The Long Ships (Röde Orm) by Frans G. Bengtsson

Hey thanks, Manny. I hate violence, historical fiction makes me throw up, I stopped reading adventure books when I was twelve and Viking gods bored me to tears when I was going through my pagan gods stage in primary school and – WOW….you’ve given me The Long Ships for my Birthday. That’s so – well, I’m just lost for words – of you. What? Yes, I can see it was a big concession, really you wanted to get it in Swedish and I could put it on my list of languages I have to learn. And no, even though I adore knitting, really, this is so much better than that amazing pattern book I was admiring the other day. Truly. It’s even better than that text book on computer humour you got me last year. What? Yes, good point, I can’t really say that until I’ve read the book on computer humour, but you read it and so I heard a lot about it. In fact, I must remember to put that on my ‘books I’ve lived through’ shelf.

Ten months later.

It struck me as I was reading this how desensitived one becomes to violence in reading just as easily as in pictorial form.

One moment you are thinking, I’m supposed to be laughing? Deadset. Here is an example where, at a banquet, this is told to entertain the crowd. During the celebration of a marriage:

…a dispute had broken out concerning a horse deal, and knives had quickly appeared; whereupon the bride and her attendant maidens had laughed delightedly and applauded and had encouraged the disputants to settle the matter there and then. However, when the bride, who belonged to a well-known local family, saw her uncle’s eye gouged out by one of the bridegroom’s kinsmen, she had seized a torch from the wall and hit her bridegroom over the head with it, so that his hair caught fire. One of the bridesmaids, with great presence of mind, had forced her petticoat over his head and twisted it tight, thereby saving his life, though he screamed fearfully and his head, when it appeared again, was burned black and raw. Meanwhile the fire had caught the straw on the floor, and eleven drunken or wounded men lying in it had been burned to death, so that this wedding was generally agreed to have been one of the best they had had for years…

And before you know it, you are giggling along with the best of them. It is a splendid, rollicking tale told with a deadpan humour which corresponds faithfully with the one other Icelandic saga book I’ve read (this is Swedish, but based on the Icelandic tradition). It will bring out the best of your inner small boy. The part that saw what was funny about torturing insects. And if, like me, there is no small boy in you, you will still have a lot of fun. Promise!

One thought on “The Long Ships (Röde Orm) by Frans G. Bengtsson

  1. Congratulations! You have grasped the Tao of Viking humour. You can hope to reach Valhalla when you die, and enjoy an eternity of drunken brawling and wenching. Just make sure you do something that counts as the 21st century equivalent of falling in battle. Shot by an internet troll who feels personally insulted by one of your blog posts?

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