A draug (plural draugar), draugr or draugen (Norwegian meaning the draug) is a corporeal undead from Norse mythology. Draugar were believed to live in the graves of dead Vikings, being the body of the dead.
The original Nordic meaning of the word Draugr (pronounced "droo-GORE") is ghost.
Norwegian folklore records a number of different draug-types. In older literature one will find clear distinctions between Sea-draug and land-draug. The connection between the draug and the sea can be traced back to the author Jonas Lie and the story-teller Regine Nordmann, as well as the drawings of Theodor Kittelsen, who spent some years living in Svolvær. Up north, the tradition of sea-draugar is especially vivid. Arne Garborg, on the other hand, describes land-draugar coming fresh from the graveyards, and the term draug is even used of Vampires, in Norway translated as "Bloodsucker-draugar". In this sense, the draug is an undead. A subtype of the draugr was the haugbui. The notable difference between the two was that the haugbui was unable to leave its grave site and only attacked those that trespassed upon their territory. In more recent folklore, the draug is often identified with the spirits of mariners drowned at sea.
In Scandinavian folklore, the creature is said to possess a distinctly human form said to be either hel-blar ("death black") or, conversely, na-folr ("corpse-pale"). In other tellings, the draug is described as being a headless fisherman, dressed in oilskins. This trait is common in the northernmost part of Norway, where life and culture was based on the fish, more than anywhere else.
Draug sightings in modern times are not so common, but are still reported by reasonable and relatively sane individuals from time to time. Due to this trend, the term “draug” has come to be used in a more general sense in recent years to describe any type of revenant in Nordic folklore.
All draugr possessed superhuman strength, the ability to increase their size at will with some immunity to usual weapons. The draugar slew their victims through various methods including crushing them with their enlarged forms, devouring their flesh, and drinking their blood. Animals feeding near the grave of a draugr were often driven mad by the creature's influence. In some accounts, witnesses portray them as shapeshifters who take on the appearance of seaweed or moss-covered stones on the shoreline. They were also noted for the ability to rise from the grave as wisps of smoke.
The Draugr is a virtually unstoppable monster, and possesses only a handful of weaknesses. According to one legend, one man drove the revenant away using a mixture of herbs and his own semen. This man was eventually burned at the stake as a witch.
The only other weaknesses the Draugr could possibly have is fire and decapitation. Fire is a vulnerability shared by most of the corporeal undead, a sure sign that nature itself rebels against the very existence of the undead. However, decapitation only works after the creature has been wrestled to the ground and defeated. Therefore, decapitation and burning are the only methods of permanently destroying the Draugr.
While this unliving horror cannot be slain in the traditional sense, there is one way to defeat the Draugr. A hero, one who is pure of heart and is in good standing with God, must face the creature with only his bare hands, for only by wrestling this revenant into submission can one hope to defeat this monster. Then, the creature must be decapitated (preferably with the Draugr’s own sword or axe), and burned to ashes. Some people took the extra precaution of driving a wooden stake through the corpse before decapitating and cremating the Draugr (which is why this revenant is sometimes identified with the Vampire).
However, it has been suggested that the Draugr is susceptible to weapons forged of cold iron. Whether this actually works or not is subject to folklore.
Some draugr were able to leave their dwelling place, the burial mound, and visit the living during the night. Such visits were universally horrible events, and often ended in death for one or more of the living, and warranted the exhumation of the draugrs tomb by a hero.
- To defeat a draugr, a hero was often necessary, since only such a man had strength and courage enough to stand up to so formidable an opponent. The hero would often have to wrestle with the draugr and so defeat him, since weapons would do no good. A good example of this kind of fight is found in Hrómundar saga Gripssonar. It is said that the draugr, even when defeated, would come back, requiring the hero to dispose of the body in unconventional ways. The most preferred method was to cut off the draugr's head, burn the body, and dump the ashes in the sea, the emphasis being on making absolutely sure the draugr was dead and gone. This may be related to the traditional practice of killing vampires seen in other cultures.
- A pair of open iron scissors were placed on the chest of the recently deceased while straws or twigs might be hidden among their clothes. The big toes were tied together or needles were driven through the soles of the feet in order to keep the dead from being able to walk. Tradition also held that the coffin be lifted and lowered in three different directions as it was carried from the house to confuse a possible draugr's sense of direction.
