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The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson

The Long Ships (1941)

by Frans G. Bengtsson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Röde Orm (Omnibus 1-2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,188376,757 (4.16)1 / 231
  1. 30
    Egil's Saga by Anonymous (rocks009)
  2. 30
    Röde Orm : del I-IV samlingsalbum by Charlie Christensen (andejons)
    andejons: Charlie Christensen has created a comic novel adaptation which follows the original quite close.
  3. 20
    The Men of Ness by Eric Linklater (andejons)
    andejons: Bengtsson translated Linklater's book and was probably partly inspired by it. However, apart from being good novels about seafaring vikings, they are rather different in style, with Linklater reading more like a pastiche of Icelandic sagas.
  4. 10
    The Sagas of Icelanders by Örnólfur Thorsson (chrisharpe)
  5. 10
    The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison (DCBlack)
    DCBlack: Viking historical fiction with some folkloric and fantastic elements.
  6. 00
    Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell (jtp146)
    jtp146: Epic historical fiction with exploration.
  7. 00
    The Odyssey by Homer (chrisharpe)
  8. 01
    Memed, My Hawk by Yashar Kemal (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: Both are tales of adventure, different in time and place, but equally elegantly told.

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English (31)  Swedish (4)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (37)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
An absolute classic of adventure fiction, bounding along with energy and bravura and lashings of sly, ironic wit, following the exploits of Red Orm the Danish Viking who, despite his mother's best efforts to keep him at home, ends up haring off on a lengthy voyage against his will. Despite this apparently unpromising start, Orm fairs well at first and it looks as if all is going to go his way, but alas, luck, an all-important component of Viking life, goes astray and he ends up a galley slave for seven BUT THAT'S JUST THE START. This tale has barely warmed up before they're sneaking across from Spain to Ireland with the biggest bell in Christendom. Modern readers, like myself, may occasionally find one's attention slipping as it struggles to find purchase on the largely plotless series of events that unfolds on the page, because this is a Life, and Lives tend to be plotless, though not sub-plotless. It's episodic, but those episodes are juicy and amazing and hair-raising.

There are any number of historical novels and series and fantasies epic and grimdark for which, if one was looking for influences beyond the obvious, this must surely be the motherlode. Judgment on the Viking's antics and atrocities are very much left to the reader, but there is no doubt in their own mind that they are fully in accordance with their own rules and standards of behaviour, and the propensity for violence, rape and pillage is belied by a way of living that works and allows for functioning society with a capacity for justice, redress, fairness and progress. The rise of Christianity features heavily on the story, and while the book doesn't suggest it's a civilising influence per se - though there are occasions when it mitigates against a more sensible ruthlessness - it definitely suggests a transition of sorts, a great sea-change of which the cast are blissfully ignorant.

Big, muscular, funny, fast, filled with speeches about theology, women, law, wisdom, gold, the joys of fighting and ale and all sorts of odd digressions with wandering Irish jesters and forlornly randy magisters, this is a gem of a book that completely immerses the reader in its world. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
I had seen this book reviewed in 2013, and it immediately landed on my wishlist. I received it as a gift this Christmas, and really looked forward to reading it. It met my expectations and then some. I loved everything about it, from the brilliant cover to the rollicking good yarn that spills out of its pages.

The story takes place during the late 900's to early 1000's. Orm Tostesson is the son of a Skanian chieftain and is also known as Red Orm. He is stolen from his home as a young boy by a Viking named Krok. This starts the first of three voyages.

The book is broken into four parts. Part One, "The Long Voyage", is where Orm's skill and luck earn him a reputation as a great warrior and he is looked upon as a leader. In Part Two, "In King Ethelred's Kingdom", Orm's second voyage takes him to England where he becomes a Christian and marries Ylva, the daughter of King Harald of Denmark. Part Three, "In the Border Country", Orm settles down to raise a family and build his church. And finally, Part Four, "The Bulgar Gold", we find Orm taking his third voyage, a treasure hunt, that will make him a very wealthy man.

It wouldn't be a story about Vikings if there wasn't plenty of fighting, plundering, and drinking. There was a lot of religious change during that time, and Bengtsson explores the Viking Gods, Christians, Jews, and Muslims through the characters that he has so richly developed. He also uses a lot of humor to show the reader the changes that are happening.

