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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can almost taste the blood sausage ...
This has to be one of the best historical novels on any subject ever written - a totally engaging, nay enthralling, saga of viking adventure at the turn of the previous millennium. It brings 10th century northern Europe vividly before the reader; it has a very appealing young hero, Orm Tostesson, whose story we follow eagerly and avidly from inexperienced youth to...
Published on 24 Feb 2003 by A L Hopkins

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting Saga
This book was recommended to me by a very academic Swede!

Although it is a novel, it does, nevertheless, give a very graphic insight into the world of the Vikings and debunks many of the oft-repeated myths about their world and mores.

My only gripe is that the book is in paperback format and the type is absolutely minute to my 64-year-old eyes...
Published 11 months ago by Margaret


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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can almost taste the blood sausage ..., 24 Feb 2003
By 
A L Hopkins (Oxford, Oxon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Long Ships (Paperback)
This has to be one of the best historical novels on any subject ever written - a totally engaging, nay enthralling, saga of viking adventure at the turn of the previous millennium. It brings 10th century northern Europe vividly before the reader; it has a very appealing young hero, Orm Tostesson, whose story we follow eagerly and avidly from inexperienced youth to adventurous old age as he participates in viking expeditions as far apart as England, moorish Spain, and the long road to Miklagard. It's very much a smell-the-salt-sea-spray, feel the swaying deck, almost trip on the slippery blood sort of book, but it's additionally fascinating to anyone who's ever wondered how the Vikings could possibly relate to modern-day Danes and Swedes (this book will tell you). It's full of fascinating stories about such famous folk as King Harald Blue Tooth and the Jomsvikings, relating for example how a young warrior's long blond hair saved his life. And it's extremely funny, particularly on the subject of attempts to convert the less amenable Northmen to Christianity. And it's also in places moving; and in other places, an edge of the seat suspense thriller. I first found it in a 2nd hand bookstore in Stockholm in 1989; the copy I bought then has been re-read so many times that it has now fallen to pieces and I must have another, and several spares to give my friends.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LO, THERE DO I SEE MY FATHER, 22 May 2000
This review is from: The Long Ships (Paperback)
The 13th Warrior must have been spun from this wonderful Bible of Viking life. A friend from Sweden first gave me this book in 1993. It was the best way he could explain the history of his culture, he said. Brutally funny and truly resounding of a pragmatic people frolicking through what were the dark ages for the rest of Europe, Rodorm, or The Longships in English, is a wonderful tale of an intrepid crew of voyagers gone a-viking (viking is a verb, by the way, like smoking. It means more or less Harbouring...and we all know what "Vikings" did once the entered and landed a harbour ;) John Guthrie
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book deserving cult status, 4 April 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: The Long Ships (Paperback)
Ahh - Röde Ormen (The Red Worm) translated to English, with a cover that could discourage any sensible reader. I don't know how this book presents itself in english, but in the Danish translation it is one of my all-time favourites. In what seems to be a lucky punch, or a divinely inspired magnum opus, Bengtson managed to keep a perfect pitch between tongue in the cheek irony, burlesque humor, juvenile romanticism, and - hidden somewhere in between swordplay and lovemaking - acknowlegment of the grim realities of early medieval life.
It is one of those rare gems that can be read again and again, each time with more than one chuckle, feeling in just the right company with no-nonsense farm-boys who make an odyssey through 900 ac Europe, part history, part myth, and written with an astute sense of detail that makes the characters come alive. Eventually you'll know long passages by heart and be eager for your children to grow to an age where you can read it aloud to them. It may not be on the literary critics 'all-time 100', but I only know a handful of books with an impact like that.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't judge this by its cover, 23 Jun 2004
This review is from: The Long Ships (Paperback)
Forget the awful cover – this book is a gem. One of Sweden's foremost historians and literary figures, Bengtsson has been compared to a latter-day Samuel Johnson. A marvellously pacy adventure story, "The Long Ships" towers above most historical fiction, especially as it contains sound background on arcane Norse traditions such as nose-tweaking, trollcraft and, of course, "The Ale Death". In fact, it's one of the funniest books you'll ever read – few books can make you laugh out loud on a crowded tube train, but this is one.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars worthy of a hollywood blockbuster, 26 Jun 2005
By 
V. G. Evans Galtry (Bridgend U.K.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Long Ships (Paperback)
I first bought this book while i was still in school (MANY MOONS AGO)and read it over till it was falling apart , i then lent it to a friend and never got it back ,so imagine my joy upon finding it again on amazon, i have since read this book at least once a year, it still makes me laugh and thrill like the first time i read it, The adventures of Red Orm & Toke Greygullsson are well overdue for the big screen ,discounting the Jack Cardiff hatchet job of earlier years (it features just one incident from the book), For my money far much more fun than the po faced hobbity tosh of the lord of the rings
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, 13 Oct 2014
By 
C. E. Utley "Charles Utley" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am embarrassed. I have to admit that, until a kind friend guided me to it, I had never even heard of this novel. Now that I have read it I can't believe that I have lived for so many years without having done so before.

