Chilling Story Of Glamr Who Became A Draugr, A Living Dead – Scary Yule Haunting

Ellen Lloyd - - Do you have the courage to challenge supernatural forces? If you decide to do so, remember it will be your own doing.

One man named Glamr was overconfident. Considering himself invincible and untouchable, he thought he could do whatever pleased him and get away with it, but it was a mistake. Fate caught up with him, and his ending was not pretty.

 Chilling Story Of Glamr Who Became A Draugr, A Living Dead - Scarry Yule Haunting

Credit: Adobe Stock - Dave

The story of Glamr, a Swedish herdsman, is one of the scariest Old Norse Yule hauntings we can come across.

Supernatural Creatures In Old Norse Literature

People in ancient Scandinavia were superstitious. They feared and respected supernatural powers, even long after converting to Christianity.

"The peculiarity of Scandinavian and Icelandic ghosts lies in the fact that they are corporeal – not wraiths, disembodied spirits, but the incorporate spirits of the dead. They are animated corpses, solid bodies, generally mischievous and greatly to be feared. Even Iceland, though a new colony, is ghost ridden. In stories relating to Scandinavia, the ghosts are generally men, and this is probably an original feature." 1

"In stories relating to Norway, the ghosts are rarely found far from their burial places, the haugar (sing. huagr), "barrows", containing a stone-built burial chamber roofed with wood, and covered with a great mound of earth. In Iceland, however, a ghost knows no territorial rights and limitations, and is free to wander where he will, either before or after burial." 1

Draugr Was A Living Dead Feared By Many

There is no lack of supernatural elements in Old-Norse literature, and some stories can be truly horrifying.

Supernatural creatures are regarded as dangerous enemies, but some accounts describe people who possess supernatural powers.

In Elder Edda, the word dolgr is restricted to its primary sense of "enemy." "In prose the word as applied to supernatural creatures but only those with which mankind had to contend, such as devils (svartir dolgar), trolls, dragons, giants and phantoms (draugar). But the rod dolgr could also be applied to human beings who exhibited supernatural qualities, such as Grettir." 2

Draugr was one of the creatures most feared by Vikings and ancient people in Scandinavia. The draugr was like a corporeal ghost in Norse mythology. "The creature was a fearsome, ugly living dead who would rise from the grave and make life miserable for people.

 Chilling Story Of Glamr Who Became A Draugr, A Living Dead - Scarry Yule Haunting

Draugr was one of the most feared creatures in ancient Scandinavia. Credit: Theodor Kittelsen (1887) - Public Domain

There is archaeological evidence that Vikings feared the draugr so much that they took the necessary precautions to prevent the draugr from returning to the world of the living." 3

The Curse And Haunting Of Glamr – Was He Killed By Evil Spirits?

This brings us to the cursed Glamr from Sylgsdalr, who figures in Grettis Saga. The man came to a farm in Iceland to work as a hireling.

Grettis Saga (c. 1320) relates the adventures of Grettir, an outlaw hero who, on his return to Iceland, saves the people from the malicious ghost of Glamr the shepherd, who is ravaging the countryside.

Glamr (sometimes referred to as Glam) worked for a wealthy farmer named Thorhall, who had problems acquiring a shepherd because his farm was haunted. However, this was no obstacle to Glamr, who said he was not afraid of ghosts.

On Christmas Eve, Glamr did something that surprised the farmer's wife. The Swedish herdsman ignored Christmas traditions. As he was preparing to go out shepherding, he asked the farmer's wife if he could get some food, but she told him this was a day when they usually fast.

"Now time past there until when comes the eve of Yule. Then Glámr stood up and called for his food. The lady of the house answered: 'It is not proper that Christian men eat meat on this day, because tomorrow is the first day of Yule," she says, "and thus they shall first fast today.'"

Glamr did not want to listen to this. Glamr declared he would eat, criticizing the Yule tradition and scoring locals' superstitions.

"He answers, 'You have many restrictions, when I see no good come of it. I do not know that men fare better now than when they did not heed such things. It seems to me that the customs of men were better when they were called heathens, and now I want my meat, and no foolishness."

Having eaten, Glamr went out and never returned from his work. While everyone was at the Church, a severe storm came over. It was like a bad omen.

The next day people searched for Glamr, but he was nowhere to be found. After days of searching, when his body was discovered, it was described as "dead and blue as Hel and swollen up like an ox."

What caused Glamr's death is unknown, but he did not die of natural causes.

People made several attempts to move his body to the Church to be buried, but it was impossible, and eventually, they had to give up and put him to rest at the spot where had died.

People became convinced an evil spirit must have killed Glamr.

According to the Saga, this is when the horror and Yuletide hauntings started.

