Of all the books Michael Crichton has ever written his best was his earliest, the Eaters of the Dead. I finally got around to watching the movie adaptation, which is not nearly as powerful as the book, but very good all the same. The movie is called the 13th Warrior, with Antonio Banderas as the 8th century Arab come on an quest with a fictionalized Beowulf.
Those of you who who have read the book know that in the original, the Beowulf story is recast as a duel between surviving Neanderthals and the Vikings, an all-star match if ever there was one. But both in Crichton's book and surprisingly in the 13th Warrior, the story is also about a comparison between world views. That of the Muslim and the Northman. Crichton is smart enough to show us the nobility of each. And in the end the reader is left in awe both of Valhalla and the Arab's 8th century faith. Of the book I will say no more. But in the film, the standout and keynote scene is when the Norsemen face seemingly certain death before the onslaught of the Wendols and the Arab prays to Allah. It is a moving and familiar enough prayer. But in a cinematic moment fit to vie with the rendition of Men of Harlech in Zulu, the Norsemen pray too in words that express the entire tragic and heroic warrior ethos. They are words the West has forgotten, and many more besides.
Lo there do I see my father.
Lo there do I see my mother.
Lo there do I see my brothers and my sisters.
Lo there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning.
Lo they do call to me;
They bid me take my place among them in the Halls of Valhalla,
Where the brave may live forever.
And in the end, the Arab allows that it may be his prayer too.