Monster Monday: Gjenganger

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 Gjenganger.

Count Orlok from the film Nosferatu
Count Orlok from the film Nosferatu

A gjenganger is a type of revenant from Scandinavian folklore, the spirit of a person who comes back from the grave. Unlike a traditional ghost, a gjenganger takes a corporeal form, making it similar to a Eastern European vampire.

A murderer is in danger of coming back as a gjenganger, as is a person who was murdered. Often someone who has left something undone will come back, in which case they might need the help of the living before they can rest in peace. Generally speaking, though, a gjenganger is violent and malicious and often returns for the sole purpose of doing harm to those left behind.

One of the ways in which a gjenganger harms people is by attacking them in their sleep and pinching them. The place where the gjenganger pinches the person will turn blue, and often the person becomes sick and dies.

Crucifixes and other Christian symbols can ward off a gjenganger. A person thought to be in danger of returning can be prevented by passing their coffin over the church wall rather that bringing it through the gates. Also, the shovels used to dig the grave must be left behind on top, and a runic inscription is sometimes written inside the coffin, despite Christianity having overcome traditional beliefs.

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