Friday, 7 February 2014

Röde Orm (The Long Ships) part I and II by Frans G. Bengtsson

These two books have been on my bookshelf for a very long time, maybe even 30 years! I can't even remember when I bought them. They are considered a classic in Sweden and tells the story about the Vikings in the 10th century. The books were written in 1941 and 1945 respectively and although written in a somewhat old fashion Swedish the books are surprisingly fresh. They are one of the most popular books in Sweden or at least it used to be.

Two books read from my TBR shelf!
It tells the story about Röde Orm (Red Serpent, red because his hair is red) and his adventures in the West and in the East. The first book is about his first trip (he is actually more or less kidnapped on
board the ship) westwards. The aim is to find riches along the Normandy coast. Since it has already been plundered they venture further on and are finally captured by Al-Mansur in Andalusia. They work for him in his security forces and have to fight several wars before they manage to escape back home. The trip home takes them via England and Ireland before they end up in Denmark at the court of the great Viking king Harald Blåtand (Harald Bluetooth). Spending some time at the court Orm falls in love with one of the kings daughters, Ylva, and proposes. However, having no home, even if he has some riches, the king says he has to prove himself before he can earn his daughter. Furthermore, he has to be christened before he can marry her. These are the times when the first missionaries came up north to try to christen the heathens.

Orm sets out again to fight the English and to get their riches. After various adventures he comes to the king's court in England where Ylva is staying with her sister. Having won the fights the English king has to pay the Vikings and Orm marries Ylva, heads back to south of Sweden (Denmark in those days) to settle down.

The second book tells about the establishing of his home, his christening, his friendship with the priest Willibert who comes from the king's court to stay with him and try to christen as many as he can. He even builds a church on Orm's premises. Other friends from his Spanish days turns up, the neighbouring clans tries to live in peace and all is well. Then his long lost brother Are returns from his adventures in Miklagård (Constantinopel, present day Istanbul). He is blind, without tongue and one hand but manages nevertheless with the help of 'runor' (the Viking letters) to tell his story and how he managed to get his hands (before he lost one) on a golden treasure which he buried in the Dnepr river.

This is too good a temptation for the Vikings so Orm buys a ship, gathers a crew and sets of to capture the gold. Along the way they run into various fights, foreign tribes, meeting old friends and finally manage to get the gold and return home.

It is in its own way a fascinating book, telling in an understandable way the life of the Vikings and the times. You see how they were living, their homes, the violent times, the problem between the heathens and the christians etc. It is told in a charming way and the books were a much easier read than I expected. Then of course they live in the area in the south of Sweden where I grow up and some of the names are still the same. Makes it a little bit extra interesting.

And another reward: these are two books from my TBR shelves so I am on my way!


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