Many will, I suspect, be put off by the subject matter of the book. Tales of Vikings are not everyone's cup of tea. But this is not just a story of Viking adventures. It is much more than that. Yes, many a head is severed, many an innocent man's worldly goods plundered and many a young woman raped. But any story of late tenth to early 11th century Vikings can hardly ignore such activities.

This is a story of a man, Orm, going on long metaphorical and real journeys. As it begins, we see Orm as a rather molly-coddled young man with a mother determined that he should stay at home under her protection rather than go out a-Viking with his brother and father. He is something of a hypochondriac, constantly afflicted by minor ailments. In a conventional way, he worships various heathen gods. So, the only unusual thing about him is his enforced abstinence from the enjoyable pastime of going a-Viking.

But then everything changes. He is captured by men who steal some sheep belonging to his family. He is taken to their boat and so starts the longest of his journeys. In the course of it he comes across many fascinating characters. Then he is captured again and finds himself in the service of the regent of the Caliph of Mordova. Upon his master's instructions, he embraces Islam and becomes a worshipper of Allah and his Prophet. He then escapes and makes his way to the court of the great King Harald Bluetooth where he falls in love with the King's daughter. His next great adventure takes place in England where he plays a major part in the Battle of Maldon and sails to Westminster in order to be baptized a Christian. From a rather shaky start, his faith increases as the story progresses.

I should not reveal any more of the story, but what I can say with absolute confidence is that this is one of the most delightful books I have read for a very long time. There is adventure, there is love, there is a clash of religions but, above all, there is constant gentle humour. The reader, unless he is totally devoid of humour himself, will chuckle on pretty well every page.

If there is anyone else out there who has not read The Long Ships, he or she must do so immediately.

Charles
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is by far the best book I've ever read!, 20 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Long Ships (Paperback)
As a Swede, if I were to recommend just one Swedish book, it would be this! It is very well written and got "instant and constant" action. The book takes place some 800 years ac. You will follow the young Viking Orm throughout many exiting adventures. At the age of 17:teen, Orm get kidnapped and commences his journeys throughout west and east Europe. He serves in a Mohammedan army, raids England and also travels to Russia, to name a few of his adventures. Not only is it a hilariously funny book, it is historically accurate and you will learn a lot.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Storytelling at its best, 28 Oct 2009
By 
Henk Beentje "Henk Beentje" (Kew, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Long Ships (Paperback)
Orm, son of Toste, grows up in Skania (south Sweden) a few decades before the year 1000. As a teenager he is kidnapped by Vikings, and sails with them to Spain, where he serves on the galleys; and later as a bodyguard, before winning back to Sweden. This is Book One: the long voyage.
Book Two, 'In King Ethelred's Kingdom' concerns Orm's adventures in southern England, and how much booty was acquired there; Book Three, 'In the Border Country' about his sudden move to new pastures, in slightly less southern Sweden; and Book Four, 'The Bulgar Gold', about his final long voyage, regarding a substantial inheritance. We read about the spread (rather intermittently) of Christendom in the North, of the routes of the Vikings, of love, mighty deeds, and of the great rivers of eastern Europe.

These four books form 'The Long Ships', first published in Swedish in 1941-1945, and wonderful books they are - a convincing atmosphere, tales like Sagas told by a campfire on a long trip, humorous, fascinating, and with personalities that reverberate in your head long after you have regretfully closed the book after finishing it, at last - luckily, it is a nice fat book. I wish it was going on still!

