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The Trow - a Spirit of the Dead?

The trows' inclination to become more active, and dangerous, at midwinter - particularly Yule - has clear parallels to the ancient belief that the draugr grew more powerful in darkness.

As the northern days shortened, the draugr became more and more active - its powers reaching a peak at Yule - a time when the dead were thought to be at their strongest and permitted to leave their burial mounds.

Orkney folklore echoes this, stating that, at Yule, the trows were at their most dangerous and, because they were allowed to leave their howes and knowes at will, special precautions had to be taken to avoid their attentions.

At one time in the Northern Isles, an extra place at the Yule table was laid for the returning spirits of the dead — usually family. This would indicate that these returning spirits were once welcomed welcomed but, as time went on, the original lore became corrupted and confused. Did the idea gradually distort until the released spirits took on the persona of malicious little folk?

To a certain extent we can also look to the Scandinavian draugr to explain the trows' tendency to attack animals and livestock.

A custom found in Iceland explains that as well as attacking livestock, the draugr were renowned for preying on individual households. The Icelandic fear of answering a knock at the door after dark is very reminiscent to the trows' habit of plaguing dwelling-houses and, in particular, their hatred of locked doors.

Within the sagas, the dwelling places of the draugr, their mounds, were described as the "halls of the dead".

Furnished with mead benches, warbands, great fires and the noise of "feasting and clamour over the ale horns", the connection between these halls and the plethora of Orcadian tales describing the trows feasting and dancing within their hollow hills is immediately apparent.

A final interesting connection between trow lore and the Norse undead is the phenomenon of otherworldly light that seems to have accompanied both creatures. The mounds of the draugr were said to glow with an eerie otherworldly light, while the appearance, and disappearance, of trows was said to be characterised by a "blue low" - a glowing blue light.

The earliest trow accounts

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See Also
The draugr was said to possess, on occasions, magical powers, such as the ability to control the weather and a knowledge of the future. Some tales also attribute the draugr with the ability to shapeshift.

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