|Eaters of the Dead|
First edition cover
|Genre(s)||Plausible historical novel|
|Publication date||March 1976|
|LC Classification||PZ4.C9178 Eat3 PS3553.R48|
|Preceded by||The Great Train Robbery|
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 Vikings. The remainder is based upon the story of Beowulf.
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.
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.
The novel was adapted into film as The 13th Warrior, directed by John McTiernan and released by Walt Disney Pictures through its Touchstone banner. 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 release. 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.