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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;

Víkarsbálkr (Vík) - 33

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.

Víkarsbálkr — StarkSt VíkVIII (Gautr)

Not published: do not cite (StarkSt VíkVIII (Gautr))

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33 

SkP info: VIII, 259

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — StarkSt Vík 5VIII (Gautr 13)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Gautreks saga 13 (Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson, Víkarsbálkr 5)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 259.

Afl gat ek ærit,
uxu tjálgur,
langir leggir
ok ljótt höfuð.
En hímaldi
af hugsi sat,
fás forvitinn
í fleti niðri.


I gained plenty of strength, my branches grew, long legs and ugly head. But I was a layabout lost in thought, curious about little down on the hall-floor.

context: The prose text continues to tell of the warlike activities of King Herþjófr and his construction of warning beacons on high ground to alert him to possible incursions of enemies. He had put Víkarr in charge of the beacons on Fenhring. One day Víkarr went over to Askr and found his foster-brother Starkaðr there, sleeping among the ashes by the hearth. Víkarr was amazed at how big Starkaðr had grown. He gave him weapons and clothes and they sailed off on Víkarr’s ship. The three stanzas, Gautr 13, 14 and 15, are then introduced with the formula Svá segir Starkaðr ‘So says Starkaðr’.

notes: Starkaðr’s representation of his great strength but ugly appearance, here and in Vík 33 (Gautr 41), is reminiscent of some of Egill Skallagrímsson’s self-portraits (cf. Egill Arbj 7-9V (Eg 103-5)). Both figures are Odinic heroes and poets, and invoke stereotypical physical traits associated with their vocation (cf. Clunies Ross 2001b, 44-6). In addition, as both the prose text and ll. 5-8 make clear, the young Starkaðr also conforms to the ‘coal-biter’ (kolbítr) stereotype, which is sometimes associated with a poet-hero (e.g. Grettir Ásmundarson in Gr).

texts: Gautr 13

editions: Skj Anonyme digte og vers [XIII]: E. 13. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Gautrekssaga II 5 (AII, 325; BII, 344); Skald II, 185, FF §26, NN §2612; FSN 3, 18-19, Gautr 1900, 15, FSGJ 4, 15; Edd. Min. 38-9.


AM 590 b-c 4°x (590b-cx) 3v, 30 - 3v, 31 (Gautr)  transcr.  image  
AM 152 fol (152) 198va, 23 - 198va, 25 (Gautr)  image  
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