The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson

TitleThe Long Ships (Audio Book)
AuthorFrans G. Bengtsson
TranslatorMichael Meyer
NarratorMichael Page
Copyright1954 (Audible book: 2017)
TypeHistorical Fiction
FinishedJuly 21, 2021

Note: We listened to the Audible version of this book.

Red Orm is is abducted from his Danish home by the Vikings in the 10th century AD. Luckily for us, and him, he is not killed in the skirmish surrounding his capture. Although he killed one of his captors, the victim is not a blood relative of anyone on the ship so death by reprisal is not required. Instead he travels along the coast of Europe for years including becoming a slave for a few years of the Al-Mansur – Caliph of Cordova. He escapes and enjoys a growing reputation as a strong Viking leader.

This is an epic tale of adventures with bloody battles. Reading Wikipedia, the novel is true to historical events and people – such as the Al-Mansur. I liked the various views of western European and Middle Eastern religions as experienced by a worshipper of pagan gods. Orm’s relationship with religion is fluid: praying to the Muslim God when under their leadership, and later to the Christian God when he decides He is stronger. Comprised four stories in two novels, this book was written in 1941 and 1945. It is notable that Bengsston included a heroic Jewish character – a clap back to the Nazis.

The story is full of interesting characters and fabulous adventures. Since we listened to this on a long road trip rather than reading it, I don’t have specific quotes. It’s one of the few audible books I’ve listened to and Carla and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was translated by Michael Meyer and Michael Chabon and narrated by Michael Page. Listening to Page’s accent was difficult for the first few minutes but we quickly came to love his narration. He imbued the many characters with unique accents and traits.

Because we listened to this, I’m not sure how it would hold up reading; however, if you have a road trip or other opportunity to spend hours listening, it is delightful.

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