Kathrine Esten


If the dead will not stay dead, what can you count on? The better question may be: Why aren’t the dead staying dead? In this essay, I examine the draugr (pl. draugar), an undead creature of pagan Norse origin, as described before and after the adoption of Christianity in Iceland in 1000 CE. Featured prominently in pre-conversion folklore, the draugr often symbolized Icelandic fears of isolation, starvation, and darkness. However, The Sagas of Icelanders, written in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, features a reimagined draugr. Intentionally, post-conversion draugar return from the dead in accordance with Catholic practice or lack thereof. The transmutation of the pagan draugr into a religious symbol took place to benefit ecclesiastical authority. Combining psychological and literary analysis of the draugr with historic developments in Iceland and the Catholic Church, I argue that Christian authors manipulated mythology to reaffirm Church authority in a troubled political time.



Included in

History Commons