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Viking Zombie February 6, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval , trackback

vatnsdal

A Viking zombie story from medieval Iceland courtesy of Chris from Haunted Ohio Books: thanks Chris!! Glam is an uncouth and enormous Swede who is taken on as a shepherd in a ‘haunted’ part of Iceland (Vatnsdal): he is rash enough to guard the sheep from whatever beast comes out in the Icelandic moonlight. This beast – some Grendel like creature? – is never even glimpsed in the tale, we only see its footprints after it fights and mortally wounds Glam. But what is of special interest is not the beast but Glam’s fate. The locals try and move Glam’s body to the church but fail. This might have something to do with the fact that Glam is huge. But it is also, the narrator intimates, because Glam is a godless man. Then, while the Icelanders are wondering how they are going to shift his body, Glam disappears. He has become – oh horror! – a draugr, a Viking Zombie.

A little time after men understood that Glam was not quietly dead. Folk were frightened by this, so that many fell into swoons when they saw him, and others lost their wits thereby. Then just after Yule men thought they saw him home at the farm [where he had worked]. Folk became terrified about this, and many fled there and then. Next Glam took to riding the house-roofs at night, so that he was able to break into them. Now he walked both night and day. Men were now frightened to go up into the dale, though they had errands there.

So Glam walks around terrifying everyone he meets, even sending some into the Viking equivalent of psychiatric care. Glam ‘rides the house roofs’, which seems to mean he climbs up onto houses so he can get inside to sleeping quarters. Then in the end he is able to terrify the neighbourhood by night but also by day when such creatures are usually sent scurrying to their Godless lairs.

Glam starts next killing shepherds: he likes to break bones before snapping necks; he then moves on to cattle and finally begins attacking farms.  In the end it is Grettir, an Icelandic wide boy, who fights and (properly) kills Glam, but Glam curses Grettir as he dies for a second time. Grettir will be greatly reduced in strength for the rest of his life and he will be unlucky: something which is bourne out by Grettir’s subsequent pitiful biography. Glam is burnt to ‘cold coals’ and then buried away from places where sheep or men go.

Draugr are sometimes called Viking vampires, but the parallels are weak. The only example we’ve found comes from Eyrbyggja Saga where a man killed by a draugr becomes, in turn, a draugr. There the ‘vampires’ are dismissed with recourse to Icelandic law, not something that would have worked with the Count.

Other medieval undead? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

Mother of all busy days today: deep breath…

16 Feb 2013: Diana writes in: Could the story of Glam the Viking zombie possibly be an incident like the infamous  true survival case of Hugh Glass, who was thought dead by his companions, but crawled for 6 weeks to reach the Cheyenne river and then rafted to Fort Kiowa? Honestly I couldn’t remember his name, just the story but I wikipedia’d it.  Thanks Diana!