Ingvild Bjerkeland

Grethe Nyggard
Ingvild Bjerkeland: Udyr. Horror, Cappelen Damm, 2023. Nominated for the 2024 Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize.


Thirteen-year-old Abdi and his sister Alva, who’s five, are on the run. Some mysterious creatures have appeared and started hunting people. They also came to the place where Abdi and Alva live, which forced them to flee. Their mother has been killed by the creatures, and their father is on a business trip to a small island out in the North Sea. Abdi and Alva must fend for themselves, embarking on a gruelling journey where the struggle for survival is raw and merciless. 


Udyr (“Beasts”, not translated into English) is a novel about the world suddenly being invaded by creatures called beasts. No one knows where these beasts come from, and this uncertainty only serves to heighten the creepiness. The world is struck by a danger that no one can explain. The only thing that can be said for certain is that you have to flee from the beasts to avoid being killed.  

The story itself is short and condensed, the language is economical, and the scenes are charged with an underlying unease.  

The author also shows that it’s not necessarily only the beasts that are dangerous. In this world, even two children on the run can no longer rely on the assumption that other people are good. 

The language propels the text forwards in a cinematic manner. Cliffhangers at the end of chapters also compel you to keep reading.  


This is a story that, in addition to being a pure thriller, can also be read allegorically.  

The beasts represent the invincible conqueror taking over the world city by city, while Abdi and Alva are two defenceless children fleeing in a world suddenly devoid of meaning.  

This is a portrayal of many of the wars happening around the world, and it’s reinforced by the closing image of the two children in a crowded dinghy on their way to an uncertain fate. 

Udyr effectively portrays the panic, confusion, and powerlessness one likely feels when fleeing, and how difficult it is to trust anyone, even those who mean well.  

It’s also a heartwarming love story about a brother who does everything he can to keep his sister safe, even as the world around them is falling apart. 

The author 

Ingvild Bjerkeland (born in Haugesund in 1981) has previously published three books for children and young adults. She has attended the creative writing programme in Bø and has a PhD in film and television studies. 

Udyr was the winner of ARK’s Children’s Book Prize in 2023.