Frans Gunnar Bengtsson’s The Long Ships resurrects the fantastic world of the tenth century AD when the Vikings roamed and rampaged from the northern fastnesses of Scandinavia down to the Mediterranean. Bengtsson’s hero, Red Orm—canny, courageous, and above all lucky—is only a boy when he is abducted from his Danish home by the Vikings and made to take his place at the oars of their dragon-prowed ships. Orm is then captured by the Moors in Spain, where he is initiated into the pleasures of the senses and fights for the Caliph of Cordova. Escaping from captivity, Orm washes up in Ireland, where he marvels at those epicene creatures, the Christian monks, and from which he then moves on to play an ever more important part in the intrigues of the various Scandinavian kings and clans and dependencies. Eventually, Orm contributes to the Viking defeat of the army of the king of England and returns home an off-the-cuff Christian and a very rich man, though back on his native turf new trials and tribulations will test his cunning and determination. Packed with pitched battles and blood feuds and told throughout with wit and high spirits, Bengtsson’s book is a splendid adventure that features one of the most unexpectedly winning heroes in modern fiction.
Finally got it & read it!
By Stuart W. Mirsky "swm" - August 18, 1999
Having heard so much about this saga-type novel I sought it eagerly & finally broke down & bought it via amazon uk (after a long & fruitless hunt stateside). Rather expensive for this paperback w/lots of typos & editing problems, I thought. But the book, I judge, was worth it in the end. The tale of Orm Tostesson & "friends", this book follows the adventures of this typical late tenth century viking through nearly all the high-points of vikingdom in the period. From raids & servitude on the coasts of Moorish Spain, to visits with Irish monks and dinner with the Danish King, Harald Bluetooth, and his assorted guests, including no less a worthy than Styrbiorn Olafsson, the Jomsviking and claimant to the Swedish throne about whom E. R. Eddison wrote so brilliantly in his own viking novel, Styrbiorn the Strong, this book takes us through all the paces. Orm ends up with a very noble wife living in a... read more
Funny and historically accurate
By isala "Isabel and Lars" - November 7, 2003
This book is an eternal classic. Set in the height of Viking Age it tells us how Orm (Snake) is kidnapped by a band of marauding vikings. He then serves as a slave on a moorish ship, he is a mercenary among the muslims, he is marauder in England. He marries royally, settles, and goes on a treasure hunt for stolen gold in Russia. Bengtson uses the laconic language of the vikings to hilarious effects. The translator manages to keep it, which is great. The book is historically accurate with many historical events and persons interwoven in the narrative.
Re-issue this book!!!
By Earl Merkel "earl" - March 13, 2002
Every serious reader has had the experience: perhaps by accident --on a library shelf, or in a dusty box at a garage sale-- you stumble across an out-of-print book that seizes your imagination through its author's sheer mastery of the storytelling craft.And you wonder: why, O why, doesn't the publisher re-issue this in lieu of one or another of the emminently forgettable titles in current release?Such a book is THE LONG SHIPS by Frans Bengtssen, which crossed the Atlantic from Scandinavia to America in the early 1950s; like Leif Ericson, who made the same trip long before Columbus, this book lingered only briefly here before vanishing with scarcely a trace.And that is a tragedy for anyone who craves an epic, lusty tale of Vikings and their travels-- told with a sophisticated humor that is both wry and understated and with a sense of historical perspective that blends so subtly into the narrative that one is staggered to later find it is painstakingly accurate. Thank you,... read more