Group Read: The Long Ships

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Group Read: The Long Ships

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jun 28, 2013, 10:09pm

Welcome, those planning to join the group read from both 75 Book Challenge and 2013 Category Challenge!

I have a horrid internet connection. If someone could update the group read thread to point here I'd appreciate it!

Redigerat: jun 30, 2013, 5:56pm

I can do that and add some colour to the thread with some coverart.

The Long Ships or Red Orm (original Swedish: Röde Orm meaning Red Snake) is an adventure novel by the Swedish writer Frans G. Bengtsson. The narrative is set in the late 10th century and follows the adventures of Orm ("serpent"), called "Red" for his hair and his temper, a native of Scania. The book portrays the political situation of Europe in the later Viking Age, Andalusia under Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir, Denmark under Harold Bluetooth, followed by the struggle between Eric the Victorious and Sweyn Forkbeard, Ireland under Brian Boru, England under Ethelred the Unready, and the Battle of Maldon, all before the backdrop of the gradual Christianisation of Scandinavia, contrasting the pragmatic Norse pagan outlook with the exclusiveness of Islam and Christianity.
Published in the original Swedish in two parts in 1941 & 1945.

jun 29, 2013, 12:00am

Just checking in. I'm really looking forward to The Long Ships and will probably be picking it up sometime next week.

jun 29, 2013, 4:12am

My copy is ready, too.

jun 29, 2013, 4:37am

Oh I keep meaning to read The Long Ships, I am going to have to track down a copy!

jun 29, 2013, 9:18am

This book looks really interesting. I've requested an ILL since my local library doesn't have it, so I hope it gets here in time to participate with the group.

jun 29, 2013, 12:31pm

I've had the book on my shelf for a few years so I'm happy to have an excuse to read it. I probably won't start until late next week though.

jun 29, 2013, 8:19pm

#2 by avatiakh> Thanks so much! The downside of RVing is one never knows if one will have a decent connection.

jun 30, 2013, 4:32pm

My library system has only one copy which is checked out at the moment. I looked it up on Amazon and for once the Kindle version actually seems to be the most economical version!

jun 30, 2013, 6:01pm

#8 - RVing does sound like an interesting lifestyle. I've updated my post in #2 to include some info on the book.

jul 1, 2013, 12:25pm

This is a wonderful wonderful book and I hope you all love it as much as I did when I read it a few years ago. I'm almost tempted to read it again!

jul 2, 2013, 4:49am

Well I have ordered it.. hope to have it mid July.

jul 3, 2013, 11:47am

I just started the book the other day and I already love it. It's been on my wishlist since reading Rebecca's excellent review but I've avoided starting it like I do a number of longer books. I'm so glad to have this GR to motivate me to get to it.

Of course, I'm reading a couple of other books at the same time so it may take me awhile to get through it but it seems to be something I want to savor so that's OK.

jul 3, 2013, 3:45pm

I will be starting this book sometime next week. I have high hopes for it.

jul 6, 2013, 11:02pm

Hope you all like it - note that the language (which I hope carries over in the translation) is intentionally somewhat archaic, but it's not hard to get into and makes for a nice rhythm.

jul 6, 2013, 11:06pm

I'm about a hundred pages in and thoroughly enjoying it.

Redigerat: jul 7, 2013, 1:02pm

I am reading the new edition with the introduction by Michael Chabon. It is translated by Michael Meyer (I think he was the original translator). This new edition was released by The New York Review of Books as part of their classics series, and it does have that old Norse Saga feel to it. I am only 20 pages into it and I will probably be tagging along behind all of you because I have lots of reading to do for the class I am taking this summer. This book will provide a welcome relief from that!

I got this copy last Christmas as part of Mark's Secret SantaThing. It will be nice to report back to the giver about the book.

jul 7, 2013, 10:47pm

I started The Long Ships this afternoon and I can tell that I am going to really like this book already. I have a soft spot for good adventure/historical fiction and this looks to be a good one.

jul 8, 2013, 10:01am

My edition has lots of maps in the front. That is something I appreciate. Somehow it gives me more context if I can place events where they occurred. It is interesting that names that I thought were Scandinavian in origin maybe aren't? For instance I thought that Jutland was the old Scandinavian name for the peninsula of Denmark. This book gives it another name. But then Gotland is referred to and Gotland is the modern name of the island that Sweden owns. Or are we dealing with dialects here?

jul 8, 2013, 3:15pm

I just checked my account and the book is in transit so I should be getting it in the next day or so. Yippee! I'm glad to hear about the maps and that I will be reading the physical book rather than the Kindle version since I have found it difficult to read maps on my ebook. I have to quickly finish up the book I am reading.

