The Long Ships

Continuity mistake: When the "funeral ship" is beached, its clipper bow is revealed, yet when Orm and Rolfe are in the forepeak with the king's daughter there is an abundance of room, including eight or more feet of headroom.

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Continuity mistake: During the harem fracas, the Eunuch dressed in a blue/white linen costume dives into a pool of water, soaking wet, next scene, he pops up out of a vase/pot completely dry.

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Carl Magrath

Factual error: Rolfe is leading the Vikings on a quest to find a giant golden bell, 'The Mother Of All Voices'. After many exploits the Vikings find a building with a large dome on it: Rolfe excitedly enters it, but all he finds is one small metal bell, hanging from a rope. In his anger he grabs the small bell and smashes it against the wall. This causes a horrible reverberation, and he realises that the dome on top of the building is 'The Mother Of All Voices' and it has been disguised by being covered with mortar to make it look like a building. The Vikings then remove the mortar to find the bell beneath. But a bell will only reverberate if it is allowed to hang free: the noise is made by the vibrations as the bell moves. If a bell is locked in position and it is then struck it might make a single clang, but it would not reverberate constantly.

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Rob Halliday

More mistakes in The Long Ships


Question: The Vikings led by Rolfe and the Moors led by Aly Mansuh are both seeking a gigantic bell, 'The Mother Of All Voices', twenty feet high, made of solid gold. Eventually the Vikings find it, and transport it on their ships back to Aly Mansuh's capital. How can they do this? One of the world's most famous bells is 'Big Ben' in the Houses of Parliament: a mere seven and a half feet high, this weighs thirteen tons! Not only is 'The Mother Of All Voices' considerably larger than 'Big Ben', it is also made of gold. Now, gold is heavier than lead, so how much will a gold bell over twenty feet high weigh? How can the Vikings transport this over the sea on their 'long ships'? And what do either the Vikings or the Moors plan to do when they have the bell? If they keep it to admire for its beauty and craftsmanship, then it will just be a financial liability to whoever owns it. Or if they melt it down for the gold they will destroy all the craftsmanship and artistic endeavour that went into making the bell.

Rob Halliday

Answer: Perhaps, when I submitted my question, I may have been pondering the internal logic of a film that makes a good adventure story, but is historically rather doubtful to say the least (I can say this as I have a degree in medieval history, and have worked as an archaeologist on Viking settlements). In all probability, if historical Vikings were seeking treasure or plunder, and found a bell made of gold, they would melt it down for its precious metal content, with no regard for its artistic significance.

Rob Halliday

Answer: It's unlikely Viking ships could transport such a heavy object, but movies, which frequently ignore historical and scientific reality, often use plot devices like this to tell the story. As far as the Vikings and Moors admiring the gold bell's craftsmanship, that may be the case, but they might also be like the Spanish conquerors who plundered Mexico and South America with little regard for the culture, and shipped finely-crafted gold objects back to Spain where they were melted and remade into coins, jewelry, and other art objects.

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