- The most effective means of preventing the return of the dead was the corpse door. A special door was built on, through which the corpse was carried feet-first with people surrounding it so the corpse couldn't see where it was going. The door was then bricked up to prevent a return visit. It is speculated that this belief began in Denmark and spread through out the Norse culture. The belief was founded on the idea that the dead only enter through the way they left.
Though the draug usually presages death, there is an amusing account in Nord-Norge of a Nordlending who managed to outwit him:
It was Christmas Eve, and Ola went down to his boathouse to get the keg of brandy he had bought for the holidays. When he got in, he noticed a draug sitting on the keg, staring out to sea. Ola, with great presence of mind and great bravery (it might not be amiss to state that he already had done some drinking), tiptoed up behind the draug and struck him sharply in the small of the back, so that he went flying out through the window, with sparks hissing around him as he hit the water. Ola knew he had no time to lose, so he set off at a great rate, running through the churchyard which lay between his home and the boathouse. As he ran, he cried, "Up, all you Christian souls, and help me!" Then he heard the sound of fighting between the ghosts and the draug, who were battling each other with coffin boards and bunches of seaweed. The next morning, when people came to church, the whole yard was strewn with coffin covers, boat boards, and seaweed. After the fight, which the ghosts won, the draug never came back to that district.
Theories and analysis
- It has been speculated that there is a strong correlation between the draugr and the monster Grendel in the Old English narrative poem Beowulf.
- Dr. John Tanke has theorized that the words dragon and draugr might be related. He notes that both the serpent and the spirit serve as jealous guardians of the graves of kings or ancient civilizations. Dragons that act as draugrs appear in Beowulf as well as in the stories of Siegfried.
Art / Fiction
- Arguably, the best known draugr in the modern world is Glamr, who was defeated by the hero of the Grettis Saga, as the saga includes a short account of him as a living man, and a full account of his haunting, up to the intervention of Grettir who wrestled him back to death.
- A somewhat ambivalent, alternative view of the draugr is presented by the example of Gunnar in Njál's saga:
- "It seemed as though the howe was agape, and that Gunnar had turned within the howe to look upwards at the moon. They thought that they saw four lights within the howe, but not a shadow to be seen. Then they saw that Gunnar was merry, with a joyful face".
- In the Eyrbyggja Saga a shepherd is assaulted by a blue-black draugr. The shepherd's neck is broken during the ensuing scuffle. The shepherd rises the next night as a draugr.
- In modern times, the most familiar encounter with a draugr is Frodo's spectral struggle with the "barrow-wight" in J.R.R. Tolkien's book The Fellowship of the Ring, in the chapter "Fog on the Barrow-Downs."
- Draugrs are adversaries in the video game wikipedia:The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon.
- Draugar are a type of skeleton monster in the online game Final Fantasy XI: Online.
- In the popular MMORPG wikipedia:RuneScape, during a certain (heavily Norse-themed) quest, the player must prove their worth as a hunter by tracking the "Draugen" down with a magical talisman, and defeat the mysterious spirit creature. It holds several key similarities to the draugr of Norse lore, and as the quest itself consists of the player undergoing several trials to become a member of a clan who are clearly based upon the Vikings of old, this offers credence to the theory that the "Draugen" is based upon the draugr.
- Draugrs in wikipedia:White Wolf's popular pen and paper RPG, wikipedia:Vampire: The Requiem, are Kindred with a Humanity score of zero. Since losing any remnant of their human side draugrs lack rational thought and are completely animalistic, only feeding its hunger and protecting its existence. Should a Kindred become a draugr, other Kindreds are quick to killing it, since draugrs' actions threaten the Masquerade.
- Draugar are special undead troops in the online game Norron, usable only by players who worship Freya.
- The walking dead who destroy the town of Stromness in the 2004 version of wikipedia:The Bard's Tale are referred to as draugr.
- Draugar is the name of a US black metal band.
- In the book Garrett P.I: Old Tin Sorrows, a group of Draugr complicate his situation. While according to Garrett they avenge wrongs, they seem to attack at random. Zombie like in motion, they appear to possess knowledge to work doors and can retain skills such as unarmed combat.
- Maberry, Jonathan. Vampire Universe. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp. Copyright (c)2006 by Jonathan Maberry.
- Maberry, Jonathan. The Vampire Slayer's Field Guide to the Undead. Canada: Strider Nolan Publishing, Inc. Copyright (c)2003 by Jonathan Maberry.