Eaters of the Dead

Eaters of the Dead

Infobox Book |
name = Eaters of the Dead

image_caption = First edition cover
author = Michael Crichton
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
genre = Plausible Historical Fiction
publisher = Alfred A. Knopf (US 1976) & Jonathan Cape (UK 1976)
release_date = March 1976 (USA) & August 1976 (UK)
pages = 288 pp (US hardback edition), 192 pp (UK hardback edition)
isbn = ISBN 0-394-49400-8 (US hardback edition) & ISBN 0-224-01306-8 (UK hardback edition)

"Eaters of the Dead: The Manuscript of Ibn Fadlan Relating His Experiences with the Northmen in A.D. 922" (later republished as "The 13th Warrior" to correspond with the film adaption of the novel) is a 1976 novel by Michael Crichton. The story is about a 10th-century Muslim who travels with a group of Vikings to their settlement.

Crichton explains in an appendix that the book was based on two sources. The first three chapters are a retelling of Ahmad ibn Fadlan's personal account of his actual journey north and his experiences with and observations of the Rus', the early Russian people. The remainder is based upon the story of "Beowulf".

Plot summary

The novel is set in the 10th century.The Caliph of Baghdad (Arabic: المقتدر بالله) sends his ambassador, Ahmad ibn Fadlan (Arabic احمد بن فضلان), to the king of the Volga Bulgars. He never arrives but is instead captured by a group of Vikings. This group is sent on a hero's quest to the north. Ahmad ibn Fadlan is taken along, as the thirteenth member of their group, to bring good luck. There he battles with the 'mist-monsters', or 'wendol', a relict group of Neanderthals.

"Eaters of the Dead" is narrated as a scientific commentary on an old manuscript. A sense of authenticity is supported by occasional explanatory footnotes with references to a mixture of factual and fictitious sources.

ources and inspiration

In an afterword in the novel Crichton gives a few comments on its origin. A good friend of Crichton's was giving a lecture on the 'Bores of Literature.' Included in his lecture was an argument on "Beowulf" and why it was simply uninteresting. Crichton stated his views that the story was not a bore and was, in fact, a very interesting work. The argument escalated until Crichton stated that he would prove to him that the story could be interesting if presented in the correct way.

In a seemingly offhand reference, H. P. Lovecraft's "Necronomicon" is quoted in the in-character bibliography.

Film or TV adaptations

The novel was adapted into film as "The 13th Warrior", directed by John McTiernan. Crichton himself did some uncredited directing for a reshoot after the studio fired McTiernan for various reasons, one of which was going way over budget. The general consensus among test audiences was that McTiernan's original (longer) cut of the film was much better than the final theatrical releaseFact|date=February 2008. Ibn Fadlan was played by Antonio Banderas. Crichton writes that he was "quite pleased" with the film, though it earned mixed reviews and performed poorly at the box office, earning about $62 million worldwide; the film's budget was over $80 million.

Differences between film and novel

In the book, during the first fight Ibn Fadlan is nearly helpless against the monsters and must depend entirely on the Vikings to slay them. Later on Ibn Fadlan becomes convinced that death is only a moment away and decides to become a fighter. In the movie Ibn Fadlan kills several Wendol and is shown the equal of the Vikings in combat by his use of a scimitar, also it is his idea that the Wendol are sleeping in caves. The Tengol (leader of the dwarves) from the book is replaced by an old mad woman in the film (unknown whether a dwarf or normal human). In the movie Ibn Fadlan travels with a friend when he meets the Vikings; in the book that friend was sick during a hard winter and is left behind. In the movie, Buliwyf doesn't acknowledge Ibn Fadlan as much of a friend; in the book they were so close that Ibn Fadlan was one of the few that got the honor to be in the ceremony of Buliwyf's funeral.

A further difference is that in the book, the Wendol (mist monsters) actually seem to be another human species (Ibn Fadlan makes a few accurate descriptions on how their faces and bodies differ from those of "normal" humans), while in the movie there are no direct references by the characters of the Wendol being Neanderthals and the Wendol seem to be just a tribe of Stone Age savages wearing bear skins and heads. Later in the book one finds a suggestion that the Wendol are actually the last tribe of the Neanderthal sub-species.


*Crichton, Michael. "A Factual Note on "Eaters of the Dead" in "Eaters of the Dead". New York: The Ballantine Publishing Company, 1992. ISBN 0-345-35461-3.
* [ Alleged Contents of the Necronomicon] . Compiled by "Dan Clore".

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