The 13th Warrior * John McTiernan * 1999

This is indeed a very old film and -like myself- you have probably seen it a few times already, but just in case you don’t or you want a litle bit of background information…
The director of the “Die Hard” films has made a film about Vikings. This is interesting in a way, especially now that this whole Germanic history has had my interest for a while. On the other hand, when you know ‘too much’ about the subject, the story of this film has a few definate flaws.
The film is about a Muslim pain-in-the-ass who is send to the Northern parts of Europe to be ambassador. Early in his trip he runs into a group of “Norsemen” who apparently sailed the rivers of the Baltic area scaring the local peoples. This IS possible, because the Vikings came as far as the Black Sea. Somehow the ship of Vikings hear that a small tribe somewhere in Scandinavia needs their help. A weird woman (probably meant to be a wise woman or “Völva”) says that 13 warriors have to go to help the tribe in need and the 13th warrior cannot be a Norseman. So the Arab travels with the Vikings. During the trip the Arab speaks English and the Norsemen Swedish (I think), but by listening “Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan Ibn Al Abbas Ibn Rashid Ibn Hamad” learns Swedish and from then everybody speaks English (to the viewer of course). The small community is terrorised a ghost-like warriors which they call “Wendol”. I don’t know where these “eaters of the dead” are supposed to go back to, but they are fashioned after the famous “Berzerkrs” of the Nothern mythology. The Wendol are black, inhuman (ghostly) and dress in boar skins. Their ‘symbol’/goddess is a head- and limbless statue of a fat woman, much like the Kostienko or Willendorf statues, but without a head. The two statues that I name are some 23000 years old and were found in Russia and Austria and they probably represent mother earth or at least fertility. The Wendol worship their goddess in a cave and with the aid of a priestess. The heads of the people they killed are offered to the goddess. This headhunting is (as far as I know) more something of the far East. You can see, the film is a bit of a mishmash of elements. Better are the Viking honour elements. Ahmed is surprised to hear how his Viking friends think about life/fate (everything is predisposed), death (death in battle a crown to life), honour, comradship and the like. These parts give a nice view on the Viking way of life and make the film worth to watch. It is handy to know what is ‘no-so-Viking’, so here you have a few of my thoughts.

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