Essay, Research Paper
Applied Intelligence and Knowledge Conquers All
In his novel, Eaters of the Dead, author Michael Crichton shows how the Volga Northmen were able to defeat their foes, the wendol, by using their intellect instead of their weapons. This is seen in four aspects. The theme of the novel is that physical courage is not enough to preserve your culture and lifestyle: intelligence and superior knowledge are absolutely essential. Conflict between the wendol and the Northmen shows which group has the intelligence to eliminate the other. Symbolism of wisdom, knowledge, and the lack of such things are used by Crichton to illustrate this moral. The juxtaposition of characters emphasizes the cleverness of the Volga Northmen compared to the Venden Northmen.
The theme of the story is that applying intelligence and knowledge is essential in order to keep one s culture alive. A good proof of this is the lack of knowledge of Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, the narrator of the story. He is an Arab who knows nothing of the ways of the world (p. 77) because he has never truly experienced the world before that day, since he does not care for adventure. Having no experience with the world and having no knowledge, Ibn Fadlan slowly learns the Northmen s way of life. In the end, felt he had been born a Northman (p. 152), having spent much time in their company and is no longer the coward he was when he started the trip. His lack of knowledge causes him to be a coward in battle, since he will be battling frightening, mysterious creatures. A better proof of this is that the wendol acts as if they are animals, which are unintelligent. The wendol makes a low grunting sound, like the rooting of a pig (p. 97), have hair as long as a hairy dog (p. 99), and wear the heads of dead animals as masks. They act as if they were brainless and cannot think of ways of attack on the Northmen. The only thing they can think of when they are losing is to retreat. Their ignorance to provide more guards at the second entrance to the thunder cave give the Northmen easy access to kill their leader from the lack of defenses. The best proof of this is that the Northmen are the ones who have the knowledge and intelligence to defeat the wendol. They learn about the second entrance to the cave of thunder, where the mother of the wendol lives, and plan the attack to kill the mother wendol, with the help of the dwarves. It was because of their intelligence and knowledge that led them to victory. Crichton, through the the affects the different cultures have on each other, shows that having and applying knowledge preserves the existence of one s culture.
The wendol are a threat to the existence of the Northmen in Venden; hence, Buliwyf and his mighty warriors must battle them in order to preserve the future of their people. This conflict can only be won by the use of the knowledge the Northmen have learned. A good example of this is that although the Northmen are strong, at first they are unable to defeat the wendol have. The Northmen underestimate the number and strength of the wendol. The Northmen have much fewer warriors to fight than the wendol. The Northmen also have no defences against the wendol because King Rothgar forgot about them when he built his settlement on the cliff. The Northmen are not as physically strong as the wendol, and therefore they lost in battle, showing that physical strength is not enough to overcome an obstacle. A better example of this display is when the Northmen find a way to overcome the wendol. Although they were defeated on the battlefield, the Northmen defeat the wendol in a conflict on a higher level. This is the battle of intelligence. The Northmen acquire knowledge from the helpful dwarves in the caves of Venden, who aid them in killing the leader of the wendol. The death of their leader causes the wendol to become outraged, which leads them to their downfall. It is because of the intelligence the Northmen has, and used, that they are able to outwit the wendol. The best example of this is that the wendol s strength and bravery are not enough to defeat the Northmen when they lost their leader. The wendol s leader is the only one who has the intelligence to lead the wendol and with her no longer present to guide them, the wendol have no strategies to go into battle with. Their rage clouds their lack of judgement and instead of admitting defeat, they go into battle for one last battle. The battle causes the wendol to lose many of their fighters and causes them to retreat because they are unable to think of new ways of attack. Their lack of intelligence causes the wendol to lose in battle. The Northmen s victory over the wendol shows that the application of intelligence and knowledge conquers physical power.
