The Draugr are a type of "barely living" men found in the province of Skyrim. They are, along with Dragon Priests, classified as undead, despite carrying a "whisper of life." Dialogue indicates that they consider themselves to be dead.
The Draugr are what remains of men of Atmoran and Nordic origin whose souls never left the bodies. This feature is likely related to their relation to the Dragon Cult and its priests, to whom the Draugr act as immortal servants. The Skaal seem to believe that the Draugr were cursed with undeath by the All-Maker, due to having feasted on their comrades after becoming trapped on the island of Solstheim. Others believe that they were cursed to never die by the Dragons, after Men betrayed them in the Dragon War.
In her book, Amongst the Draugr, Bernadette Bantien from the College of Winterhold tells the story of her stay in a Dragon Priest's resting place. She says that, after about seven months within the location, the Draugr gradually ceased their attempts to eliminate her and returned to their daily routine, at which point she was able to make great progress in her research. As for the reasons for the behavior, she suggests that they might have simply decided that she posed no threat to them; or perhaps a communicated agreement, as she reports them uttering words in their "heathen tongue."
Behavior and originsEdit
Bantien mentions that, different from other creatures, in which hostility is easy to read, "these most peculiar of the living dead" were different, due to the large disparity in their gait and speed. She used their general movements towards her and the tone of voice used, as well as the glowing eyes of the Draugr, in order to better predict their intent. The eyes, she says, "seem to be key to their intent." She describes the routine of the Draugr. Every day, a different set of them would awaken and make their way to their priest. Once at the sarcophagus, they would prostrate themselves before it for several hours, meticulously cleaning the area afterwards (which she associated to a continuous worship, even after hundreds or thousands of years). By setting scrying spells around the tomb, Bantien was able to safely look deeper into this ritual. When a group of Draugr entered, she noticed a transferral of magical energies, which she describes as "a distinct flow of life force between the adherents and the master."
It was then that she understood the Dragon Cult's notion of resurrection, in which eternal life was only promised to those who ascended to priesthood, and the lesser functionaries contributed their life force in order to sustaining them indefinitely. Bantien does not seem to know where such endless, rechargeable life force (which she refers to as an "eternal wellspring") comes from, but understands that each Draugr carried "only the barest whisper of life in it," and speculates that they were in fact buried fully as men and women (as opposed to dead, although there are cases of reanimated Draugr). She completes the speculation by saying that, in that case, it was the thousands of years underground, performing the ritual, that gave the Draugr an undead appearance; and that if one were to visit a barrow directly after its construction, they might not have even known any of its inhabitants were dead.
Draugr take their mythological inspiration and several traits from the draugr, undead creatures from Norse mythology. It should be noted that one differentiates between sea-draugar and land-draugar (draugar being plural of draugr): while land-draugar were simply undead with numerous magical abilities, sea-draugar were fishermen who had drowned at sea, thus being denied the privilege of being buried. In Norse mythology Odin was the ruler of draugr and could raise them using a secret, magic song.
- In both Skyrim and Solstheim, Draugr are well known as undead, and are frequently the antagonists of bad dreams and fantasies, especially to those who live under the shadow of the barrows.
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