The Walking Dead: Draugr
Since Halloween is nearing and people are swapping spooky stories, Id like to take some time to introduce the walking dead (known as Draugr) from Norse lore.
The Draugr were the undead from Norse lore. Once a dead body was placed into a mound for burial, it was said that it may become possessed and animated with an unnatural force and seemingly contained some semi-intelligence and recollection of who they had been before. It was often thought that people who had been malicious and mean in life were the most likely to return as a draugr, though people who were dissatisfied with something in life or were unpopular could become one as well. It was said that one could become a draugr if attacked and killed by a draugr, influencing their spirit.
They were described much like a walking corpse: their descriptions often including a mention of an unnatural skin color (black/blue as death, corpse pale), and rotted from physical decay (they could swell to enormous sizes, often believe to be the gases of decomposition trapped within the skin). Because of this size, they were said to have extreme strength. Their smell is noted on several occasions are being horrendous, presumably because of the smell of rot that lingered about them.
Victims of draugr varied. Draugr often killed livestock: either by chasing them and running them until they died of exhaustion or by directly breaking/crushing the bones of their victims. When it came to humans, draugr would either eat their flesh or eat them whole (depending on the size of the draugr) in addition to breaking/crushing the bones. There are accounts of draugr sucking blood from victims, not unlike the concept of a vampire. Sometimes draugr would simply drive a person mad, or lead them to kill themselves from some sort of inflicted mental illness. Their reasons for killing were varied as well: some draugr were people who had been wronged in life and came back as a way of getting vengeance upon someone else for their slights, some were jealous of the living and what they still had in life, and some were simply hungry- as the lore mentions that they had a near insatiable appetite.
Draugr were believed to be magically-inclined (using a magic called trollskap), as some were described as having knowledge of the future that they otherwise should have been unaware of, being able to curse those who are living, bringing about disease and plagues. They were also said to be able to shape-shift, appearing commonly as animals. They appeared to be able to move through solid objects, such as when one draugr from the lore sinks down into the Earth to avoid conflict. It was even thought that they could be influential in a persons dreams.
Draugr often dwelled in their mounds, or burial tombs. Many burial mounds were stone- built chambers roofed with wood and covered with earth. Often stones were placed on the top of these to indicate to passerbys that the dead were here. It was said that a great light could sometimes be seen near the mounds, like a fire. Ellis-Davidson once said this fire "surrounds the howes and forms a barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead, implying it was a thinning of the veil between the living and the dead. In the sagas, there is mention of people using burial-mounds as a doorway through which they travel, or project, to the underworld and other realms. It was also thought to be sacred space for some of the Gods, a connection to them. Some practices, such as mound-sitting, involved a person going to a mound and sitting on or near it while attempting to divine from spirits of the deceased.
Some draugr were believed to simply inhabit their mounds, never venturing out to attack anything or anyone. These draugr were called haugbui. However, due to burial rituals- many mounds contained treasures and valuables of the deceased. Grave robbing did occur because of this. As one saga mentions, grave robbers sometimes unexpectedly came across haugbui who guarded its possessions jealously.
There are accounts in the sagas of brave heroes killing a draugr. Though draugr preferred the night, they were not seemingly affected by the day. Most weapons did no good against this foe, as they were already dead. Iron was believed to hurt them, but not injure them seriously. The best way for most people to rid themselves of a draugr was to force it back into its burial mound, then seal it off. There are some cases in which a person beheaded the draugr, burnt the body, then threw the ashes into the sea as a way of ensuring that the draugr was permanently gone- with no physical form to return to
There were many methods of prevention that folks followed: As noted by H.F. Feilberg, sometimes the toes were tied together so that the legs would not separate. Needles were sometimes run through the soles of the feet and when the parson prays for the rest of the dead, he is supposed to bind the dead to the grave with magic words to keep him fast. Sometimes special doors, known as corpse doors were built into homes- as many people believed the dead could only enter a home in the same way they left it.
Aptrgangr is the term for a draugr with harmful intent who is not bound to its burial mound. Draugr is an overgeneralized term, but the one most commonly recognized. Haugbui are draugr that do not leave their burial mounds. They do not actively seek to harm anything or anyone, but will act defensively if their mound is intruded upon. Fyrirburdir is a term sometimes used to refer to a non-corporal form of the dead, who seemingly appear but do not interact with people.
Note: this is just a concept from lore, though an interesting one. Draugr, much like vampires and werewolves and other fantasy, are not real.
Stranded in Midgard by Fernando Guerrero
The Walking Dead by Viking Answer Lady
The Walking Dead Draugr and Aptrgangr in Old Norse Literature by Unknown