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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson (StarkSt)

volume 8; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross;

III. Fragment (Frag) - 1

not in Skj

Starkaðr inn gamli ‘the Old’ Stórvirksson (StarkSt) was a legendary Scandinavian hero, known to Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and possibly Anglo-Saxon traditions. Some sources (e.g. Saxo Grammaticus (Saxo 2015, I, vi. 5. 2, pp. 378-9), one version of Heiðr and Víkarsbálkr (Vík) in Gautr) claim that he was born a giant with six or eight arms, which the god Þórr reduced to two by tearing off the remainder. Both in Saxo and in Gautr, Starkaðr is represented as a hero of prodigious strength and bravery, but influenced by the gods Óðinn and Þórr to commit acts of gross treachery, the best-known of which is his mock sacrifice of his friend, King Víkarr, at Óðinn’s instigation. The mock sacrifice turns into the real thing, and, as a consequence, Starkaðr is repudiated by his warrior companions. Saxo and the Icelandic sources also know Starkaðr as a poet. Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 251, 259) heads its list of poets and their patrons with Starkaðr’s name as that of the earliest poet whose identity people remember, adding that he composed about the kings of Denmark. In Ht Snorri Sturluson names a verse-form, Starkaðar lag, after Starkaðr (SnE 2007, 38), while in TGT Óláfr Þórðarson quotes a fragment (StarkSt Frag 1III) which he attributes to him. In Gautr the autobiographical poem Víkarsbálkr ‘Víkarr’s Section’ (VíkVIII) is attributed to Starkaðr.

Fragment — StarkSt FragIII

Tarrin Wills 2017, ‘ Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson, Fragment’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 382. <> (accessed 2 July 2022)


in texts: Gramm, TGT

SkP info: III, 382

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


This fragment (StarkSt Frag), attributed to Starkaðr gamli ‘the Old’ in TGT, is unaccountably omitted from Skj. Much of the poetry attributed to Starkaðr in Gautreks saga (Gautr) follows roughly the bálkarlag metre of this fragment or the metre Starkaðar lag exemplified in Ht (SnE 2007, 38, but see also pp. 74-5 as well as SnSt Ht 97-9 and Notes there). It must be presumed that Óláfr believed this fragment to have been composed by the legendary skald, in which case it is the only vernacular fragment which can be attributed to Starkaðr with any authority. However, this seems highly unlikely and there is nothing in the half-stanza which can be used to date it on internal grounds (see Note to l. 4 below).

Sveinbjörn Egilsson (SnE 1848-87, III, 139) suggested that the subject of the helmingr is the Saxon champion Hama, whom Starkaðr fought according to Saxo (Saxo 2015, I, vi. 5. 17, pp. 388-91). Jón Sigurðsson, however, added in the same volume (SnE 1848-87, III, 294 n. 3) that the subject could equally have been Saxo’s Gegathus (ON Geigaðr). This seems more likely: Book 6 also describes a fight between Starkaðr and Geigaðr, adding (Saxo 2015, I, vi. 5. 12, pp. 386-7): unde postmodum in quodam carmine non alias tristiorem sibi plagam incidisse perhibuit ‘later in a song he told how he had never encountered, before or since, such a rigorous blow’. For Starkaðr, see his Biography in SkP VIII. The helmingr is transmitted in mss A (main ms.), B and W of TGT.

© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.