The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson


Books by British authors tend to show Vikings as being … well, rather bloodthirsty, and definitely “raiders not traders”! This book, about a Danish Viking but by a Swedish author, also showed Vikings as raiders rather than traders but did show the human side of them. Orm, the main character, had a very eventful life, going to Ireland, Moorish Spain and Kievan Rus amongst other places, with one of his brothers going to Miklagard/Constantinople. The issue of religion amongst the Vikings, at the time of the conversion, was covered in an interesting way too.

My one big complaint was the attitude towards women – maybe it was just a flaw in the translation, but the author didn’t seem to think they’d mind being dragged off by whoever felt like it :-(. The poor female characters :-(! Maybe he should have written another book telling the events from the viewpoint of one of them!

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2 thoughts on “The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson

  1. Interesting about his attitude to women – I looked him up and it seems he wrote the book in the 1940s so that could be a factor? Though given the general impression that the Scandinavians have been enlightened for decades, maybe you’d expect a bit of empathy.
    As for the long ships, one of the most breathtaking musuems I’ve ever seen is the Longships Hall in Oslo, though when full of marauding pirates and pillagers they probably gave a different impression.


    • Yes, it’s quite an old book. I appreciate that the Viking men probably weren’t very bothered about the feelings of the women they captured, but a bit more empathy and sympathy in the narrative would have been appreciated!


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