Draugr

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A draugr is a corporeal undead, from the Norse Mythology. Draugrs were believed to live in the graves of dead vikings, being the actual body of the dead. Views differed on whether the personality and soul of the dead person lingered in the draugr. As the graves of important men often contained a good amount of wealth, the draugr jealously guarded his treasures, even after death. All draugr were possessed of superhuman strength and some were immune to usual weapons. To defeat a draugr, a hero was often necesary, 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.

Some draugr were able to leave their graves 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 of a hero.

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.

A somewhat ambivalent, alternative view of the draugr is however presented by the example of Gunnar in Njal'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".