-177-2

External links[edit | edit source]

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