A wonderful historical novel, with authentic background and a convincing story, told by a master craftsman.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally got & read it!, 20 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Long Ships (Paperback)
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 eventually finds himself with a very noble wife living in a backwater part of Scandinavia (the borderlands between Sweden and medieval Denmark) but even there he gets no peace since his enemies and adventures pursue him. And in his maturity another and final adventure comes his way when he is summoned to the eastern reaches of far Gaardarike (the country that was to become Russia) to claim an "inheritance" of great value. Along the way, Orm makes some good friends, some bad enemies, participates in some (but by no means all) of the great events of viking history in that period, and finally mellows to become a better man who embraces the new way of thinking while yet feeling at home in the old. I did think the book a bit too episodic though this is no indictment of it since the sagas themselves are nearly always such and the "voice" smacks very much of the sagaman's art. However, a close reading makes this very clearly a modern novel for the humor is quite bracing and alone marks this tale as one of ours and not one from an earlier time. I especially appreciated Orm's hypochondria, despite his courage in the face of battle, a very human and humorous touch! And the fighting is all very realistic, no great superhuman feats of derring do (except occasionally as we find in the real sagas). Some of the literary technniques used, besides the marvelous sense of tongue-in-cheek humor, are also quite contemporary. The tale was a bit slow in places, especially at the beginning, and rather more predictable than not. And, more, it is not, in my opinion, the best of the viking or saga novels despite what others have said here and elsewhere. For tautness and action, none have yet done it better, in my opinion, than H. Rider Haggard with ERIC BRIGHTEYES. For the pure poetry of style and soaring prose, Eddison's STYRBIORN THE STRONG still has my vote. And for the resounding greatness of the tale and the power to move, no modern author has ever penned a better saga novel than Hope Muntz did with THE GOLDEN WARRIOR. But Bengtsson did a very nice job and deserves five "crowns" for it.
(For those with an interest in the saga as novel, a few other good ones I'd recommend include Cecelia Holland's very modern and psychological TWO RAVENS, a glimpse into the hot-house environment of an Icelandic farm in the time of King William Rufus, and Jane Smiley's THE GREENLANDERS which tells of the final days of the the Norse settlement in Greenland as the cold and the Eskimos closed in around the isolated settlers. And, if you still have any patience and want more, perhaps you'd want to try my own small effort, THE KING OF VINLAND'S SAGA, which I wrote to be the saga I'd always wished had been written and preserved about the Norse excursions to the "New World.".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Swedens Odyssey, 18 May 2013
This review is from: The Long Ships (Paperback)
Most popular, most read book in Sweden.

We don't have any national epic in Sweden so even if rather late I think The Longships can make a good substitute.

It's a good solid story about the vikingworld as it was known in the 40's. But it's the style of storytelling that is the main draw of the book. In Sweden the old sagas written down in the medieval UK and Iceland hasn't had any new translations to swedish for over 100 years now and the way the author has choosen to write this story is in the way these old translations were written and in the style the old skalds told thier storys, but not in verse.
There are no psychologic analysis of anything. No reflections or regrets. Just telling what happens and what's said. And with the combination of the brutal era they lived in it makes the story very comical.

As for the historical accuracy it is very good. The main characters are fictional and many of the supporting roles are made up from historical persons or persons with a possible historical base (like Robin Hood in UK litterature or Moses in the bible). Many events are real historical events.
One thing I don't agree with is the reasons for the raids in the west. All the stories about the Vikings were written down by christians, and of course they wrote that the Vikings attacked for no reasons at all (or rather out of bloodlust). The idea has been incorporated into this story. The truth is that scandinavians before viking era often served as mercenarys in christian armys for the popes, and still did in the east even during the viking era. But then came Charlemang (Carolus Magnus) with a mission to please god and started to force baptize the heathen men and women in the north and then cut off their heads and stick them on stakes. No wonder a monastary was the first place to get attacked by Vikings to start a counter attack on the west roman empire. All attacks was on the west, and the relations and reputations to the east was better than ever. The author of this book actually mentions the treatment of the Vikings in both compass directions but fails to see the pattern. But also the story takes place 200 years after Chalemang, but what the Viking era really was about was an ongoing war for 250 years. The Viking resistance towards christianity should be compared to the resistance in and around Jerusalem who was next in line for christianity after Scandinavia. In the UK where research on the Vikings still is conducted the scollars more and more has come to this conclusion.

This is my review of the Swedish version of the book. I'm happy to see that the translation to English seems to have worked (judging from the reviews). Now my hope is that we Swedes can get a new translation of Beowulf over here since the only one here is 100 years old and it's pretty poorly done.
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The Long Ships
The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson (Paperback - 4 Oct 2010)
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