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The Long Ships (New York Review Books…

The Long Ships (New York Review Books Classics) (original 1941; edition 2010)

by Frans G. Bengtsson, Michael Meyer (Translator), Michael Chabon (Introduction)

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1,248396,350 (4.16)1 / 256
Title:The Long Ships (New York Review Books Classics)
Authors:Frans G. Bengtsson
Other authors:Michael Meyer (Translator), Michael Chabon (Introduction)
Info:NYRB Classics (2010), Paperback, 520 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, History, Scandinavia, Saga, Novel, NYRB

Work details

The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson (1941)

  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 Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison (DCBlack)
    DCBlack: Viking historical fiction with some folkloric and fantastic elements.
  5. 10
    The Sagas of Icelanders by Örnólfur Thorsson (chrisharpe)
  6. 00
    The Odyssey by Homer (chrisharpe)
  7. 01
    Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell (jtp146)
    jtp146: Epic historical fiction with exploration.
  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 (33)  Swedish (4)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (39)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
I loved this book, which relates the story Orm, as he goes "a-Viking" in a vividly recreated 10th Century. There is nothing boring about his adventures, and I think this would be an enjoyable book even for those with no interest in Vikings or the 10th Century. Orm is an irresistible character, despite his frequent violence, and a reader can almost understand his enthusiasm for plundering and killing.

I have read that this book is based on extensive historical research and while Orm is fictional, actual historical events intersect with his life. More than that, the setting and the environment in which Orm lived are historically accurate, and one of the strengths of the book is that the voice of Orm is so authentic, with no intrusive hint of 20th century mores or prejudices. Even when touching on important themes (for example the conflicts between encroaching Christianity and the local Paganism), there is an underlying humor. For example, Orm muses, "We men of the north do not worship gods except in times of necessity, for we think it is foolish to weary them with babbling." And when he is being pressured to convert to Islam, he thinks, "Still, I dare say he is the best god in these parts, and he has already provided us with gold. If he can manage to provide a few women too, he will rise even higher in my estimation." ( )
  arubabookwoman | Feb 24, 2016 |
This book started out very well. I really liked the author's tongue-in-cheek depiction of the characters' very human foibles, especially with respect to the conversion of the Norsemen to Islam and Christianity. Then the plot began to drag, and the ending was entirely too neat. Still, worth a read to give one an insight into life as a Viking in the 10th century. ( )
  oparaxenos | Nov 27, 2015 |
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 ( )
1 vote 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 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (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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Average: (4.16)
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2 9
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3 28
3.5 18
4 96
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5 93

NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590173465, 159017416X

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