Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lookin' for Lore: The Draug

NOTE: TSW is rated M. Some of these images may be NSFW. This post is the slightly altered script of the inaugural run of my new "Lookin' for Lore" segment on Beyond the Veil, Take 41.

For many people, the worst kind of horror involves the dead returning to haunt the living as walking corpses. Many different cultures depict these implacable abominations, from West African nzumbe to Chinese jiangshi.

It is eminently appropriate that one of the first challenges the players encounter in The Secret World is the Draug invasion of Solomon Island. As you may know, the bulk of TSW was developed by a team led by Ragnar Tørnquist at Funcom’s Oslo, Norway, facility; with input from Montreal and Beijing. It is fitting that, for the first part of the game, they drew on a particularly creepy element of Norse myth and combined it with Lovecraftian Eldritch horrors. (Which we’ll cover in another post.)

A draug, or draugr, is an undead creature from Norse mythology. The term "draug" has come to be used to describe any type of ghost or animated corpse in Nordic folklore. Fans of The Lord of the Ringsmay be interested to know that the Nynorsk translation of LOTR used the term “Draugr” for both ring-wraiths and the dead men of Dunharrow.

The original Old Norse meaning of the word is "ghost"; however, “Draugr” has long since come to refer to the animated body of the dead, with similar physical abilities as in life. Unlike the zombies of popular culture, Draugar are self-willed and generally retain their personalities from life, if a bit twisted.

Other terms you may see around Solomon Island:

• Aptrgangr ~ "after-walker" Found in the Vinterskog Woods and Norsemen’s Landing of the Savage Coast

• Haugbui ~ “tomb dweller” Examples include the Haugbui Jarl and Haugbui Mother in the Wreck of the Polaris

The Draugar of Solomon Island are organized into clans with Old Norse names. For example:
• Feigr ~ Marked for Death, Doomed
• Folr ~ Pale
• Blodugr ~ Bloody? Bloodsucker?
• Vidir ~ Willow?
Savage Coast:
• Askr ~ Ash Tree
• Mordvig ~ Murder or Murderer
• Svell ~ Swell?
Blue Mountain:
• Rekkr ~ Smoke?
• Dreyrugr ~ Drinker?

Like the zombies in AMC's The Walking Dead and other stories, draugar can be created through infection by another draugar. We see this in the infection of the inhabitants of Solomon Island. In one Icelandic saga, a shepherd is assaulted by a “blue-death” draugr. The shepherd's neck is broken during the ensuing scuffle. The shepherd rises the next night as a draugr.

The Draug of TSW were Norsemen who were caught by the filth as they departed Solomon Island after the Darkness War. Some perished at sea, others managed to return to their villages (perhaps Greenland?), where they infected the other inhabitants. The villagers abandoned their homes, drawn into the sea. They are the source of tales about ghost ships the world over, much like the crew of the Flying Dutchman as seen in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies: half-barnacled, not truly living.

The stories of restless dead coming in from sea were common in Northern Scandinavia. The Draug of The Secret World followed the fishing trawler Lady Margaret to Solomon Island, after Joe Slater found a sword in a graveyard of ships filled with red seaweed and fog. The Fog and the Draug followed them to Solomon Island. The red seaweed now infests the sewers of Kingsmouth town, along with Joe Slater, slowly turning into another Draug.

Much like the barnacled and seaweed-laden Draugar on Solomon Island, more recent Scandinavian folklore associates Draugr with drowned sailors, with a distinctly human form but the head covered in seaweed. In Norse sagas, Draugar possess superhuman strength, can increase their size at will, and carry the unmistakable stench of decay. You can imagine that the stench on Solomon Island is almost overpowering. The draugr's ability to increase its size also increases its weight, and the body of the draugr is extremely heavy, like the enormous bloated form of the Askr Queen in Tolba Bay or the Haugbui Mother in Polaris.

The Draugar of legend are noted for having numerous magical abilities such as controlling the weather, like the fog that envelopes Solomon Island. They can also pass through solid rock, as shown by some of the combat abilities, like “Harpoon,” that strike through the ground beneath players. The draugar slay their victims through various methods including crushing them with their enlarged forms, and indirectly killing them by driving them mad. They delight in the suffering that they cause. Individual draugar have been known to haunt their living family members.

As shown in various missions, particularly “The Player, Not the Piece” obtained from Red in eastern Savage Coast, there are limited ways to destroy a draug. Only a hero has the strength and courage needed to stand up to so formidable an opponent. The preferred method is to cut off the draugr's head, burn the body, and dump the ashes in the sea; the emphasis being on making absolutely sure the draugr is dead and gone.

Research material found on:
• the Post-It tornado of my mind!

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