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The Long Ships

(Röde Orm #1-2)

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  7,193 ratings  ·  836 reviews
The book is set in the late 10th century & follows the adventures of Orm ("serpent"), called "Red" for his hair & his temper, a native of Scania. The story portrays the political situation of Europe in the later Viking Age, Andalusia under Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir, Denmark under Harold Bluetooth, followed by the struggle between Eric the Victorious & Sweyn Forkbeard of Denm ...more
Paperback, 477 pages
Published 1994 by HarperCollins (first published 1945)
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Average rating 4.28  · 
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 ·  7,193 ratings  ·  836 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyrb, vikings
”His voice became frenzied, and he glared wrathfully from one to the other, brandishing his arms and crying: Blood-wolves, murderers and malefactors, adulterated vermin, Gadarene swine, weeds of Satan and minions of Beelzebub, generation of vipers and basilisks, shall you be cleansed by holy baptism and stand as white as snow in the regiments of the blessed angels? Nay, I tell you, it shall not be so. I have lived long in this house and have witnessed too much; I know your ways. No bishop or hol ...more
Henry Avila
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the end of the dark tenth century , Vikings and their ancient customs were changing rapidly, the bold men, sea pirates and land raiders didn't recognize it, that was a fatal mistake, the harsh climate of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, even distant Iceland, slowly becoming nations did not make illiterate peasants there wealthy, just the opposite, much easier to rob, than working on poor farms, scratching a living in the unpredictable cold weather, an unproductive soil. The era of stealing the nei ...more
Jul 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In just a minute I’ll be trying my hardest to sell you Goodreading friends on this sensational Viking experience. Before that, though, seeing as how I’m foaming over with excitement and appreciation, I have multiple people to thank.

⊕ First, to the author: I know that you’re dead, but believe you must be sitting at the right hand of Odin, smiling that another reader has recognized your magnificent talent for stories, your impressive capacity for research and your sure way with words. Plaudits to
Brilliant comic novel about life in Viking Sweden. Those Vikings were real tough dudes.

My favorite bit is the sequence with Orm's first captain, who has a run of bad luck and ends up being captured and sold into slavery. The overseer knows he used to be a big guy and takes special delight in tormenting him, but the former captain waits for his chance. One day, while they're working in a shipyard, they're close to a barrel of boiling pitch; he picks up the hated overseer and dumps him in, head-f

This year my reading has been, to a great extent, directed by my travels or visits. These also account for my irregular presence in GR. I have been either on the go, or involved with other projects related to the travels.

As one of my upcoming trips is to the South of Spain, to Andalusia, I have been reading about the Muslim and medieval times in Spain. Prior to this, I had also travelled to another enclave that lies deep in the Christian medieval times of Spain, to Burgos, and this had me readin
Orm, the son of Toste, did not choose to be a viking, but Fate sent him on a path towards raiding, plunder, slavery, war and the pursuit of a princess.

Orm's luck was best..
“For man can triumph over man, and weapon over weapon; against the gods we can pit sacrifice, and against witchcraft, contrary magic; but against bad luck no man has anything to oppose.”

Taken in a pirate raid Orm joins the viking crew as they seek plunder in the southern land of Spain.


The Jewish ship mate...
The Jew knew all
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2012
This is the most laughs I've got out of a book dealing with pillaging, raping, burning, slaving at a galley's oar, duels to the death, wars at sea or on land. The fun starts from the very first chapter where it is dryly suggested that the reason the Northmen were so fond of going a-viking to the ends of the known world every spring was to escape the sharp tongues and the fiery tempers of their beloved consorts. After being cooped in with them for six long and cold winter months, going out at sea ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Another tough book to review--mainly because it has already been reviewed so well by folks like Kalliope and Manny, among others. Let me say that 'The Long Ships' was the most fun read I've had in a long time. Many books I read seem almost obligatory, and being a slow reader, I slog through even books like 'The Long Ships' that I genuinely like. It took me almost two weeks to read this book, but the average reader on here, whose brain is more functional (than mine), could probably finish this bo ...more
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Long Ships: An entertaining historical fiction adventure tale featuring badass Vikings doing badass Viking things. Overall, this was a fast, fun, often exciting read, filled with a surprising amount of historically accurate details and dry humor.
Oct 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyrb
A five hundred page novel about Vikings set in the year 1000? Sure, why not? This book has got more booty than a Sir Mix-a-Lot video. [rimshot!] Of course, I mean old school booty, as in creaky wooden chests filled with gold coins and jewel-encrusted amulets. Red Orm is our hero, a strangely lovable barbarian who begins the novel as a pubescent naif and ends it as a wealthy chieftain. Oops, spoiler alert (retroactive). I'm not really giving anything away there. This is very much an old fashioned ...more
Swiftly moving, endlessly entertaining, and brimming with historically accurate 10th-century flavor, this recounts in Norse saga fashion the adventures of Orm Tostesson (aka "Red Orm"), beginning with his capture as a young lad by Vikings, where, initially taken as a slave, he quickly proves his mettle and is initiated into the group as one of their own, and is eventually elected chieftain. The book follows Orm as he travels far and wide, makes lifelong friendships (and a few enemies), fights ba ...more
Nov 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011-2015
October 2011

