Anglo-Saxon, Christianity, Conversion, Denmark, Eyrbyggja Saga, Flóamanna Saga, Folk Studies, Folklore, Germany, Iceland, Laxdœla saga, Literature, magic, Middle English, Norway, Occult, Paganism, Sagas, Scandinavia, Sweden, The Saga of Grettir the Strong, Vikings, witchcraft, Witches
Remnants of Revenants: The Role of the Dreaded Draugr in Medieval Iceland
Caitlin Christiana Wintour
Published online at Caitlin’s Crossroads (2011)
European legends of deadly revenants date from ancient Germanic folklore and literature. Like their ghostly namesake, the stories were resurrected in post-Icelandic Conversion sagas and in medieval ghost stories from northern England.
The term “revenant” is a French term for ghost, derived from the verb revenir, “to return.” The Icelandic term is more specific to the returning and violently unhappy dead: the feared draugr. These Scandinavian ghosts are almost always purely physical. They rise from the burial grounds (howes), bash the living, and generally make horrible nuisances of themselves until heroes overpower them and destroy their corpses for good. They owe their place in folklore to earlier Germanic literature: a heroic and supernatural tradition that shows up in the medieval Icelandic sagas and ghost stories from northern England.