If you want to read a book that takes you on an incredible journey, this just might be the right book for you.

Read January 2015 ( )
  NanaCC | Jul 26, 2015 |
I wasn't quite as enthralled with The Long Ships as other LT readers have been, but it was good summer, swashbuckling, Swedish reading. (2011) ( )
  janeajones | Jan 29, 2015 |
The Long Ships is an epic tale of the life of a viking with extraordinary luck, cunning and ambition. Orm is the hero and travels to far off places in search of viking plunder: treasure and women. It's great to live on a long ship to experience so much talk of luck and strategy. It seemed as if the voyage discussion was nearly an open forum to the man with the most well-spoken idea. They will kill a man if it means better luck or spare him if the group believes otherwise. All in all this book is a nice historical fiction that to me has a lot of the same characteristics and feel as Shogun by James Clavelle.

Orm is a boy at the beginning and is kidnapped from his home to begin a voyage with a well known Chieftain. As that journey goes awry Orm is captured by Moors along with five other vikings. As they are enslaved as rowers on a Moorish boat for years, Orm is the only one of them who is able to pick up their captures' tongue. He earns great respect from the other vikings and, upon being set free from the boat, becomes the leader of this group of great warriors.

The group is freed from the boat to join the service of "My Lord, Almorzar" a Moorish King. They win great regard working as his closest warriors. However, they soon have an opportunity to return home and they sail back to a very honorable welcome in King Harold's court. This is where Orm meets Ilva, Harold's daughter. They become separated and Orm yearns for this woman. This is when the spirit of the book changes slightly and focuses a bit on the love these vikings have for their women. In his pursuit of plunder in Ireland, Orm goes with the priest, who has promised treasure and safe passage and Ilva, from the King in London. Orm finds Ilva and the two of them return back to Norway. They bring the priest who has converted them both and has found great companionship with Ilva.

Upon returning with their spoils, Orm earns chieftain status and sets up a great home far away from the royalty of Norway and with very few Christians. The priest gets to work trying to convert the barbarians without much success. Soon, Orm's brother, previously believed dead, tells Orm about a treasure. The adventure for this treasure is the final journey in which Orm and his sons set out for and bring home. ( )
  jtp146 | Mar 15, 2014 |
I find "Red Orm" and his family a good bunch to hang out with. He's certainly a person one could invite to dinner, and proof that a "Barbarian" is not a savage. This book argues against the glorification of violence, and the idea that plundering was all that those people were about. Meyer's translation certainly was fun to read. It was read from cover to cover three times. ( )
2 vote DinadansFriend | Jan 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bengtsson, Frans G.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chabon, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meyer, Michael LeversonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The action of The Long Ships covers, approximately, the years A.D. 980-1010.

Translator's note.
Many restless men rowed north from Skania with Bue and Vagn, and found ill fortune at Jörundfjord; others marched with Styrbjörn to Uppsala and died there with him.

Prologue - How the shaven men fared in Skania in King Harald Bluetooth's time.
Along the coast the people lived together in villages, partly to be sure of food, that they might not depend entirely on the luck of their own catch, and partly for security; for ships rounding the Skanian peninsular often sent marauding parties ashore, both in the spring, to replenish cheaply their stock of fresh meat for the westward voyage, and in the winter, if they were returning empty-handed from unsuccessful wars.

Chapter One - Concerning Thane Toste and his household.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This book was originally released in Swedish in two parts, in 1941 and 1945. The first part was translated into English by Barrows Mussey as Red Orm in 1943. The whole work was translated into English by Michael Meyer as The long ships in 1954. This is the record for the complete work. Copies of part 1 and part 2 should not be combined with this.
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Set in the tenth century, when Vikings roamed and rampaged from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean. A boy abducted by the Vikings from his Danish home is made to take his place at the oars of their ships. Later, he is captured by the Moors in Spain and, escaping from captivity, washes up in Ireland, where he marvels at the Christian monks. Eventually, he contributes to the Viking defeat of the army of the king of England, and returns home a Christian and a very rich man.… (more)

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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590173465, 159017416X

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