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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. They blend elements of the corporeal undead and the noncorporeal undead and were believed to be the angry spirits of the dead who would return and 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.

Basic Mythology

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.

Appearance

Being reanimated corpses, draug is technically a type of revenant instead of ghosts. Often appearing as decaying warriors who could be either be skeletons, rotting corpses or misty phantoms depending on the story, they have an ability to assume incorporeal state in order to phasing through solid object and vice-versa.

Draug are often surrounded by clouds of plague, unnatural mist/fog and other supernatural traits. It even mentioned that they carry unmistakable stench of decay.

Personality

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

Draug could spread disease and death among the living as well as manifest both ghostly abilities as well as more physical abilities - either haunting areas of land and people or rising physically from their burial sites and roaming the land as disease-spreading zombies. In fact, anyone who killed by draug can rise as another draug as well. In addition of superhuman strength and resilience (as it often mentioned that courageous heroes who confronted draug would often have to wrestle these undeads back to their graves), draug can infamously increase their size and mass: Thorolf of Eyrbyggja saga was "uncorrupted, and with an ugly look about him... swollen to the size of an ox," and his body was so heavy that it could not be raised without levers. Their dark influence in the land of the living, coupled with their hideous appearance, can drive living people insane. They are also noted for the ability to rise from the grave as wisps of smoke and "swim" through solid rock, which would be useful as a means of exiting their graves.

Draug also displayed an array of supernatural abilities resembling those of living witches and wizards in addition of afromentioned abilities above such as controlling the weather, seeing into the future, cursing the victim, and dreamwalking.

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.

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