“We won’t spoil the ending, but the work is an appropriately shiver-inducing addition to a show whose subtitle promises “Old Myths, Anarchy and Death Longings.”
Michael O’Sullivan – Washington post

“This is metaphoric language at its finest level. (..) We allow ourselves, almost hungrily, to feel this merging of beast and human, this submission of the self.”
Bev Questad – It`s just movies

“THE LEGEND OF YGG – a modern legend of death riders in Norway.”
Stina Högkvist – Curator

The Legend of Ygg

A film by Marthe Thorshaug

Original title: Legenden om Ygg
Year: 2009

Length: 15 minutes

Format: HDV
Dialog: Norwegian
Silje Gloppen
Kari Reigstad
Janka Stensvold
Maren Wedøe
Hanne Fjerdingstad
Tale Berntsen
List from Frøberg (horse)
Vigdis from Midhusum (horse)

Marthe Thorshaug

Christian G. Falch

”Skiss till en gravplats” (Sketch for a Graveyard) composed and performed by Dan-Ola Persson
Nerhagen Productions by Marthe Thorshaug

Financial support:
Arts Council Norway
Norwegian Visual Artists Association
Punkt Ø


THE LEGEND OF YGG premiered at the 5th Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art Momentum – Favoured Nations, in Moss in Norway 29 August – 18 October 2009. Curated by Stina Högkvist and Lina Džuverovic.


  • Nordic Impressions, touring to Scandinavia House (New York), The Phillips Collection (Washington DC), Nordic Museum (Seattle), 2018/19
  • Hamarama filmfestival, Hamar, 2013
  • Aye Dunkelblau, Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, 2012
  • Art in the Auditorium III, touring to The Whitechapel Gallery (London), Henie Onstad Kunstsenter (Oslo), Fundacion PROA (Buenos Aires), Ballroom Marfa (Texas), Galleria d’Arte Moderna (Bergamo), The City Gallery (Wellington), 2011
  • Latitude Festival Contemporary Art, Suffolk, 2010
  • Norse Soul, Group Exhibition, American University Museum at Katzen Arts Center, Washington, 2010
  • Momentum – Favoured Nations – 5th Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art, Moss, Norway, 2009


A group of girl riders drive each other to extremes. Under the influence of a riding instructor, the girls develop a bizarre riding game. Based on an old Norse legend, they use the horse to test their courage. The goal is to become fearless. Dressed in black, they go riding in the dead of the night. By using the traffic road as a ritual arena, the girls cause mysterious car accidents in the Norwegian countryside.


Since childhood, I have been surrounded by Icelandic horses and the Norse mythology that comes with them. All Icelandic horses are obliged to have a Norse name, no matter in which country they are born. Their name becomes a secret code, where their special traits can be revealed.

In THE LEGEND OF YGG, a blending of Norse mythology, fiction and realism, creates a totally new legend in the name of Ygg.

The Norse word “ygg”, can be translated as “cruel”, and was one of the Norse chief god Odin’s many names.  Odin’s pursuit of wisdom, involved personal sacrifice, and he frequently appeared in disguise. He travelled on his eight- legged horse, Sleipnir, who could gallop through the air and over the sea. To acquire his runic wisdom, Odin hung himself from the tree Yggdrasil, the “world tree”. He hung there for nine nights, before reaching down in agony to pick up the rune staves. The purpose of this strange ritual, in which a god sacrifices himself to himself, because there is nothing higher to sacrifice to, was to obtain mystical insight through mortification of the flesh.

THE LEGEND OF YGG, is inspired by Odin`s sacrifice. In the film, the horse girls seek knowledge that can help them become invincible riders. As Hulga, the leading girl, says in the film: “There are insights in instincts, but the deepest mysteries will never be given away.” As the god Odin, the equestrians are willing to sacrifice themselves in their “chicken game” with cars at night.

The tapetum lucidum in the horse’s eyes, is the girls’ strongest weapon. Tapetum lucidum (Latin meaning “bright tapestry”) is a layer of tissue in the eye of many animals, which reflects light back through the retina, improving vision in low-light conditions. When light is shone into the eye, the pupil appears to glow. The girls use this glowing eye against drivers at night.

The music by Dan-Ola Persson entitled Skiss till en gravplats (Sketch for a Graveyard), has references to the Icelandic cult song Á Sprengisandi. The song is about being careful when riding into the Icelandic moors at night, since you never know what dangers lurk in the darkness.

Read also:

Review by Bev Questad at Its Just Movies:

Catalogue text MOMENTUM 2009 – Favoured Nations by curator Stina Högkvist:

Catalogue for exhibition Norse Soul at Katzen Arts Center at American University:

Comment by Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post:

Behind the scenes - The Legend of Ygg