The Long Ships

Frans G. Bengtsson
Pages: 503
Suggested By: Michael Lewis
Date Started: January 31, 2022
Date Finished: February 14, 2022
16h 29m 4s
Reason Book was Chosen:
I heard Michael Lewis suggest this book in a podcast episode and it sounded fascinating.

My Thoughts

I’m 3/4ths Norwegian, 1/4th German. I’ve been told that my whole life. Three grandparents were Norwegian and one was German. So, it was a real shock when I received my 23 and Me results and it said 74.1% Scandinavian/Norwegian and 12.8% French/German ancestry. :0 The rest was Western European.

I’m interested in this Norwegian heritage. What was life like? What would my ancestors have done in Norway?

I was listening to Tim Ferriss interview Michael Lewis on Tim’s eponymous podcast and Lewis mentioned this book. I had never heard of it before and really haven’t since.

The Long Ships is a work of historical fiction. It takes place between 980 and 1010 AD. It mostly centers in Denmark and Sweden with voyages to some of the key existing and emerging world powers.

The protagonist, Red Orm, takes three different journeys. There are a whole slew of ancillary characters that weave in and out of his life, but Orm is the common thread. The three journeys are to Andalusia (the Moorish empire), England, and to the Byzantine Empire. Kings and leaders are actual historical figures and their general acts seem to mirror history.

That’s what makes this book so interesting. You learn about some of the broad scopes of history at the time as well as the more mundane, daily life aspects of Viking Scandinavia. It’s also a time where Christianity is taking hold in these parts. There is a lot of antagonism to this new religion embarking upon the Danes and Swedes.

One other thing I enjoyed was how the same characters kept popping up. Orm would meet someone on his first journey and then re-connect on another journey. Sometimes, those reconnections saved his life.

In all, a very enjoyable, epic adventure spanning civilizations and religions, while connecting humanity in all its gore and glory.

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