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Runic Dictionary

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Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson (StarkSt)

volume 8; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross;

Víkarsbálkr (Vík) - 33

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Not published: do not cite (StarkSt VíkVIII (Gautr))

stanzas:  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.

Ek gat ærit afl, tjálgur uxu, langir leggir ok ljótt höfuð. En sat hímaldi af hugsi, forvitinn fás 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.

Mss: 590b-cˣ(3v), 152(198va) (Gautr)

Readings: [1] Afl: alf 152    [6] hugsi: ‘hagse’ 590b‑cˣ, hagli 152    [7] fás: om. 152;    forvitinn: forvitni both

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.

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: [All]: 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). — [2] tjálgur ‘branches’: The noun tjálgr (alternative form tjalga) has the primary sense of ‘branch, bough’ (cf. AEW: tjalga), but both here and in Vík 33/5 (Gautr 41) is clearly a half-kenning referring to Starkaðr’s long arms. A similar sense occurs in Sigv ErfÓl 25/7I tjǫlgur handar ‘branches of the hand’, a kenning for the arms. In both instances of the use of the word in Vík, there is likely to be an allusion to an attribute of Starkaðr, described in Gautr 40 as well as in Saxo’s Gesta Danorum. See further Vík 32 (Gautr 40), Note to [All]. — [6] af hugsi ‘lost in thought’: Emendation from 590b-cˣ’s meaningless ‘hagse’ is required, while 152’s hagli ‘hail’ does not make sense in context, although some earlier commentators proposed a meaning of ‘on a bundle of straw’ from an emended á or at halga (cf. LP: hagli; LP (1860): hagall). The emendation to the indeclinable adj. hugsi ‘thoughtful, meditative’ has been adopted in LP, Skj B and in this edn, but Kock (NN §2612) argues for the otherwise unrecorded form afhagsi, which he claims means the same as úhagr ‘without talent, clumsy, awkward’. — [7] forvitinn ‘curious’: An emendation, first proposed by Sveinbjörn Egilsson (LP (1860): hagall), of both mss’ forvitni ‘curiosity’ which does not fit the syntax of ll. 7-8.

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