The Historic Ahmed Ibn Fadlan traveled as an emissary to the land of the Volga Bulgars to convert them to Islam. And on his way he encountered Turks in Central Asia and Russian and Varangians (Volga Vikings). He returned in 923 and no record after this date refers to him.
Since Michael Crichton published his novel "Eaters of the Dead" in 1976, the basis of this film, it has become regarded as one of the most notorious hoaxes in Librarianship Circles. The Ahmad Tusi Manuscript that Crichton referenced in his bibliography as being the source of this story, is completely made up. The name of the translator Fraus Dolus is in fact two Latin words meaning both 'hoax' and 'fraud'. The University of Oslo, where this manuscript is supposed to be kept, have (since the book was published), on an annual basis had to send out letters telling enquirers that they have been the victim of a hoax.
Adapting "Beowulf" for his novel and then for this movie, Michael Crichton changed some of the original names for ones that sounded similar: Beowulf is here named Buliwyf, Hygelac becomes Hyglak, the Grendel transformed into the Wendol, etc.
Graeme Revell had composed a complete original score when the movie was slated to be released as "Eaters of the Dead" in 1998. But after the film was deemed unwatchable during test screenings, Michael Crichton took over the project and rejected Revell's original score and brought in Jerry Goldsmith to rescore the film, renamed "The 13th Warrior."
In accordance with the book, John McTiernan's version of the Wendol's mother was an old woman, which was filmed with veteran actress Susan Willis. When Michael Crichton took over and did the reshoots, it was decided that brutally killing off an old lady did not reflect very well on the heroes. Crichton decided after the fact to make her younger, sleeker and tougher. In the final released film, Wendol's mother is played by actress Kristen Cloke (uncredited), but the final credits still list Susan Willis as the Wendol's mother (although she is nowhere to be seen in the final cut).
One of the Viking ships used in the movie is now to be found in the Norwegian pavilion in the EPCOT-center, Walt Disney World, where it is used as a playground for kids. The Disney-company is also the owner of Touchstone Pictures that made the movie.
Although rumors persist that 'The 13th Warrior' was one of the most expensive movie flops ever with a budget of $160m (the figure given on the-numbers.com for its combined production and marketing costs), the producers claimed that the actual cost of the film before marketing was $90m. In the U.S. The 13th Warrior grossed $32,698,900 and only $61,702,600 worldwide.
Originally titled 'Eaters of the Dead', the film went through several re-edits after test audiences did not react well to the initial cut. After re-shooting several key scenes with Michael Crichton taking over as director, the title was changed to 'The 13th Warrior'. The budget, which was originally around $85 million, reportedly soared to more than $110-115 million before principal photography wrapped. With all of the re-shoots and promotional expenses, the total cost of the film was a rumored $160 million.
The disparate armor worn by the Vikings can be explained by the Norse tradition of taking the armor of a vanquished foe. It was also a display of status in Norse society..the nicer the armor the higher the position hence Buliwyf's ornate set and why Halga appears to have the helmet of a Roman gladiator.