Redigerat: jul 8, 2013, 3:38pm

->19 benitastrnad:
What does your map call it? Jutland is the English name for that peninsula which in Danish is called Jylland.

jul 13, 2013, 4:08pm

I picked the book up at the library yesterday and started reading right way. It has sucked me in, and I am taking a break from housework about every hour today to read another chapter. (And wishing the pesky housework would just disappear so I could read nonstop!)

jul 16, 2013, 10:38am

The level of detail in this book is amazing. The author writes about the culture in depth and I appreciate that. For instance, I wondered about the red dragon head on the boat that is pictured on the cover of the book I have. 190 pages into the book and I found out.

jul 16, 2013, 11:53pm

I finished The Long Ships today. What a great read. I will post my review to the books main page, and on my Category Challenge and 75er threads.

jul 17, 2013, 4:53am

I got my copy through finally! It amused that a historical novel has a terrible picture of a Viking with a horned helmet.

jul 17, 2013, 10:28am

Do you think that the horned helmet cover is an attempt to grab readers by making the book into an action flick? Sort of turn it into an adventure read that would appeal to men more than women? I thought the red dragon ships head was an attempt to lend the book some cultural validity because there is lots of information about how these people lived and what was important to them.

jul 23, 2013, 7:35am

I think it does pay into peoples perception of Viking adventures :) at least what they used to be its quite an old cover, probably time for a revamp! I think the ones with the red ships work better (1st two) I think the sense of adventure and history fits better.

I am really enjoying it so far, just started part 2.

jul 23, 2013, 12:45pm

I reached the halfway mark last night. I am enjoying this read and learning lots of things. The amount of detail is also amazing. For instance, the mention of the spices as part of the payment for Gudmund to become a Christian. I also like the sense of humor. I am getting a real sense of how much these people liked storytelling so it is much easier to see where the old sagas came from and how the culture promoted that kind of story.

jul 23, 2013, 1:14pm

I'm almost done with the third part and the thing I'm liking the most is the humor, especially all the ways the priests used to get people to convert to Christianity. When I read about Father Willibald off in the corner talking softly with the Erin Masters, I knew something was up.

jul 23, 2013, 5:22pm

My boss is from Iceland and majored in Scandinavian Literature at the University of Minnesota, and she talks about the Sagas when she talks about literature. This book has made it easier to understand how much a part of the culture the storytelling was. And maybe still is. I am thinking about Garrison Keillor and his storytelling.

The book is chock full of humor. I find myself smiling while reading it. As a culture these people valued cleverness and the ability to talk oneself out of bad situations. Brother Willibald is funny anyway. I found myself thinking who converted who when reading about when Orm kidnapped Willibald and converted?

jul 23, 2013, 5:33pm

As a culture these people valued cleverness and the ability to talk oneself out of bad situations.

So true! I loved when one of the Viking cheftains would address his men after something bad had happened only to convince them that it was really something good.

jul 23, 2013, 9:16pm

And no brow-beating folks into going along with him. Has to get them all to agree to the plan.

jul 24, 2013, 6:15am

Behind everyone so skipping a few parts. I admit I am currently rooting for England against the Vikings :-)

@32 Its fascinating though, the way luck of a leader plays a huge part. I did like how they turned round some really bad choices in the 1st part of the book. I can imagine the audience listening to the storytellers heckling at this point!

jul 24, 2013, 6:30pm

You know what Napoleon said about his generals. He would rather that they were lucky than smart. Luck is what wins battles.

jul 24, 2013, 7:53pm

I've just started reading this so I'm also behind everyone else. Finishing Titus Groan in time to start this one before the end of the month has given me a 'reading headache' so I'll be taking it slow for the next couple of days.

