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Vampires Iceland

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Frodiswater
Hrappstead
Hvamm
Isafjord
Mödruvellir
Skorravik
Thorhallstead



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The Source:

"Grettir's Saga"
various versions and translations

Paula Catharina Maria Sluijter :
"IJslands Volksgeloof"
Tjeenk Willink, Haarlem, Netherlands

The Case:

This - more or less - is the story:

There was a man called Thorhall who owned a lot of cattle. But he lived in a place that was haunted and consequently his shepherds never wanted to stay there for long. So he hired a new shepherd called Glam. It was a very strong, large and ugly brute of a man. Glam refused to go to church and would not even come near it. And on Christmas Day - oh horror ! - he ate meat, which appears to have been a mortal sin in those days. Then he went out into the snow and did not come back. A couple of days later his dead body was found. It had turned blue and swollen. They tried to move the corpse to the church, but at one point it was impossible to move it any further. So they buried him there and then. But Glam refused to stay in his grave and terrified the people. He was seen both day and night, climbed on top of the roofs and all but destroyed them.

Many people moved away. Still they found a new shepherd called Thorgaut, who wasn't afraid of Glam. On Christmas he went out to look after the sheep and did not return. When they found him all his bones and his neck had been broken by Glam. They had no trouble bringing Thorgaut's body to the church and fortunately had no problems with the dead man.

Glam, however, continued to kill people and cattle. Now a man called Grettir Asmundson heard about what was going on and decided to go to Thorhallstead. He wrestled with Glam who then tried to put some magic spell on him. Grettir quickly used his sword to chop off the undead monster's head. And that put an end to Glam's reign of terror.

The Date:

The date of the story is not clear, but undoubtedly we will find something somewhere. If we find the date when Christianity came to Iceland (I must have seen it somewhere), and also find the date when this Saga is supposed to have been written, then we can safely assume that these things are supposed to have happened between those two dates.

The Place:

We are told that Thorhallstead (Şórhallsstöğum) is situated in Shady-vale (Forsæludal) which runs up from Waterdale (Vatnsdal). At least this information gives us something to start with. I am not sure if and how these places translate into present day locations, so we will have to see what we can find. With the vulcanic activity that goes on in Iceland, and seeing as how most of these Saga appear to have taken place many many centuries ago, I would not be surprised if the outlay and appearance of the land have gone through some major changes since then.

Personal Comments:

I think that Glam certainly is one of the better and more uncivilised undead corpses that can be found in the Icelandic Saga. Obviously the fact that he was an evil person during his life is one of the reasons why he could not find rest after his death. Another contributing factor might be the fact that Glam himself appears to have been killed by some kind of ghost or monster that lived on the mountain.

The fact that it was impossible to move his corpse is another interesting phenomenon. We can find the same thing with the corpses of Saints that are on their way to be buried somewhere and suddenly it is impossible to move them from a certain spot. Which is then interpreted as a sign that the Saint wants to be buried there. But Glam definitely was no Saint. And I seriously doubt that he wanted to be buried at all. As we all know, decapitation is another way to destroy a vampire.

Possible Follow-up:

First go find yourself as many different versions and translations of this Saga. It would be nice to put a date on it, which probably should not be too hard. A good map of Iceland, the older the better might be of help trying to find the exact locations of where these tales are supposed to have happened. It is quite possible that some of the better books about Icelandic Saga may feature just the kind of maps we need. It's just a thought.

© 2009 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed 24 November 2009

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