"A little time after men were aware that Glámr did not lay quiet. People become so greatly disturbed by this, that many fell into hysteria when they saw him, and some lost their wits. Even after Yule men thought they saw him at home on the farm. People became extremely scared. Many men then fled. Next, Glámr took to riding houses at night, so that he nearly broke them." 4

"Grettir famously defeats Glámr, who is frequently associated with the Old Norse-Icelandic draugr, but not until the revenant has cursed Grettir with unceasing fear of the dark, as terrible light from Glámr's eyes haunts Grettir until the end of his days and he becomes nyctophobic forevermore." 4

As Glamr was dying, he cursed Grettir, predicting he would grow afraid of the dark.

As Grettis Saga says, "So the day passed by, and when it was time for bed, Grettir would not undress and lay down on the platform opposite the farmer's bedcloset. He put a fur poncho over himself and he wrapped one edge down under his feet and the other under his head and looked out through the head-hole … when the door opened, Grettir saw the villain stretch in its head and it seemed to him enormously big and amazingly large-featured.

 Chilling Story Of Glamr Who Became A Draugr, A Living Dead - Scarry Yule Haunting

Credit: Adobe Stock - erika8213

Glam moved slowly and straightened up when he got inside the door. He towered high up into the roof, turned towards the hall and laid his arms up on the cross-beam and leaned in over the hall … Grettir lay quiet and did not move. Glam saw that some sort of heap lay on the platform and he made his way in down the hall and took hold of the poncho rather hard.

Grettir pushed against the platform support and it did not move. Glam jerked again much harder and the poncho held firm.

A third time he pulled it with both hands so hard that he pulled Grettir up from the platform. They now ripped the poncho in two between them. Glam looked at the bit he was holding on to and wondered greatly who could be pulling so hard against him. And at that moment Grettir leapt under his arms and took him round the middle and pressed against his back as hard as he could and intended that Glam should bend over backwards, but the villain pushed at Grettir's arms so hard that he was forced to give way by the superior strength … Glam wanted to get outside, but Grettir dug in his heels wherever he could and still Glam managed to drag him out to the entrance … And when Grettir sees that he cannot hold back with his feet, he does two things at once, he leaps as hard as he can into the villain's embrace and kicks back with both feet at a stone partburied in the ground that stood on the threshold.

The villain was not expecting this. He had been struggling to pull Grettir towards himself, and so Glam toppled over backwards and was flung in reverse out against the doorway so that his shoulders caught the lintel and the roof gave way, both the beams and the frozen thatch. Thus he fell face upwards and backwards outside the building with Grettir on top of him

There was bright moonlight outside and gaps in the heavy cloud. Sometimes it clouded over and sometimes it cleared away. At the moment Glam fell, the cloud cleared from the moon and Glam glared up at it and Grettir himself has said that this was the only sight he ever saw that took him aback.

Chilling Story Of Glamr Who Became A Draugr, A Living Dead – Scarry Yule Haunting

Draugen (1895) by Theodor Kittelsen. Credit: Public Domain

Then he felt so weakened by everything, his weariness and seeing Glam squint at him fiercely, that he was unable to draw his cutlass and lay just about between life and death. And such was the greater power of evil in Glam than in most other revenants that he then spoke as follows: 'You have displayed great zeal, Grettir,' he said, 'in seeking me out, and it will not seem surprising if you don't gain a great deal of good fortune from your encounter with me.

But I can tell you this, that you have now acquired half the strength and development that was intended for you if you had not met me. I cannot now deprive you of the strength that you have already acquired, but I can ensure that you never become any stronger than you are now, and yet even now you are strong enough, as many will find out to their cost.

You have become renowned up to now for your deeds, but from now on you will become guilty of crimes and deeds of violence, and nearly everything you do will lead to your misfortune and failure.

You will be made outlaw and be compelled always to live in the open on your own. I also lay this upon you that these eyes of mine will be always before your sight, and you will find it hard to be alone and this will bring you to your death.'

The story ends with Grettir cutting off Glamr's head, assuring the Draugr can never terrorize people again."

The adventures of outlaw Grettir and the horrifying fate of Glamr are featured in The Saga of Grettir the Strong which has been translated into English.

Updated on December 13, 2022

Written by - Ellen Lloyd –

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Expand for references
  1. Chadwick, N. K. (1946). Norse Ghosts (A Study in the Draugr and the Haugbúi). Folklore57(2), 50–65.
  2. Sturtevant, A. M. (1927). Some Etymologies Of Certain Old Norse Words Dealing With The Supernatural.Scandinavian Studies and Notes9(5), 151–159.
  3. Ellen Lloyd - Draugr – Vikings Feared This Ugly Living Dead With Prophetic Visions,
  4. Richard Fahey - Yuletide Monsters: Christmas Hauntings in Medieval Literature and Modern Popular Culture, University of Notre Dame
  5. Matt Firth - Monsters and the Monstrous in the Sagas – The Saga of Grettir the Strong, The Postgrad Chronicles
  6. Anonymous - The Saga of Grettir the Strong