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A beloved Viking saga and masterpiece of historical fiction, The Long Ships is a high spirited adventure that stretches from Scandinavia to Spain, England, Ireland, and beyond.  

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590173466
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 07/06/2010
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Pages: 503
Sales rank: 143,768
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.04(h) x 1.11(d)

About the Author

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, The Song of Roland, and Walden), essayist (he published five collections of his writings, mostly on literary and military topics), and biographer (his two-volume biography of Charles XII won the Swedish Academy’s annual prize in 1938). In 1941 he published Roede Orm, sjoefarare i vaesterled (Red Orm at Home and on the Western Way), followed, in 1945, by Roede Orm, hemma i oesterled (Red Orm at Home and on the Eastern Way). The two books were published in a single volume in the United States and England in 1955 as The Long Ships. During the Second World War, Bengtsson was outspoken in his opposition to the Nazis, refusing to allow for a Norwegian translation of The Long Ships while the country was still under German occupation. He died in 1954 after a long illness.


Michael Meyer (1921–2000) was a translator, novelist, biographer, and playwright, best known for his translations of the works of Ibsen and Strindberg. His biography of Ibsen won the Whitbread Prize for Biography in 1971.


Michael Chabon is the author of twelve books, including The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, The Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, and Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son. He lives in Berkeley, California.

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Long Ships 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is truly my favorite book of all time, and I am looking forward to reading it again. Unfortunately I loaned my tattered old copy to a "friend" fifteen years ago and that was the last I ever saw of it. Orm is a character like no other in modern fiction, and I hope Chabon makes note of that in his introduction. I have tried many times over the years to explain to people why I love this book so much, but it seems to escape me. Even now I am torn about writing this review: should I share this great book with you or is it something that is so personal that it is beyond words? This book is a rare treasure in 20th century publishing; buy it and read it, again and again!
ArghArgh More than 1 year ago
I first read The Long Ships 20 years ago, after it was recommended by a European friend of mine. It was largely unavailable, and I ended up having to order it from England. It is an epic tale of a young viking boy grown up to a man, told in a humorous, delightful, and remarkable fashion. It is simply one of the finest pieces of literature ever produced. I have an extensive library, yet this is the ONLY book that I reserve a special tradition for. I read it every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as a treat to myself. I am very happy that it is in publication again, so that a broader audience may finally access this masterpiece. Now if they'd only make it for the Nook so that I can keep my rare copies from becoming even more tattered!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was given a copy in English translation (originally Swedish) by my Swedish grandfather for my 12th birthday. Like Treasure Island, it is as enjoyable now as it was those 25 years ago - and not because it has revealed new meaning or taken on a greater metaphorical significance as I approach it now from a more sophisticated perspective. Just the opposite in fact. It is a monolithic piece of writing which tells THE tale of viking adventure with a type of patient intensity that is seldom chosen by modern writers. Part saga, part thriller, the story will seem familiar. Not because it plays to stereotypes or because it is the progenitor of a Hollywood viking archetype, but because it communes on an almost primal level with the yearning for adventure and discovery in all of us. Can I recommend it? I would actually go as far as to say that any reader is somehow incomplete without it. It really may be the greatest book you have never heard of.
LordVader More than 1 year ago
I bought this upon recommendation by one of B&N critics and what a page turner it was. Bengtsson describes a fantastic yet matter-of-fact world of murderers, thieves, rapists, and slavers, AKA the Vikings, where such people are those who prosper and strangely enough it seems like the natural order of things. I am not quite how to best say this, but the characters in the story weren't 20th or 21st century American minds in the bodies of characters living a 1,000 years ago, but rather those people translated for me. Wonderful workmanship.
CarolynSchroeder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a ride! This is a great, old-fashioned novel, the kind that sinks you deeply into another place and time, and does so with adventure, humor and steeped in history. Having not read anything before about the Vikings or the Danish "Northmen" as they were called, I did not know what to expect. But this was just pure fun. This translation must be excellent because it was a very easy, smooth read, especially when you consider when it was written. Not only does the novel show the daily life/plunder/battles of the men on the Long Ships, but also family life and how Christianity took over much of the lands. The basic plot is pretty simple, it is the tales of "Red" Orm, with a dash of noble blood, goes on to live a life of many voyages and then to defend and grow his homestead. We meet many men and women who become his friends and his family. The only reason I did not give it five stars is that it does drag in a few spots, but when it does, another adventure is usually imminent. I really do not have much to compare this book to, so original was it, but I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction.
Smiley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastic read! Action graps you from the first page and doesn't let go for 503 pages. The story of tenth century Viking Red Orm from his childhood to old age. Read and enjoy.
Stbalbach on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent swashbuckling tale of adventurous derring-do in the Viking Age. It's written in the tone and style of a Nordic Saga, like what Scott did for England in Ivanhoe with his faux-Medieval-speak, but mercifully more readable. The plot is in four episodic parts, like a TV serial they form a whole. By the end you feel like you have lived a long and lucky life of a Viking. It is historically accurate in terms of events and places and famous people. I sometimes had a hard time reconciling these characters psychologically with what I know from history - could the King Harald in this book have been so in real life? It's possible that in a world where simple brute force ruled doesn't require complicated people or situations, luckily for the author of adventure novels! Whatever the case it is an entertaining story, and unique for its Romanticization of the Viking Age, it has shaped a sense of heritage for generations of young readers in Scandinavia, and beyond.
yarriofultramar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent read! I dislike Vikings intensely for being cruel, immoral riders but this book makes them much more likable characters. I have no problem with style the book was written. It conveys the atmosphere of olden times very well. I enjoyed this read very much!
jonsim on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Historical must read classic in my view. A great and comprehensive view of the vikings and the Norse people of the time , how they travelled and lived with a lot of the history borrowed from Snorre Sturlasson's Heimskringla. Great heroes. All told in a tongue in cheek ,dry saga style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story of Orm and his adventures is a fun read
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RalfK More than 1 year ago
I will have to disagree with the 5-star reviewers who absolutely adore this book. I found it to be tedious and long and do not know what others found so enchanting about primative thies,rapists,plunderers and murderers, It is written beautifully, but grtd tiresome. The book was given to Michael Chabon by his Danish aunt who bought rt it at an airport. Mr. Chabon writes a hyper--enthusiastic introduction to this book, which was published by the New York Review of Books. If you enjoy reading about the Crusader-barbarians, you might like this book. 
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