The Long Ships – Review

Röde Orm by Frans G. Bengtsson

Published in 1941 and 1945, first published in English in 1943 as The Long Ships

Michael Meyer translation

Pages: 503

Genre: Adventure saga

“Along the coast the people lived together in villages, partly to be sure of food, that they might not depend entirely on the luck of their own catch, and partly for the greater security; for ships rounding the Skanian peninsula often sent marauding parties ashore, both in the spring, to replenish cheaply their stock of fresh meat for the westward voyage, and in the winter, if they were returning empty-handed from unsuccessful wars.”

The Long Ships is an epic that would feel welcome on a mahogany bookshelf sitting between Beowulf and The Odyssey. At least, that’s my understanding. I’ve never read Beowulf and it has been years since I read The Odyssey so I kind of have to take people at their word as far as that comparison goes. I also arrange my bookshelf by author and when there are multiple books, by date of publication.

Anyway, The Long Ships focuses on the tale of Orm, who comes to be known as “Red” Orm due to his red hair (clever, no?) and his temper (racist). Orm finds himself the reluctant hero in that the story begins with him being captured by a group of Vikings. His village is attacked and he runs out to fend off the assailants, only to be knocked unconscious and taken prisoner. Not a great start, but he proves himself to his captors and so begins a journey that spans the remainder of his life and a little over 500 pages. Continue reading “The Long Ships – Review”