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A Dance with Draugens


Sandy Clegg
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GRRM writes a lot in ASOIAF about dragons, and about the undead. He also writes about drowned Gods, storm gods and icy climates. One ghostly figure from Norse mythology may combine all of these ideas in one: the Draugen.

People who have played Skyrim will be familiar with the draugr - wighted creatures who inhabit tombs in the icy wastelands of that game. The term draugr is from Old Norse, and essentially is the same as a wight. An undead ghoul inhabiting a tomb or barrow. The word draug or draugr may refer to them in general, and the Draugen may have been the original inspiration for their name:

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The Draugen is a wicked water ghost entity. They are said to be the ghosts of sailors or fishermen who lost their lives at sea. They then are doomed to haunt the waves. In these tales any man who takes to the sea dreads meeting up with this entity.

The Draugen is described as being monstrous in size covered in seaweed. He is seen only after dark during stormy seas. He is always seen rowing the remnants of his shattered boat. The legend states that the unlucky sailors that encounter him are first alerted to his presence by his terrible screams.

 https://seeksghosts.blogspot.com/2014/01/norwegian-ghost-folklore.html

Now the word draugen has no etymological connection with dragon. It's just a coincidence. But perhaps GRRM has latched onto this similarity and is using it to weave in some parallels between his ice and fire themes. Draugr are a huge topic worth exploring in relation to ASOIAF but I'd like to highlight one example of a 'draugen' which has some very interesting similarities to one particular character in the series.

Pate: the hog boy?

In the Orkney islands of Scotland there is a legend of a particular 'burial mound spirit' who is said to haunt the barrows of the dead in that region. His name is a derivation of the the Old Norse word for 'mound-dweller' - haug-bui - and so in modern English this entity has become popularly known as Hogboy, or sometimes Hog-boon:

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Maeshowe, or the maiden's mound, as it has been translated, was formerly known to the Orcadians by the euphonius name of "the abode of the Hog-boy." Hog-boy, however, is simply a perversion of the Norse Haug-bui or mound dweller. 

https://www.themodernantiquarian.com/post/54115/folklore/maeshowe.html

I've speculated before that Pate has some solid symbolic connections to Jon Snow, especially in the context of Jon becoming wighted (at least temporarily) in TWOW. With the connection between 'hog boy' wights and our unfortunate 'pig boy' then perhaps GRRM is leaning heavily into his fondness for Scandinavian folklore in his clues for Jon's foreshadowing ...

Edited by Sandy Clegg
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11 minutes ago, Northern Sword said:

Loved Skyrim, it was a great game. Played it a lot.

We have Dragons and the Undead, now just waiting for an Dragon Priest to show up in ASOIAF.

I think it's time for a Skyrim rerun. My favorite game as of now is The Elder Scrolls Online, but it's been a few years since I last played Skyrim.

I wonder what ancient tomb we'll find this Dragon Priest(s) in ;) I think their masks are awesome, but maybe that's just because I'm into the rp aspect of games. Not that these masks have any connection to asoiaf, but they do make me think of the Archmaesters and Asshai'i.

  • Wooden mask (makes me think of Quaithe)
  • Rahgot: orichalcum
  • Hevnoraak: iron 
  • Krosis: iron 
  • Morokei: moonstone
  • Nahkriin: ebony 
  • Otar: malachite
  • Vokun: steel
  • Volsung: corundum (a waterbreathing mask!!)
  • Konahrik: gold
  • Ahzidal (ESO:V): ebony
  • Dukaan (ESO:V): ebony
  • Zahkriisos (ESO:V): ebony
  • Miraak (ESO:V): ebony
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On 11/2/2023 at 3:07 PM, Sandy Clegg said:

Pate: the hog boy?

In the Orkney islands of Scotland there is a legend of a particular 'burial mound spirit' who is said to haunt the barrows of the dead in that region. His name is a derivation of the the Old Norse word for 'mound-dweller' - haug-bui - and so in modern English this entity has become popularly known as Hogboy, or sometimes Hog-boon:

Actually, this Hog / pig-boy who is a "burial mound spirit" brings Borroq and his boar to mind, both now having taken an ancient tomb at CB as their abode. 

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Until such time, Borroq had taken up residence in one of the ancient tombs beside the castle lichyard. The company of men long dead seemed to suit him better than that of the living, and his boar seemed happy rooting amongst the graves, well away from other animals.

 

Borroq, a near perfect image of a Draugr. I don't recall all of the arguments you've put forward regarding the symbolic connections between Pate the Pig Boy and Jon Snow, but there might be some subtle parallels between Borroq and the Alchemist. The latter has now taken role of poor Pate and is now the official "hog-boy" wearing the face of the former dead one. One could argue that unlike the "unknowing" Jon and Pate, Borroq and the Alchemist are each masters of their own brand skinchanging. 

I've put forward the idea that Borroq aims to rip Ghost from Jon for the future purpose of a second life. In this scenario, Ghost is akin to the key coveted and acquired by the Alchemist. Ghost is indeed an important "key," the key to Jon's resurrection, most think but my guess is it goes further than that. I think Ghost is the key to knowledge Jon needs just as the key now in possession of the Alchemist will open the doors to books, glass candles, whatever knowledge the FM is looking for. 

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7 hours ago, Evolett said:

I've put forward the idea that Borroq aims to rip Ghost from Jon for the future purpose of a second life. In this scenario, Ghost is akin to the key coveted and acquired by the Alchemist.

I like the Borroq connection and I do think Borroq being a form of hog-boy (i.e. a skin changer who wargs an actual hog) and his positioning at the lich-yard (a place of burial) are a deliberate GRRM clue to this Pate/Jon connection. If Borroq is antagonistic and tries to acquire Jon's direwolf, then perhaps this would force undead Jon into warging the boar's body rather than Ghost's, until he can somehow reclaim him. 

Edited by Sandy Clegg
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