The 13th Warrior

The 13th Warrior, starring Antonio Banderas, was released in 1999. It was based on the novel Eaters of the Dead, by Michael Crichton.  The film follows a group of Viking warriors, accompanied by an Arab ambassador, as they defend a village from a mysterious foe. The movie is considered a Hollywood flop, having cost an estimated $100 million more than was made in theatres. It took two years longer to complete, had to undergo a series of re-editing and eventually was finished under the direction of Michael Crichton.

Official Synopsis: The story of Ibn Fahdlan, a refined Arab courtier, representative of the powerful Caliph of Baghdad, who encounters a band of Viking warriors on their journey to barbaric North. The Northmen coerce him into joining them when they are summoned to fight the monsters of the mist.

Surrounded by the frightening and ferocious foe, Ibn must conquer his personal fears and help battle the illusive invaders — who emerge out of the mist in the black of night to slaughter the Vikings and devour their flesh.

Before the dawn of the second millennium (922 A.D.), the city of Baghdad is the center of highest civilization. Within its cultured protection, young Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan enjoys the privileges of a prominent position until he succumbs to a politically dangerous relationship with a beautiful young woman. Sent away as an appointed emissary to a distant land, Ibn is traveling by caravan with his mentor and manservant, Melchisidek , when he meets a band of warriors.

Ibn is appalled by Viking customs — the wanton sexuality of their pale, angular women, their disregard for cleanliness, and their cold-blooded human sacrifices. Regardless of his feelings towards them, an old soothsayer whom the Vikings call the angel of death, cast the bones and warns the band that they will fail unless they are accompanied on their journey by a 13th warrior and one who is not from the North.

Herger to Ibn: “Buliwyf is called by the gods to leave this place and swiftly, putting behind him all his cares and concerns, to act as a hero to repel the menace of the North. This is fitting, and he must also take eleven warriors with him. And so, also, must he take you.”

Branded as the foreigner they need to succeed, Ibn is enlisted as they set out on their conquest by land and sea to Venden, the land of King Hrothgar.

Led by the enigmatic and courageous Buliwyf, the warriors include Herger the Joyous whose love of women is only exceeded by his love of fighting. Herger becomes Ibn’s most frequent tormentor, and his closest ally, as he travels with the group that also includes Helfdane the Large, Roneth the Horseman, Rethel the Archer, Skeld the Superstitious, Weath the Musician, Edgtho the Silent, Halga the Wise, Hyglak the Quarrelsome, Haltaf the Boy and Ragnar the Dour.

Arriving at the warriors’ northern homeland ruled by the elderly King Hrothgar, Ibn discovers that the King and his young wife, Queen Weilew, and Hrothgar’s treacherous son Wigliff, have been unable to stop their enemy’s rampage.


Review from – “The movie is a lavish spectacle and does an excellent job of creating atmosphere and establishing an involving scenario.”

Review from Medieval History – “As an action-adventure it was fun; as a representation of 10th-century Scandinavia, it left something to be desired.”

Review from Medieval Studies Program, University of Oregon – “The Thirteenth Warrior is not the most thought provoking of films, but it is fun. It captures something of the gloom and grandeur of the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf, even as it reshapes it anew.”

Michael Crichton, Ibn Fadlan, Fantasy Cinema: Beowulf at the Movies – by Hugh Magennis, Old English Newsletter

Beyond Historical Accuracy: A Postmodern View of Movies and Medievalism – by A. Keith Kelly, Perspicuitas


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