Monster Monday: Draugr

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Draugr.

The Sea Troll by Theodor Kittelsen
The Sea Troll by Theodor Kittelsen

A draugr is an undead creature from Norse mythology. They live in their graves and guard them from trespassers, but they also sometimes roam. They are immensely strong and can shapeshift into different animals as well as “swim” through solid rock. They are described as being either dark blue or extremely pale. The kill their victims by tearing them apart and eating their flesh and drinking their blood. They can also enter the dreams of people and drive them insane.

A mean, selfish, or greedy person is in danger of becoming a draugr, as is a person who dies in an upright or sitting position. A person killed by a draugr can also come back as one. To prevent a person from returning as a draugr, a pair of open iron scissors was often placed on the corpse’s chest. Another tradition is the creation of a corpse door, a special door to remove the corpse from a house. Once the body is removed, the door is bricked up. Then the draugr can’t to find its way back into the house.

A variation on the draugr is sea-draugr, which is the spirit of a mariner drowned at sea and often presages death for anyone who sees it. Stories of this type of draugr are particularly popular in northern Norway, where so much of life revolves around sailing and fishing.

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