Ormen Lange (longship)

Ormen Lange was one of the most famous of the Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

Longships were sea vessels made and used by the Vikings from the Nordic countries for trade, commerce, exploration, and warfare during the Viking Age. The longship’s design evolved over many years, beginning in the Stone Age with the invention of the umiak and continuing up to the 9th century with...

s. It was built for the Norwegian King Olav Tryggvason, and was the largest and most powerful longship of its day. In the late 990s King Olav was on a "Crusade" around the country to bring Christianity to Norway. When he was traveling north to Hålogaland he came to a petty kingdom in today's Skjerstad, where the king named Raud den ramme refused to convert to Christianity. A battle ensued, during which Saltstraum
Saltstraumen is a sound with a strong tidal current located in Nordland 30 km east of the city of Bodø, Norway. The narrow channel connects the outer Saltfjord with its extension, the large Skjerstadfjord. It is the strongest tidal current in the world...

, a maelstrom
A maelstrom is a very powerful whirlpool; a large, swirling body of water. A free vortex, it has considerable downdraft. The power of tidal whirlpools tends to be exaggerated by laymen. There are virtually no stories of large ships ever being sucked into a maelstrom, although smaller craft are in...

 that prevented reinforcements to the king's men, forced the King to flee. He continued up north, but returned some weeks later when the maelstrom was weaker. The king won the battle, captured Raud, and gave him two choices: Die or convert. The Sagas say that Olav tried to convert him but Raud cursed the name of Jesus, and the King became so angry that he stuck a "kvanstilk" (a pipe) down his throat and put a snake into it, then a burning iron to force the snake down his throat. The snake ate its way out of the side of the torso of Raud and killed him. After the victory the king confiscated riches, not least of which was Raud's ship, which he rechristened Ormen (The Serpent). He took it to Trondheim and used it as a design for his own new ship, which he made a couple of "rooms" longer than Ormen and named the ship Ormen Lange.

The ship reportedly had 34 rooms, i.e. was built with 34 pairs of oars, for a crew of 68 rowers (and additional crew members). Extrapolating from archeological evidence (e.g. the Gokstad ship
Gokstad ship
The Gokstad ship is a Viking ship found in a burial mound at Gokstad farm in Sandar, Sandefjord, Vestfold, Norway.-Discovery:The place where the boat was found, situated on arable land, had long been named Gokstadhaugen or Kongshaugen , although the relevance of its name had been discounted as...

), this would make Ormen Lange nearly 45 meters long. The ship's sides were unusually high, "as high as that of a Knarr
The Knarr is a Bermuda rigged, long keeled, sailing yacht designed in 1943 by Norwegian Erling L. Kristofersen. Knarrer were traditionally built in wood, with the hull upside down on a fixed frame, then attaching the iron keel after the hull was completed. The hull planks were manufactured with...


The ship was the last to be taken in the Battle of Svolder
Battle of Svolder
The Battle of Svolder was a naval battle fought in September 999 or 1000 in the western Baltic Sea between King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway and an alliance of his enemies...

 where Olav was killed (although his body was never found; and some stories tell of the king jumping into the water either sinking due to the weight of his armour or escaping in the confusion) by a coalition of his enemies in the year 1000.

Its story is told in a traditional Faroese
Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands are an island group situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The Faroe Islands are a self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, along with Denmark proper and Greenland...

 ballad (Kvæði
Kvæði are the old ballads of the Faroe Islands, accompanied by the Faroese dance....

), called Ormurin Langi
Ormurin Langi
Ormurin Langi is a ballad type song in the Faroe Islands. It was written ca. 1830 by Jens Christian Djurhuus.The song has 86 verses and is in Faeroese, and deals with the Norwegian king Olaf Tryggvason...

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