I've read the first two in Kevin Crossley-Holland's recent YA Viking Sagas series which is set in 1036. These have whet my appetite for a more solid understanding of Viking history in those times. Also, earlier this year, my son and I listened to podcasts, Norman Centuries by Lars Brownworth, about the Norman Kings, the dynasty being founded by Vikings who conquered Normandy which was also interesting and new territory for me.

well, back to the book....

jul 24, 2013, 8:04pm

I have downloaded the Norman Centuries by Lars Brownworth as well. I haven't listened to them yet, but will do so. I listened to his 12 Byzantine Rulers podcast and enjoyed that one so decided to do the other series as well. I also downloaded a BBC4 "In Our Time" podcast on the Vikings and one on the Icelandic Sagas as well and am looking forward to listening to them for the same reason - background.

jul 24, 2013, 8:06pm

Has anybody read Nancy Farmer's series on Norse mythology. This is a YA fantasy trilogy. My sister, the 10th grade English teacher loved them.

jul 24, 2013, 8:37pm

I've read the first two of those Nancy Farmer ones, the first one was really good, I listened to the second one and sort of lost the thread a bit, they are quite long. Donna Jo Napoli wrote the YA Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale about a girl captured into slavery by Vikings. I downloaded the Byzantine podcasts just the other day for my son to listen to, he's doing an assignment on Manuel Komninos. I'll have to check if we've got those other ones, the BBC In Our Time sounds familiar.

The movie, 'The Secret of Kells' has fantastic animation, really great work of art and is roughly about an Irish monastery preparing defences against attack by Vikings as well as about an illuminated manuscript called the Book of Kells,

jul 24, 2013, 11:05pm

I'm in part 3, and thoroughly enjoying this book! I carry it with me everywhere I go and talk it up to anyone who notices. I wish it could go on forever (except that it is due on Friday, so I really am trying to finish quickly)

Redigerat: jul 25, 2013, 4:22pm

This article might be of interest to the group: "What Vikings really looked like"

I wish we had worn those horned helmets - they're cool! :)

jul 25, 2013, 5:27pm

I enjoy watching the PBS cooking show "New Scandinavian Cooking" with chef Andreas Viestaad. Today he was in Iceland and cooked lamb and leeks in a crack in the ground not far from one of the volcanoes on that island. Often in his cooking show he gives the history of the region and the history of the dishes he is cooking as well so there is lots of Viking history in that show.

My family is from Kansas and half of our home county is populated by Scandinavians of one ilk or another. My sister lives and works in the town of Scandia. This town is located 8 miles from Norway. The predominate ethnic background of Scandia is Swedish and the predominate ethnic background of Norway is Norwegian. Of course when most of the Norwegians immigrated to the area they were really Danes because Norway didn't become its own country until 1904. Scandinavia certainly has an interesting history.

jul 25, 2013, 6:34pm

#41 McPherson County? (which sounds Scottish, not Scandinavian)

Redigerat: jul 26, 2013, 2:38pm

Republic County. Scandia, Courtland, Norway, and Kackley.

McPherson County has the town of Lindsborg. That town is all Swedish. Bethany College is there. There is a passage in Tony Horwitz's book A Voyage Long and Strange that is funny. He started out looking for Vikings in the New World since they were the first Europeans to settle there. He went to the place in Newfoundland where the settlement was located and all he found were people of French extraction speaking French. He went to Kansas following the trail of Coronado and spent the night in Lindsborg. He walked into a bar and behind the bar was a Viking helmet. The bartender's name was Lars and he had a beer with a wheat farmer named Nels Nelson. I just about died laughing when I read that. So typical.

The mascot for Pike Valley High School in Scandia, Kansas is the Flying Swedes.

McPherson is Scottish. they have a pipe and drum band. Lindsborg has dahl horses.

jul 26, 2013, 2:40pm

I've been faithfully reading The Long Ships but it is taking forever! I'm enjoying it and am usually amazed to see how little progress I'm making. Sigh.

jul 26, 2013, 4:19pm

#43 I'm not familiar with Republic County - I don't think I've ever been there and didn't realize they had such a big Scandinavian heritage. Although, it makes sense that Lindsborg would not be the only community where those folks would have settled. I don't know McPherson city, but spent a weekend in Lindsborg once. A very quaint little town, but frustrating in that we were not able to order a glass of wine with our dinner. We drove all the way to Salina in search of an alcoholic beverage and ended up eating pie at the truck stop there instead. Flying Swedes - :-) - but why "flying"?

jul 26, 2013, 7:58pm

All right, I confess I'm getting weary of the constant proselytizing. I'm with Orm and Ylva at the baptism of their son. Does it end soon?