How the shaven men fared in Skania in King Harald Bluetooth's time

Many restless men rowed north from Skania with Bue and Vagn, and found ill fortune in Jörundfjord; others marched with Styrbjörn to Uppsala and died there with him. When the news reached their homeland that few of them could be expected to return, elegies were declaimed and memorial stones set up; whereupon all sensible men agreed that what had happened was for the best, for they could now hope to have a more p
lark benobi
There is no interior monologue in this novel. It's all on the outside. And even so when I think how to describe my feeling about this book, the words that come to mind are "what a lark! what a plunge!" The prose is one fresh breeze of a story after another. I loved it the way I loved Star Wars circa 1977: it allowed me to enter a world completely unlike the one I'm living in, and to know with confidence that there was going to be a happy ending. ...more
Elizabeth K.
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013-new-reads
Here there be vikings!

This is (relatively) recently back in print in English, and the new edition has a forward by Michael Chabon, in which he goes on about it like a maniac. One of the things I like about Michael Chabon is that you can always count on him for some solid hyperbole, so I wasn't taking it that seriously.

By about the third page, I was convinced it was the best book I'd ever read, and by the tenth page, was wondering why anyone ever bothered writing a book after 1945. After the worl
Hey thanks, Manny. I hate violence, historical fiction makes me throw up, I stopped reading adventure books when I was twelve and Viking gods bored me to tears when I was going through my pagan gods stage in primary school and -'ve given me The Long Ships for my Birthday. That's so - well, I'm just lost for words - of you. What? Yes, I can see it was a big concession, really you wanted to get it in Swedish and I could put it on my list of languages I have to learn. And no, even though ...more
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Orm - a Viking that goes a-viking, has many adventures, learns much, has great luck (overall), and tries out a few different religions along the way.

Orm Tostesson (aka Red Orm) is a wonderfully developed character that we follow throughout his life: from the licking of a blade as a baby, to the coddling of his mother, to abduction, enslavement, many battles, and eventually having his own children and the subsequent adventures that a true Viking chieftain would expect to have when they have acqui
Spencer Orey
Wow that took me forever. It has its moments! Read it if you're into (sometimes hilarious, sometimes serious) Viking drama. ...more
Tanja Berg
I loved this book! It's about the fate of the Viking Röde Orm and his adventures in far away lands and at home. I've rarely read anything so entertaining, the narrative exudes of energy and storytelling joy ("fortellerglede" in Norwegian). It took a little while before I got used to the language, but after the first couple of hours (out of 17) I ceased to notice. The book was first published in the 1940's and the Swedish used had not been modernized for the edition I listened to. With time I fou ...more
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When asked what he had in mind writing his adventure novel The Long Ships, author Frans Gunnar Bengtsson answered, "I just wanted to write a story that people could enjoy reading, like The Three Musketeers or The Odyssey." In this, he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. His work has been translated into 23 languages at last count.

I have always loved literature by and about the Vikings -- from the great Icelandic Sagas to the Saxon Tales of Bernard Cornwell -- and I have always felt that they ha
A rollicking Viking novel. The story follows the intrepid Red Orm from his youth through to maturity as a husband, father and warrior of renown.

