Variation: Aptgangr ("one who walks afterdeath"), Aptrgangr, Barrow Dweller, Gronnskjegg, Haubui, Haugbui ("Sleeper in the Mound")
The draugr is a type of vampiric REVENANT from Iceland. Its name is derived from the Indo-European root word dreugh, which means "to deceive" or "to damage." The word draugr's more modern literal translation means "after-goer" or "one who walks in death," but is usually taken to mean a type of undead creature (see UNDEATH). There are two types of draugr, those of the land and those of the sea (see DRAUGER, SEA).
Land draugr are created when a very greedyand wealthy man is buried in a barrow with all of his possessions. To prevent this from happening, traditional lore says to place a pair of iron scissors on his chest or straw crosswise under the burial shroud. Additionally, as a precaution it is wise to tie the big toes of the deceased together so that the legs cannot move. As a final precaution, pins are driven partway into the bottom of his feet to prevent him from getting up and walking anywhere, as it would be too painful to do so.
A draugr jealously guards its treasures and viciously attacks anyone who enters its tomb. It uses its supernatural strength to crush them to death or strangle them with its bare hands. It is impervious to all mundane weaponry and a few stories say that it can even increase its body size two to three times. Some draugr are able to leave their tombs and wander off into the night with the intent of crushing or rending anyone they happen across. If one should be encountered, an elderly woman must throw a bowl of her own urine at it to drive it away.
In addition to its physical abilities, a draugr has an array of magical abilities as well. It can control the weather, move freely through stone and earth, and see into the future. It can also shape-shift into a cat, a great flayed bull, a gray horse with no ears or tail and a broken back, and a seal. In its cat form it will sit on a person's chest, growing heavier and heavier until the victim suffocates to death, much like the ALP of Germany may do.
The draugr's skin is described as being either hel-blar ("death-blue") or na foir ("corpse pale"). It smells like a rotting corpse, although even after many years it may show no real signs of decay. It retains the personality and all the memories of the person it once was. It longs for the things it had in life—food, loved ones, and warmth, but unable to have these things, it destroys property and kills livestock and people. The only pleasure it has in death is taken through its violence.
After the introduction of Christianity, the draugr was destroyed if it was exhumed and given a Christian burial in a churchyard or if a mass was said for it. Also, burning the body to ash would destroy it. However, the traditional method of destroying a draugr must be under-taken by a hero, who defeats it in hand-to-hand combat, wrestling it into submission and then beheading the creature. Some of the traditional tales say that after the beheading, the hero must then walk three times around the head or body. Other stories say that a stake must also be driven into the headless corpse. Additionally, the sword that is used in the beheading must be some sort of ancestral, special, or magical sword; typically this sword is already in the tomb somewhere in the draugr's treasure hoard.
It has been speculated by some scholars that the monster GRENDEL from the heroic epic poem Beowulf was a draugr. Also dragons and draugrs may well be interchangeable in some stories, as they are both greedy guardians of treasure, which is kept in an underground chamber; they act violently when motivated by greed or envy; they are shape-shifters; and they were both important enough to be Christianized when times changed.
The oldest, best-known story of a draugr is that of Glam from the Grettis Saga. In it, after Glam died he became a draugr, killing many men and cattle. He was defeated by the outlaw hero Grettir in a wrestling match. Grettir promptly beheaded the creature and burned the body to ash.
Source: Chadwick, Folklore, vol. LVIL, 50 65; Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, 915; Houran, From Shaman to Scientist, 103; Marwick, Folklore of Orkney and Shetland, 40