Vampires and Watchmen: Categorizing the Mediaeval Icelandic Undead
University of Iceland
One can imagine three ways to approach a mediaeval Icelandic draugr, a term which is usually glossed as ‘ghost’ in English. The first would be themost common one, to simply accept the definitions of the most infuential nineteenth-century scholars, Konrad Maurer and Jón Árnason, anduse them to categorize the mediaeval draugar. The second way would beto take every instance of the word draugr in mediaeval texts and analyze carefully what type of creature it seems to indicate, and then examine the vocabulary used about those creatures. The third is to focus on the function of actual mediaeval Icelandic undead in order better to understandthe essence of their being. In this study, I shall argue that the first two methods are fawed and instead attempt a tentative categorization of my own of the mediaeval Icelandic undead, those beings that most modern Icelanders, knowing their Jón Ár-nason, would refer to as draugr, based on their function and characteristics.