Draug (Old Norse: draugr, plural draugar; modern Icelandic: draugur, Faroese: dreygur and Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian: draug), are malevolent undead beings found in Norse mythology and folklore.
Draugar are closer to revenant than either zombies or ghosts aspects-wise for being corpses reanimated by their own restless spirits despite blending elements of the corporeal undead and the noncorporeal undead, rose from their graves to spread plague and misery to the living: In older myth they were believed to haunt burial mounds but in more modern myths they became strongly linked with the ocean and were believed to be formed from those who drowned at sea.
Draug are very popular in fantasy media due to their links to Norse mythology and just like Trolls, they are a staple of many fantasy games and novels, often altered from their depiction in ancient tales.
It is said that those who returned as a draug are people who nasty, mean, or greedy in life. As Ármann notes, "most medieval Icelandic ghosts are evil or marginal people. If not dissatisfied or evil, they are unpopular". An indication of a corpse that will rise as a draug is being found in an upright or sitting position rather than horizontal.
A variation of draug is haugbui (from Old Norse haugr’ "howe, barrow, tumulus"), the dead body living on within its tomb. Unlike regular draug, haugbui cannot leave its grave site and only attacks those who trespass upon their territory.
Stronger than their decaying forms suggested, draugar are "generally hideous to look at", bearing a necrotic black color (said to be either hel-blár ("death-blue") or nár-fölr ("corpse-pale") to state it in shorthand), and associated a "reek of decay", or more precisely inhabited haunts that often issued foul stench.
In cases of Þráinn (Thrain) the berserker of Valland and Ásviðr (Aswitus), both possess sharp scratching claws that the hero Hrómundr to refer to the former as a sort of cat (Old Norse: kattakyn). Some draugar at times appeared skeletal as the result of much of their flesh decomposed to the point of exposing bones beneath or worse, their mortal form had since reduced into rotting parts put together by its owner's restless spirit, either of which didn't help as even draugar with least decomposing form still reeked horribly.
Even a draugr's burial mound smells as horrible as its inhabitant as noted in the case of Kárr the Old and Sóti the Viking. In fact, Hörðr Grímkelsson’s two underlings ended up dying from "gust and stink (ódaun)" of latter's mound.
As it was stated that draug are mean, nasty, or greedy person in life, majorities of them are malicious beings who either seek nothing but harm and misery of the living, tormenting those who wronged them in life, or simply haunting their burial site to prevent anyone from trespassing. The motivation of the actions of a draug was primarily jealousy and greed. The greed of a draug causes it to viciously attack any would-be grave robbers, but the draug also expresses an innate jealousy of the living, stemming from a longing for the things of the life it once had. This idea is clearly expressed in Friðþjófs saga, where a dying king declared:
|“||My howe shall stand beside the firth. And there shall be but a short distance between mine and Thorsteinn's, for it is well that we should call to one another.||„|
This desire for the friendship experienced in life is one example of the manifestation of this aspect of the draug. Draug also exhibit an immense and nearly insatiable appetite, as shown in the encounter of Aran and Asmund, sword brothers who made an oath that if one should die, the other would sit vigil with him for three days inside the burial mound. When Aran died, Asmund brought his own possessions into the barrow: banners, armor, hawk, hound, and horse. Then Asmund set himself to wait the agreed upon three days:
|“||During the first night, Aran got up from his chair and killed the hawk and hound and ate them. On the second night he got up again from his chair, and killed the horse and tore it into pieces; then he took great bites at the horse-flesh with his teeth, the blood streaming down from his mouth all the while he was eating... The third night Asmund became very drowsy, and the first thing he knew, Aran had got him by the ears and torn them off.||„|
Powers and Abilities
- Supernatural Strength: Draugar are deceptively stronger than their decomposing appearance suggested.
- Sharp Claws: Some draugr such as Þráinn (Thrain) the berserker of Valland and Ásviðr (Aswitus) are noted to possess razor-sharp claws that can tear through flesh on ease as stated previously.
- Defunct State: Following their revival as undead beings, Draugar lost their mortal selves' physical weaknesses and other limitations such as the need for rest, sustenance or other physical requirements, as well as no longer feel pain and cannot be poisoned or get ill. This allow them to fight better than their mortal selves, not stopping to care about injuries they sustained in the process and will continue until their undead bodies give out.
- Trollskap Magic: Draugar possesses an array of magical abilities not unlike mortal witches or wizards referred as trollskap magic or simply trollskap upon their revival.
- Shape-shifting: A draugar can assume different hideous forms at will, such as a seal with human-like eyes, a great flayed bull, a grey horse with a broken back but no ears or tail, and a cat that would sit upon a sleeper's chest and grow steadily heavier until their victim suffocated.
- Size-changing: Draugar can grow up to few times of their original size to overpower their foes.
- Weather Manipulation: Draugr can influence the weather to suit their needs, most notably conjuring dark clouds to create temporary darkness in daylight hours so as to gain better advantage while moving during such hours.
- Dreamwalking: A draugr can enter the dream of the living and frequently leaves a gift behind so that "the living person may be assured of the tangible nature of the visit".
- Curse Inducement: Draugar can place a curse on whatever they wish (people, places, objects, etc.) where the intended effects range from minor annoyances to tortuously extended death. For example, in Grettis saga, Grettir is cursed by a draugr to be unable to become any stronger.
- Disease Manipulation: Draugar can bring forth and spread disease upon an entire village at will.
- Intangibility: Though normally corporeal since they are restless spirits of the deceased inhabiting their very mortal remains, draugar can make themselves intangible if the situation calls for it as demonstrated by Víga-Hrappr who sinks into the ground to escape from Óláfr Hǫskuldsson the Peacock.
- Precognition: Draugar can perceive future events, be it surrounding themselves or others.
In Popular Culture
- The standard undead enemy in the videogame The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are called Draugr and loosely based on the said undead which is no secret since Skyrim and the Game is based on Norse mythology and Nordic medieval times. The Draugr in Skyrim on the other hand are mostly people who sided with the Dragons and were cursed.
- Draugar appear as recurring enemy in real-time strategy game Northgard haunting the titular land. The player must be alert in case of one of them enter their clan's borders as a single draugr poses a challenge to civilian units there. Draugar also has a spawning area called Draugr Tombs from which they rise again and again until the player colonize the tile where the tomb located at, leading to its destruction thus mitigating threat they pose.