Comparing Beowulf and The 13th Warrior - Book vs Movie

Updated on April 21, 2012

The Main Differences - Movie vs Book

The 13th Warrior has many, many, many similarities and differences when compared to the original epic poem, Beowulf. There are quite a lot of changes in plot of the poem, and the sequence of things in the film. The central idea of an, ‘existence of an old race and the need for an epic hero’ is evident in both pieces. The characters in the film and in Beowulf are presented in different aspects, with different motives, appearances, or names. The differences and similarities shown in The 13th Warrior and Beowulf can be examined through the plot, central idea, and the characters.

The Plot

The plot of the epic poem Beowulf and the film The 13th Warrior differ greatly compared to each other. In Beowulf the main character, Beowulf set sail to the Danes land in order to defeat a monster named Grendel. In the film, the character that represents Beowulf, Buliwuf, sets out to defeat a race, not a single monster and its mother, the race of Wendols. The character defeats Grendel in the poem; but he does not defeat all of the Wendols in the film on the first attack. The character Buliwyf then defeats the Wendols on the second attack, where they kill the ‘mother.’ Both characters have to defeat a dragon, or ‘fire serpent.’ In the epic poem, Beowulf is not poisoned until he is scratched by the dragon. In the film, Buliwyf gets scratched by the mother. The characters go through turmoil; they fight for life and limb, and battle forces they did not even know existed. The plot of the story changes between both poem and film to accompany the story line and keep the reader interested; even though the main characters are different and they have different names, the whole plot as the same general idea, just in a different sequence.

Do You Prefer the Book, Beowulf, Or the 2007 Movie, Beowulf?

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The Central Idea

The central idea in both Beowulf and The 13th Warrior is the same, an ‘existence of an old race and the need for an epic hero.’ In both poem and film there is an epic hero, an existence of an old race, and the need for the hero to save someone from the race. In Beowulf`s story he is called upon by Hrothgar to save the Danes from a descendant of Cain: Grendel. Grendel, the worst of mankind, had a mother though. When Beowulf killed off Grendel, his mother became deeply angered and sought out revenge of her son`s killer. Beowulf also in his old age goes off to defeat a dragon, to save his kingdom from terror, but dies from the venom of the serpent’s bite. In The 13th Warrior the main character was Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan; though the story was from his point of view, the character Buliwyf was called upon to defeat a race of Wendols. The Wendols are headed by a `Mother` and are thought to be a race of evil. Evil, as in a race of Cain; the original evil. Buliwyf defeats the mother without a weapon, but never truly defeats the entire race of Wendols. The dragon Buliwyf was supposed to defeat turns out to be a hoard of Wendols coming to attack Hrothgar`s land. The king who asks for help does not change, but the battles and the outcomes do. Between Beowulf and Buliwyf, the epic hero thrives and defeats the old race that attempts to come back from a long ago hidden nature.


The Main Characters

The main characters in both The 13th Warrior and in Beowulf are from two completely different points of view. The 13th Warrior is from the view of Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan, the thirteenth chosen warrior to fight with Buliwyf (Beowulf) in a tragic battle against unhumanlike creatures. In the epic poem though, the view is from Beowulf`s eyes. The look of the battle in the film shows the different perspectives and the sense of confusion the warriors had while accompanying Beowulf throughout his journey to defeat Grendel and the dragon. The film demonstrates the risk he warriors went through and their attitude toward this battle. It shows Ahmed saving two children who were running from the incoming attack and his compassionate heart for those who were suffering. The film shows the better side of Buliwyf, the nobler and slightly more gentleman side of Buliwyf. It shows Buliwyf fighting to protect the people of the kingdom; he was not just in it for the glory, fame, rewards or the ladies. In the poem Beowulf is fighting for just that: being self-centered and misusing his abilities for his own good, not the good of others. The characters of the film and the poem have completely different personalities, are in different character seniority, and do each task in a different way.

Throughout The 13th Warrior and Beowulf, the warriors tend to show off their attributes and physical talents. The plot thickens in a different way, and is resolved differently also. The main characters are different, with similar goals, but different reasons for doing what they do. The central idea never changes, and is a constant theme throughout both film and poem. The differences in the setup of the film and poem definitely outweigh the similarities, but the similarities of the plot and general concept are easily seen.


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    • profile image

      Queen Kae 

      2 years ago

      It gives a very important history of a heroic man named Beowulf, who is a solider and brings along his men to defeat a creature/the Wendols. His men and he decides the fate from God to the people and saves the from the Horns of Power and the mother/Grendel and his demonic mother. Beowulf and the 13th Warrior are awesome learning and best learning of all books I have read in my time.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Your post has litfed the level of debate

    • 17Bree profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Southern Ontario

      Ahaha, Yeah. My school forced me to read it, and here's my report.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Haah, i like the poll's answer


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