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Eaters of the Dead

Updated on January 8, 2015
Antonio Banderas as Ahmad Ibn Fadlan in the 13th Warrior
Antonio Banderas as Ahmad Ibn Fadlan in the 13th Warrior | Source

Take a one thousand year old journey to meet the Monsters of the Mist.

Eaters of the Dead is a retelling of the classic Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf from the perspective of an Arab diplomat who ends up joining Beowulf's party to hunt the fearsome monster who has been ravaging the Northmen

It is the year 922 and Ahmad Ibn Fadlan finds himself on an odyssey of danger and adventure far from his home in civilised Baghdad.

This story is based on a first-hand account by the distinguished Arab traveller, and author Micheal Crichton takes this historical manuscript and weaves a frightening story of the Monsters of the Mist.

Based on an historical account

This story is based on an actual account by the Arab ibn Fadlan, who left us his journals.

Author Michael Crichton uses the original diaries of the Ambassador ibn Fadlan and builds his story from them.

This book starts with an adaption of an actual historical manuscript - the original diaries of the Ambassador ibn Fadlan and his travels as an Ambassador to the Bulgars. The Ambassador described elements of Viking culture from a culturally objective perspective.

Crichton then weaves in a fictional account. He does this so skilfully that it's difficult to determine where the factual ends and the fictional begins.

The book was renamed after publication

Three years after Eaters of the Dead was published, a film was made from the book.

The book was then renamed The 13th Warrior to correspond with the movie

The Plot

A Northern Nightmare

The Vikings fear the misty nights for these shrouded nights hide the approach of the Wendol, the Eaters of the Dead.

Stalking out of the darkness and killing with impunity, this northern nightmare has hunted the Vikings even into their own homes, and now, a Viking hero by the name of Buliwyf is sailing to the kingdom of Rothgar, where he and his entourage of Viking warriors and one foreigner (the unlucky Ibn Fadlan) will pit their steel against this ancient evil.

An earlier cover of the book

What a cover! I include this image of an earlier edition for nostalgic reasons.

The book is the same,for some weird reason the publishers thought the mention of Jurassic Park, a horned helmet, and a few ravens would lift the sales. They didn't have to.

If I hadn't known the book was taken from Ibn Fadlan, I would definitely not have bought it.

Anyway, I'm glad I looked more closely and ignored the childish cover. This is an extraordinary novel of Viking values, culture and life, as well as some gory depictions of combat, and a few healthy sexual encounters.

The Vikings wrote very much like this, combat and blood were commonplace to them. But this is no mere bloodthirsty adventure, it's a journey into the past, which it explores with an exhaustive and entertaining thoroughness.

Eaters of the Dead as a Book

Eaters of the Dead
Eaters of the Dead

A wonderful retelling of the story of Beowulf. I've read this at least 5 times and still enjoy it.


Eaters of the Dead as a Movie

The 13th Warrior
The 13th Warrior

The movie from the book is high action with a large dose of humour. Pretty well taken from the original book by Michael Crighton (itself taken from an earlier manuscript), the film is remembered by most for the 'Viking Prayer'



When did the Neanderthals die out? Some interpretations of ancient legends suggest that the last remaining Neanderthals may be represented as monsters.

Crichton likes this type of speculation and he interprets the Beowulf legend as a conflict between homo sapiens and homo sapiens neanderthalensis.

To sum up

I find the title 'Eaters of the Dead', an unfortunate one. The name of the film The 13th Warrior was a better choice all round. (I just had to include the scene of the Viking Prayer).

However a title (like a cover) should never be the judge, and this book is an enthralling, exciting and entertaining read.

What's your experience?

Do you know this story?

See results

© 2010 Susanna Duffy

Make me eat my words?

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    • profile image

      Ask_Me 4 years ago

      I saw the movie but know it was based on a real diary

    • mariacarbonara profile image

      mariacarbonara 4 years ago

      Didn't know this was based on real diaries. Now im curious also.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      What an interesting story - may have to check out the book.

    • profile image

      moonlitta 4 years ago

      I haven't even seen the movie nor did I imagine it was based on a Crighton story. So, I'm enlightened...:)

    • profile image

      Agapantha 8 years ago

      I saw this movie. Great! Didn't know it was from a true story