According to Norse mythology, thunder and lightning occur when the Æsir god Thor is angered, and so he rides out on his chariot, pulled by the goats Tanngnjóstr and Tanngrisnir, on the hunt for wickedness in the form of the Ettins. In his fight against this race of giants, he swings his hammer Mjöllnir and pulls on his belt of power, Megingjörð, which boosts his power. Psychologically, Thor is quite simple, in comparison with the brooding Odin. He was worshipped mainly by farmers and slaves.

In Mårten Eskil Winge’s interpretation, Thor is strong, blond, resolute and fearless. The painting was extremely well received when it was shown for the first time at Nationalmuseum in 1872, a time when Norse mythology and the gods were enjoying great popularity. Winge was one of many Scandinavian artists who painted the Æsir gods in the 1870s. And their paintings and sculptures still influence our ideas about Vikings and the Æsir gods to this day.

Winge’s original audience interpreted the painting as a general depiction of good battling evil. In modern times, Thor’s battle with the giants has been perceived as an expression of Nationalist or Fascist ideals. The blond-haired Thor has been seen as a defender of the Nordic ideal that is threatened by the dark-haired giants. The swastika on Thor’s belt of power has no doubt helped to make the painting popular among various right-wing extremist groups. For Winge and his contemporaries, the swastika was an ancient decorative symbol for the sun, appearing in architectural decoration and in various logos.


  • Title: Tor's Fight with the Giants
  • Creator: Mårten Eskil Winge
  • Date Created: 1872
  • Title in Swedish: Tors strid med jättarna
  • Signature: M.E. Winge 1872. Stockholm.
  • Physical Dimensions: w3330 x h4840 cm (without frame)
  • Artist Information: Mårten Eskil Winge was a Swedish artist and professor at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. Winge’s art was informed by his interest in ancient Nordic mythology. Even as a student at the Royal Academy, he was praised for his drawings with ancient Nordic motifs. During this time, he illustrated works such as Adam Oehlenschläger’s epic poem The Gods of the North. After his studies, Winge made several trips to Europe, taking in such locations as Düsseldorf, Paris and Rome. He became a member of the Royal Academy in 1864 and was later appointed professor, following various positions as a teacher of drawing. In 1865, he opened an art school in his studio in Stockholm. The paintings Tor’s Fight with the Giants and Loke and Sigyn are two of his most important works, but Winge also painted a number of altarpieces and portraits. In 1867 he married the artist Hanna Winge.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Nationalmuseum, Nationalmuseum
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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