Otherness Redoubled and Refracted: Intercultural Dialogues in The Thirteenth Warrior

  • Judith Klinger
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Portrayed as darkly savage or brightly innocent, the cinematic Middle Ages have long operated as a mirror highlighting both modernity’s advances and its failings. Frequently, this ambivalence is mitigated by the notion of an unchangeable human “nature”—such as the longing for love and freedom or an innate morality—hidden beneath the historical costumes.1 The dialogue between periods that each medieval movie initiates is thus often trapped in a dichotomous pattern. Some films celebrate emancipated enlightenment vis-à-vis brutal medieval primitivism, others paint a romantic image of medieval artlessness and integrity in stark contrast with modern decadence and alienation. Since these films juxtapose familiarity and otherness to allow for both recognition and dissociation, the degree of medieval alterity a given film is willing to tolerate necessarily depends on the categories supposedly defining modern identity. As a bottom line, the medieval Other often presents contemporary viewers with a suitably recognizable mirror image: a rough stranger nonetheless conforming to our standards of identity.


World View Historical Difference Intercultural Dialogue Muslim Faith Funeral Ceremony 
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    Cf. Roland Barthes, “The Romans in Films,” in Mythologies (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), pp. 26–28.Google Scholar
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    The Thirteenth Warrior, dir. John McTiernan and Michael Crichton (US: Touchstone Pictures, 1999).Google Scholar
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    For detailed discussions of gender relations in Warrior see Shutters, “Vikings through the Eyes of an Arab Ethnographer,” and Lisa DeTora, “‘Life Finds a Way’: Monstrous Maternities and the Quantum Gaze in Jurassic Park and The Thirteenth Warrior,” in Situating the Feminist Gaze and Spectatorship in Postwar Cinema, ed. Marcelline Block and Jean-Michel Rabaté (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2008), pp. 2–26.Google Scholar

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© Andrew James Johnston, Margitta Rouse, and Philipp Hinz 2014

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  • Judith Klinger

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