The 13th Warrior is an adventure story that inserts the Real Life Arabic traveler Ahmad ibn Fadlan into a tale of Nordic saga. Ahmad ibn Fadlan is an educated Arab courtier who is sent to foreign lands as punishment for a courtly indiscretion. He is recruited to serve as the thirteenth member of a group of Norse warriors who answer a call for help from a far-away Nordic king. The kingdom is under attack from the Wendol. The bookish Ahmad ibn Fadlan narrates his adventure and his growing respect for the barbarians around him.The story is a reworking of the classical tale of Beowulf. Buliwyf is an Expy for the hero Beowulf and the remaining warriors form his band. The classic battles are all reworked to replace the monsters with the cannibalistic Wendol. Rather than Grendel bursting into a mead hall, a group of cannibals attack. Rather than attacking Grendel's aquatic mother, the band sneaks into the Wendol's den through water. Rather than a dragon, the Wendol look like a "glow wyrm".Michael Crichton wrote the original novel, called Eaters of the Dead, and it was something of a departure from his usual science-fiction fare. He supposedly wrote the novel on a dare from a friend who demanded he "find a way to make Beowulf interesting." As Crichton was aware of the notoriously dry, bland Ahmad ibn Fadlan and his ability to make any miraculous new wonder sound prosaic and dull, he put the two together as if it were Ahmad giving an actual historical account. The Neanderthals serving as the film's villains are an expected flourish of science fiction.The novel was later adapted into a feature film starring Antonio Banderas and directed by John McTiernan. Crichton himself performed some reshoots after test screenings, such as making the tribe's queen into a lithe Dark Action Girl.
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