Redigerat: jul 26, 2013, 10:32pm

You were probably visiting the state when liquor by the drink was illegal. For many years planes flying over the state could not serve drinks because a state owns the air above it, so the laws of that state apply above the ground as well.

Flying Swedes - isn't everything better and faster if it is flying. Especially when you are talking about athletics?

I am on page 275 and they are still trying to baptize people.

jul 27, 2013, 1:11am

Just finished the book. What a romp! More thoughts later.

#47 I think when I was in Lindsborg, liquor by the drink was still on a county-by-county basis. Most counties with many people were "wet" - I was living in Sumner County at that time, and they allowed liquor so I was surprised but not shocked that we couldn't get a drink in Lindsborg.

jul 27, 2013, 8:18am

I just discovered this thread and I can't tell you what a delight it is to find people reading this book. I adored it, pretty much from start to finish. So much so that it has become one of my annual re-reads--books I return to again and again.

As much as I loved the "adventure" of it, I love the humor and the irony, especially when Orm is navigating his way through the various religions of the lands he finds himself in. I think his friendship with Brother Willeford is one of the best character pairings I've ever come across.

jul 27, 2013, 10:19am

All right. I'm officially abandoning The Long Ships. Sorry. Cannot deal with all the conversion crap that keeps happening (You have a choice, I kill you or you convert). Ugh. Too bad as I was enjoying it until we got into that nonsense.

jul 27, 2013, 5:06pm

>37 benitastrnad: I read The Sea of Trolls a while ago but not the sequels. It's a hard sell to kids these days so we didn't invest in the sequels. One of the books we received and is waiting for me to get back to work is Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick.

I finished The Long Ships this morning and I'm so glad it was brought to my attention by the adventurous readers in this group! One of the things that occurred to me was the similarities of culture between these groups and present day gangs. Instead of tattooes, they had different styles, but mandatory, beards (made me think of Gimli). Violence is prevalent and used with little remorse. If they needed something they just went somewhere and took it, usually with violence, from innocent people. The Vikings drank, today's bangers use drugs. Women are little more than objects. The men sit around a lot and share stories of their adventures. Some well-meaning person, usually associated with a religion, trying to convert them to less violent behavior. Things really haven't changed all that much, have they?

jul 27, 2013, 9:22pm

The lack of knowledge about mythology is appalling and yet it is so much a part of everyday culture. I often wonder how many people sat through the LOTR movies and didn't understand the mixtures of mythology the author of the books used. So sad.

However, the one that really gets me is American Gods you simply can't read that book without knowing about some of the old mythologies. A couple of pages into that book and I knew who Mr. Wednesday was so had a real sense of were the book might be headed.

jul 29, 2013, 4:13am

I'm really enjoying this and am up to part 4.

jul 30, 2013, 9:34am

I have about 175 pages to go and as has been the pattern from the beginning the humor in this story is outrageous. I can't decide if the author is poking fun of the Vikings or not. I am beginning to wonder if this is the introduction to the authentic culture that I thought it would be. I am beginning to think that it is a saga in the sense that it was meant to entertain so has a mixture of moral lessons and funny parts.

jul 30, 2013, 1:19pm

I felt like it was lightly poking fun at the Vikings for their "bold" behavior, perhaps exaggerating things a bit. But it still feels authentic to me. The stories they told each other would have been exaggerated (unless men have changed dramatically in the last 1000 years), so it seems fitting that this story would be stretched as well.

Redigerat: aug 9, 2013, 4:56am

@54/55 I think you are right it seems designed to entertain, all that knowing humour :) the author certainly did his research but he says on wiki he wanted something fun like the The Three Musketeers! Succeeded I think.

Just finished it but really enjoyed it except for all that icky rape which as it happened off screen I ignored it.

aug 12, 2013, 10:41pm

I finished this book and enjoyed all of the sly humor in it. It is clearly written to be a swashbuckling tale of daring-do and if a person ignores the "icky" parts and all of the maiming and murder it is a fun read. I agree that it is very much in the vein of the adventure stories like Three Musketeers.

When I started reading this book I thought it was more historical fiction, or maybe the modern type of saga like Hawk Quest but it turned out to be a fun adventure read. I don't think it is great literature but it is great fun.