The Long Ships
May 6, 2019 9:01 PM - by Frans G. Bengtsson - Subscribe

It is the year 1000 and Red Orm, a native of Scania, goes a-viking. This book of historical fiction follows Orm's adventures through the life of Europe in the later Viking Age, from Andalusia to Denmark to Ireland to England, all against the backdrop of pragmatic Norse paganism's encounters with Islam and creeping Christianisation.
In my career as a reader I have encountered only three people who knew The Long Ships, and all of them, like me, loved it immediately. Four for four: from this tiny but irrefutable sample I dare to extrapolate that this novel, first published in Sweden during the Second World War, stands ready, given the chance, to bring lasting pleasure to every single human being on the face of the earth. -- from the Introduction by Michael Chabon

posted by fleacircus (7 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm only in the first chapter but already enjoying the writing (and its dry wit) so much I decided to post it.
posted by fleacircus at 9:04 PM on May 6, 2019

I read this a decade ago and loved it!
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:59 PM on May 6, 2019

I read this a year ago, after buying the book (in English) at the Viking museum in Stockholm. I enjoyed it, especially doing deep dives on Wikipedia for all the various historical tie-ins for the different regions and rulers Orm deals with.

But Red Orm always came off to me as a bit of a Mary Sue. He's the best poet, wisest ruler, and has the strongest sword arm. But I don't think Orm's level of characterization is really the point of the book.
posted by LionIndex at 7:15 PM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

First found this about ten years ago and have reread it every couple years since. It made buying birthday presents a lot simpler for a while. I can't think of anyone who got it who didn't love it. It is just a rollicking good adventure and story. There are a few books that are a joy to get a young person to read, Frank Worsley's Shackleton's Boat Journey, Charles Portis' True Grit, Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief and this one.
posted by Bee'sWing at 5:23 AM on May 8, 2019

I haven't got to Mary Sue Orm yet (it is sort of a comedy anyway, it sounds like, so it's not so big a deal?). The vikings are for real murder hobo doofuses though, and I love the abstract way their foolishness is described.
posted by fleacircus at 8:37 PM on May 8, 2019

Yeah, it's really not a big deal, but just a thought in the back of my mind through the whole thing like, "is there anything this guy can't do?"
posted by LionIndex at 3:54 AM on May 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really liked this quote... "Two who were seated not far from me began a discussion as to what it would feel like once one’s head was off, and they agreed that it was one of those things that are difficult to foretell."

I saw a summary that said it was interesting that the vikings don't possess any "interiority", which I can see, but I think it's more that their demonstrativeness is being highlighted so much. They are warrior and jocks who try to simply the world, but also it's also a little bit like plays that don't have soliloquies; emoting is required. It's the right voice for the subject matter.

Not sure what I'm saying in that previous paragraph, just a collection of thoughts lol.
posted by fleacircus at 10:38 AM on June 1, 2019

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