Symbolism is used to show how intelligence and knowledge are essential to succeed in life. A good example of this is that King Rothgar, who symbolizes vanity, and it is this same vanity that causes the attacks of the wendol. He is called Rothgar the Vain because of the way he has placed his settlement. He dares the gods to strike him down, and he pretends he is more than a man (p. 76-77) and the attacks of the wendol are how the gods punish him. His vanity causes him to forget defenses, which one should never be without, and this allows the wendol to move freely over the land. His lack of intelligence causes his settlement to encounter the terror of the wendol. A better example of this is the angel of death in each settlement, who symbolizes knowledge. Everything the angel of death says is thought to be real and is trusted since she is able to see into the future. The Northmen depend on the angel of death for answers to their problems, which she answers using bones she cast upon the ground (p. 48) and look into the future. Every time a problem occurs or a question is asked, the angel of death is summoned for a solution. It is her knowledge that helps the Northmen by telling them what is to come and when it will occur. Her knowledge helps the Northmen be prepared for battle with the wendol by looking into the future and report all findings. The best example is wisdom, symbolized by the dwarves in the caves of Venden. The dwarves are thought especially intelligent and trustworthy, (p. 145) and do not attempt to get into trouble with others, which is the reason why they do not challenge others into a battle. With their intelligence and magic powers, they are able to defeat anyone; therefore, they trust everyone without worry of an attack on them. The oldest dwarf, called tengol, meaning a judge of good and evil, tells the Northmen they must strike at the head and the heart (p. 149) in order to overcome the wendol s mother, and end the existence of the wendol. Taking the wisdom and the weapons from the tengol, the Northmen begin their quest to the cave of thunder, where the mother of the wendol lives. Each character displays, and symbolizes, the level of intelligence they have and this is reflected in the decisions they make, affecting their future.
Juxtaposition is used to emphasise the importance of cleverness and knowledge in order to survive. A good use of this device is when Wiglif s friend, Ragnar, challenges Herger, a brave warrior of Buliwyf s group, to a duel. Although Ragnar is young and much larger and stronger (p. 117) than Herger, it is Herger who slays Ragnar. This was because Herger has more knowledge of battles and knows how to win a battle. Ragnar is strong but he has no knowledge or intelligence to create a plan of attack. Crichton states, Cleverness in battle is accounted a greater virtue than pure strength in warriorship (p. 119) and this is true since it is one s cleverness that conjures up a plan to defeat the opponent. A better use of this is when Wiglif, the son of Rothgar, challenges Buliwyf s ability to suppress the wendol. Wiglif is a cunning man (p. 71) and is a fox (p. 86) who killed his own brothers to ensure he gains the title of the throne. Although he is cunning, he is not clever enough to defeat the wendol himself. At the arrival of Buliwyf, Wiglif insults Buliwyf for fear that Buliwyf will be able to do what he himself could not. His attempts to outsmart Buliwyf fail every time, showing he is not as cunning as Buliwyf and he may lose his chance at the throne. Buliwyf displays that he is more cunning than Wiglif by being the one who actually destroys the mother of the wendol, and his group makes the wendol leave the settlement. It is because of Buliwyf that Venden is once again a safe place to be. The best usage of juxtaposition is in the pairing of the leaders of the two groups of Northmen, King Rothgar and Buliwyf. King Rothgar is an old, weak king who has wisdom and richness (p. 96) but he forgot defence (p. 96). This left his people defenceless and he needed help from Buliwyf. He builds his settlement on a cliff and dares the gods to strike him down, (p. 77) putting his people in danger because of his vanity, another act that leads to his downfall. Buliwyf is called upon to help and save the settlement of Venden. He leads the people of Venden to build defences, which King Rothgar was unable to do, although he is the king and should have already done so. Buliwyf is the one with the intelligence that eventually drives away the wendol. The pairing of these characters show the stupidity of the Venden royals and nobleman, which causes them so much trouble and requires the help of the Volga Northmen, who are more intelligent.
The Northmen arrive at Venden as a group of thirteen and only four remain. All nine who died lost their lives in the battles of physical strength. However, when it comes to the battle of the intelligence and knowledge, all the warriors survived. The lack of intelligence and knowledge of the Venden Northmen and the wendol leads them to a devastating end. From this, it is seen that the intelligence and knowledge one has is truly more important than physical strength, for without the mind, one is useless.