Frans Gunnar Bengtsson: The Long Ships
The Long Ships
Frans Gunnar Bengtsson
New York Review of Books
Canadian publication May 2010
Translated from the Swedish by Michael Meyer
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 through the Straits of Gibraltar to Byzantium in all its fabled splendor. Bengtsson’s hero, Red Orm, is a boy when he is abducted from his Swedish home by the Vikings and made to take his place at the oars of the dragon-prowed ships. He then has the misfortune to be captured by the Moors in Spain, where he is initiated into the pleasures of the senses. Escaping from captivity, Orm goes to Ireland, plays an ever more important part in the intrigues of the various Scandinavian kings and clans and dependencies, helps defeat the army of the king of England, and returns home an off-the-cuff Christian convert and a very rich man. Packed with pitched battles and blood feuds, founded in history and told with high good humor, Bengtsson’s book is a fantastic adventure that features one of the most unexpectedly winning heroes in modern fiction.