In Norse Mythology, Draugr (also known as Draug and Draugen) are the ghosts of Vikings that rise from their graves to walk the world. It is said they first appear from the graves as wisps of smoke and have the cloying stench of decay. In addition to the smell and reanimation, Draugr also retain superhuman strength and the ability to increase their size at will.
The Draugr were believed to be propelled from their graves to physically attack the living out of anger and envy. Regardless of how they were in life, in death, they were only murderous and vengeful monsters with a thirst to attack humans at every chance. Like contemporary zombie myth, it was also said that those who are killed by Draugr were destined to become Draugr themselves.
However, unlike contemporary zombies, they aren't mindless. In fact, they are usually depicted with human-level intelligence (except imbued more deeply with anger and hate) and also had some magical powers. As mentioned above, they could grow at will and, in some versions of the myth, were able to shapeshift into animals or pass through walls and other obstacles without impediment. Their only goal in their undead-life seems to be to attack and kill humans. In addition to turning their victims into more Draugr, they also reportedly enjoy the taste of blood. Additionally, it was sometimes believed that they stole treasure to hoard back at their graves. They didn’t just attack humans, they also attacked livestock (as this makes the living’s lives a lot harder). While roaming, they’d often make a snack out of the countryside creatures. This meant that shepherds were also popular targets for the Draugr.
They also delighted in suffering. It is said that they loved causing trauma and pain to their victims and they weren’t just quick killers. In some stories, they sit on the chests of their victims bringing them just to the brink of suffocation over and over again.
In the Eyrbyggja saga, a famous Norse tome, the Draugr of Thorolf had swollen to the size of an ox and his body was so heavy that it could not even be moved without levers. The Eyrbyggja saga says about Thorolf, “[Thorolf] was buried near Þórólfr. Of all the sheep in the valley, some were found dead, and the rest that had strayed into the mountains were never found. Whenever birds landed on Thorolf’s grave, they fell down dead.”
So, how do you kill an undead being? Well, it’s quite difficult and they seem as difficult to exterminate as cockroaches. One of the surefire ways to rid yourself of Draugr is to cut off their heads, burn their bodies, and throw their ashes into the sea. Another way to prevent the Draugr from wreaking more havoc is for a hero to wrestle it backs to its grave and remove its head.
To prevent the threat of Draugr it is suggested that big toes be tied together with needles driven through their feet. This should prevent them from being able to walk once they become undead. Large boulders could also be placed on the grave (or directly on the corpse) to further prevent this from happening. Archaeologists have even found evidence of the weapons buried with Vikings were rendered impossible to use when they were put into the grave.
Like many tales of the dead coming back to life, it is believed that Draugr folklore is born out of a fear of dead bodies and the powers they held. Dead bodies are not only frightening and grisly reminders of what happens to all of us someday, they also carry disease and can be harbingers of death themselves.
This is a photo of VISIT TO GLASNEVIN CEMETERY IN DUBLIN [FIRST SESSION OF 2018]-135050 by William Murphy. It is unrelated to the story (except for the fact that it is a graveyard). It is liscensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).