This lengthy novel is action packed with wonderful descriptions of Viking culture and customs. A surprisingly humorous novel in parts, great fun to read. Loved the female characters here, especially Asa the mother of Red Orm.
Written in 3rd-person Viking, THE LONG SHIPS gives a more favorable view of the Norsemen, especially Orm Tostesson, who travels widely and sees the World, such as it was in the 10th century A.D. Author Frans G. Bengtsson, a Swede, knows his history, as well he should -- himself a translator of many olden works such as PARADISE LOST and THE SONG OF ROLAND. Bengtsson showed some mettle himself (Red Orm would be proud), refusing to consent to a Norwegian translation of his book as long as the Norwe ...more
May 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, library, vikings
This must be the "granddaddy" of Viking novels by Low or Cornwell. Written in the style of the old sagas, this is the story of 'Red Orm' and his voyages -- to Spain, England, and to the land of the Patzinaks to retrieve a treasure of gold. This book had everything: adventure, humor, romance... ...more
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sweden
Historical allegories are always useful when you live in troubled times but don't necessarily want to talk directly about them because you never know who might be listening, and obviously for painting a bigger picture with older roots than newspapers can do. Sweden was neutral in WWII and eager not to openly piss off our big neighbour in the South, and consequently historical literature got a boost; Vilhelm Moberg's Ride This Night is a thinly veiled anti-fascist tract set in 17th century Sweden ...more
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great prose, complex characters, a poignant message; all of these are good qualities for a piece of literature to have, but they’re ultimately of secondary importance. The Long Ships is a rousing success because it accomplishes the primary purpose of a work of literature: it tells an enjoyable story. The book lets you join Red Orm and his many compatriots as they go a-viking from Sweden to Spain, having adventures and winning both riches and fame in the bargain, and it’s just a fun time all arou ...more
Daniel Chaikin
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
51. The Long Ships by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson
translation: from Swedish Michael Leverson Meyer
introduction: Michael Chabon
— 1941 - Röde Orm 1: Sjöfarare i västerled
— 1945 - Röde Orm: Hemma och i österled
— 1955 - translated and combined.
— 2010 - (crappy) introduction
format: 509 page paperback
acquired: October
read: Nov 23 - Dec 3
rating: 4½

This is fun. A viking adventure story that explores the remarkable world of 1000 AD. It's never too serious, and yet always interesting in a kind o
Orm is a viking, doing his viking things. He gets captured by slavers, goes to battles, finds treasures, founds a village, goes to viking meetings... I know it sounds extremely simple like that and I find that's the beauty of this book; being an old-fashioned, fun adventure that gives you good feelings. Sure, now some of you will go "but... viking were violent and horrible, what the heck are you talking about???". To which I say yes... and no.
There is violence in this, sure. But also there is a
Jul 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Keely, Paul
Recommended to Hazel by: Jan Steckel
Thanks to Jan for recommending this. It's taken me many months to find a copy at the library. This is a yellowing, somewhat tattered 1954 edition, which has been filed away somewhere and last borrowed almost 30 years ago! What a waste! I'm only a few chapters in and already it's terrific. :-) I need maps though. But that's what Google is for. :-)

Manny, you've probably read this, haven't you? In Swedish!


I'm about halfway through The Long Ships which is a romance (not in the sense of
This is hands-down my favourite newly-read novel* of 2020.

Published in 1945 and translated from Swedish, The Long Ships has Tolkien-like pacing and adventure vibe. We follow Red Orm and his comrades as they go a-viking around Europe.

Packed with dry humour, action, and romance, this novel was an amazing escape from modernity. There was nothing in the text to indicate it was written in the last 100 years, which was supurbly immersive. I just loved it from beginning to end.

Would highly recommend
Fantastic historical fiction. Bengtsson's dry wit is impeccable and perfectly in keeping with the sagas.

Three viking journeys, one to Muslim Spain, one to Æthelred the Unready's England and one to the viking Rus. The middle section in England is a bit of a slog, though the characters get to take part in the Battle of Maldon. They also serve as slaves and then bodyguards for Almansur. But it's the final section that rules the most: travelling the Dnieper searching for treasure and taking part in
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Frans G. Bengtsson (1894–1954) was born and raised in the southern Swedish province of Skåne, the son of an estate manager. His early writings, including a doctoral thesis on Geoffrey Chaucer and two volumes of poetry written in what were considered antiquated verse forms, revealed a career-long interest in historical literary modes and themes. Bengtsson was a prolific translator (of Paradise Lost ...more

Other books in the series

Röde Orm (2 books)
  • Röde Orm 1: Sjöfarare i västerled
  • Røde Orm: Hjemme og i Østerled

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