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The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson
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The Long Ships (1941)

by Frans G. Bengtsson (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Röde Orm (Omnibus)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,102347,523 (4.17)1 / 207
  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 (29)  Swedish (4)  Danish (1)  All languages (34)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jan 20, 2014 |
Grand tales of high adventure as northmen go a-viking in pursuit of silver and gold across a tumultuous Europe of the Tenth Century A.D. are spun by Frans G. Bengtsson in “The Long Ships”. He brings alive this time when the continent trembled at the approach of the men in the dragon ships and people changed their religion at the whim of their Kings from the old pagan gods, to Christianity or to Islam. He depicts battles large and small, but also great feasts with ale and mead as well as contests where poets sling praise or insults in equal measure. These marvelous stories follow the engaging and very human hero Red Orm, he is a bit of a hypochondriac and frequently plagued by doubts as to the status of his ‘luck’. Orm’s adventures begin when he is a strapping young lad kidnapped by Krok’s raiding party in the first tale called “The Long Voyage”. Orm becomes a valued member of the crew and his facility with language puts him in a leadership position when he and his men enter the service of the Muslim Lord Almansur of the Moorish caliphate in Spain. The second story “In King Ethelred’s Kingdom” finds Red Orm at the center of an invasion of England where a propitious conversion to Christianity advances his romance of a Princess. The third story “In the Border Country”, finds Orm setting up his new home and meeting his less than welcoming neighbors. The fourth story is another voyage of adventure across the Russian steppes in search of “The Bulgar Gold”. Bengtsson was considered a major writer in advancing the art of the essay in Swedish, but he brings a warmth and humor to the telling of these tales and the reader shares his great sense of fun as each one unfolds.
Written by Frans G. Bengtsson in Swedish during World War II the stories were translated by Michael Meyer and originally published in English in 1954. This 2010 edition has been published by the New York Review of Books with an enthusiastic introduction by author Michael Chabon. ( )
2 vote ralphcoviello | Oct 23, 2013 |
Great book! A bit dull towards the end, about Chapter 10. ( )
  SpaceyAcey | Sep 23, 2013 |
The travels, travails, and journeys of Red Orm Tostesson and his crew and faithful friends is great good fun. Set in the late 990's and early 1000's it is tales of Viking daring do filled with swashbuckling, and sometimes slapdash happenings that border on the fantastic. Don't read this book for insightful looks at the culture, history, or politics of Vikings. Read it for the fun of the adventure and the funny stories within the story.

The tale of Red Orm's travels takes the reader from his home in Southern Norway west and south the Moorish Spain where he serves first as a galley slave and then as part of the General Almansur's elite squadron of troops. Eventual escape takes him back home by way of Ireland, where all the gold he has brought from Spain makes him a rich man. From there he goes to England and gets more gold. Back home, and eventually all the way down the Dnieper to its cataracts, where he finds more gold to become even richer. Like many Vikings of his time, he was incredibly well traveled.

Orm's greatest talents are for storytelling and making friends. Of course, his crew mates think that he is incredibly lucky and wise and those qualities are the most prized talents of all. The friends that Orm made on his travels serve him well and show up at opportune times throughout the book, providing incredible rescues that enhance his reputation for luck and thereby his accumulation of riches.

What struck me about this story was the humor. It is rampant throughout. Sometimes sly, sometimes backhanded, but always pointed and very funny. The author skewers everybody from the Vikings to Kings to the Church and makes the reader laugh while doing it. The other strength of the story was the wordsmithing talents of the characters. The ability to tell a good story and compose a great poem on the spur-of-the-moment was highly prized and a man was often judged on his abilities with stories and poetry. I would describe this tendency as Homeric in nature. ( )
1 vote benitastrnad | Aug 16, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bengtsson, Frans G.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chabon, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meyer, Michael LeversonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Många oroliga män foro bort från Skåne med Bue och Vagn och hade ingen lycka i Hjörungavåg; andra följde Styrbjörn till Uppsala och föllo med honom.
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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

Two editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590173465, 159017416X

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