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Daniel Curanovic

British Literature Honors

Mr. Ayers

October 30, 2006

Beowulf vs. Buliwyf

There are many differences between Beowulf the epic heroic poem and the film

the 13th Warrior. Several key differences between the movie and the poem are: There is

one Grendel in the Poem, but there are many Vendel in the 13th Warrior. Unferth is the

Hrothgar’s son in the Film, but he is the hero of Herot in Beowulf. In the poem Beowulf,

only Beowulf pretends to sleep on the night of Grendel’s attack, but in the film, all of the

warriors pretend to sleep. In the poem, Beowulf goes to fight Grendel’s mother alone,

but in the film he is accompanied by the other warriors down to Vendel’s lair. In

Beowulf, after Beowulf defeats Vendel’s mother, he encounters and kills a Dragon that

has been terrorizing Sweden, but in the Film, Beowulf dies from being poisoned by

Vendel’s mother.

In Beowulf, there is only one Grendel and his mother. Grendel is a ghastly beast

that is considered the descendent of Cain. He goes to Herot and kills many of Hrothgar’s

men, because he feels as though he has been excluded from everyone else. In the 13th

Warrior, there are many Vendel instead of one Grendel, who look more human that

beastly. They are cannibalistic, and take the heads of those that they have killed as

trophies. This change was made because the 13th Warrior was written by Michael

Crichton, who has written the novel “Eaters of the Dead”. He probably wanted to include

in the 13th warrior that Vendel were an underdeveloped, cannibalistic people, instead of
hideous monsters. He probably felt that it would make more sense for Beowulf to fight

another group of people instead of a monster such as Grendel in Beowulf the poem.

In Beowulf, Unferth is known as the hero of Herot (Hrothgar’s mead hall).

In the 13th Warrior, Unferth is known as Hrothgar’s son and the next rightful king. This

was changed because during the verbal altercation between Beowulf and Unferth in the

poem, Beowulf accuses Unferth of only being known for killing his siblings, but it

doesn’t say why Unferth killed them. In the 13th Warrior, Unferth is Hrothgar’s son, and

because he killed all of his other brothers, he is the only candidate to take Hrothgar’s

place as king.

In Beowulf, only Beowulf is pretending to sleep on the night of Grendel’s attack

(everyone was knocked-out from all of the drinking). When Grendel comes he kills one

of Beowulf’s men, and Beowulf tries to study the ways that Grendel attacks. In the 13th

Warrior, all of the warriors are pretending to sleep (accept the Arab played by Antonio

Banderas, he was really sleeping). When the Vendel came, they gathered in a circular

formation so that they could not be attacked from behind. This was changed to discharge

the Anglo-Saxon belief in fate or wyrd. These people knew the destructive power of the

Vendel. If they got drunk and passed out like they did every time, they would all have

been killed by the Vendel. They were simply being smart enough not to be caught off-

guard when the Vendel came.

In the poem, Beowulf goes into the Grendel’s mother’s cave alone to fight her. In

the film, Beowulf goes with the other warriors down to the Vendel’s cave to fight the

Vendel’s mother. He lets the others fight the Vendel, but he kills the mother. This was

changed because to the fact that the number of Vendel was changed. If there was only
one Vendel (Grendel), he wouldn’t have needed the help of the other warriors, but if

there many Vendel, like in the film; he would have needed them to provide him with

protection from the Vendel while he was trying to kill the mother.

In the poem, after Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother, he returns to Sweden and

becomes the ring-giver of his own mead-hall. Fifty years later, there is a new threat that

he must deal with. A dragon is terrorizing his mead-hall. He decides to fight the dragon

alone, the same way he fought Grendel and his mother. He defeats the dragon with the

help of Wiglaf. Beowulf dies at the end of the battle, and Wiglaf becomes the next ring-

giver of Beowulf’s mead-hall. The film completely excludes the battle between Beowulf

and the dragon. In the film, Beowulf dies from a stab wound by the Vendel’s mother’s

poisoned knife. This was probably cut out because either there wasn’t a way to make the

dragon seem like a logical creature like the Vendel, or the writers felt that Beowulf would

have been too old to fight the dragon fifty years after defeating the Vendel and their

mother. Another reason why the writers cut this part of the film was because they felt

that the 13th warrior (the Arab), would have been too old to record the events that

surrounded Beowulf.

There are many other differences between Beowulf and the 13th Warrior, but the

one sure factor that changed the entire plot from the poem to the film was that change

from one Grendel to thousands of Vendel. This proves that in order for something to

make sense and keep its originality, it must keep the same plot.