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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Not published: do not cite (StarkSt VíkVIII (Gautr))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, 261

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

7 — StarkSt Vík 7VIII (Gautr 15)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Gautreks saga 15 (Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson, Víkarsbálkr 7)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 261.

Hann mældi mik         mundum ok spönnum,
alla arma         til úlfliða,
vaxit hári         á höku niðri.

Hann mældi mik mundum ok spönnum, alla arma til úlfliða, … vaxit hári á höku niðri.

He measured me with hands and hand-breadths, all my arms to the wrists … grown with hair down on my chin.

Mss: 590b-cˣ(3v), 152(198va) (Gautr)

Readings: [1] mældi: mælti both    [8] á: ok 152

Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 13. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Gautrekssaga II 7: AII, 325, BII, 345, Skald II, 185; FSN 3, 19, Gautr 1900, 16, FSGJ 4, 16; Edd. Min. 39.

Context: As for Gautr 13.

Notes: [All]: Immediately after the end of this stanza, the prose text offers the following gloss: Hér segir Starkaðr frá því, at hann hafði þá skegg er hann var tólf vetra ‘Here Starkaðr tells that he already had a beard when he was twelve years old’. This explanation may have been given because the stanza itself was defective when the prose text was first composed; neither ms. has a full eight-line stanza, yet there is no lacuna in either for the missing lines (probably ll. 5-6 in the original version), which would have mentioned Starkaðr’s precocious growth of beard. It is interesting that the explanatory prose gloss is also present in papp11ˣ, though the stanza is absent. — [1] mældi ‘measured’: Both mss have mælti ‘spoke’, but the context indicates that the verb must be mældi, 3rd pers. sg. pret. indic. of mæla ‘measure’. — [2] spönnum (dat. pl.) ‘hand-breadths’: As in Modern English and other Germanic languages, a span or hand-breadth was originally the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger, or sometimes to the tip of the forefinger, when the hand is fully extended, a measure of length of about nine inches (cf. OED: span, n.1). — [3-4] alla arma til úlfliða ‘all my arms to the wrists’: I.e. ‘my arms from the top down to the wrists’. There may be another allusion to Starkaðr’s original six or eight arms here (see Note to Gautr 13/2 and Gautr 40 Note to [All]). — [4] úlfliða ‘the wrists’: Lit. ‘the wolf-joints’. The cpd úlfliðr ‘wolf-joint’ (cf. Arn Frag 4/3III) is explained by Snorri Sturluson in Gylf (SnE 2005, 25), doubtless basing himself on popular etymology, as derived from the story of how the gods persuaded the wolf Fenrir to be bound with the fetter Gleipnir. Týr placed his hand in the wolf’s mouth as a pledge of the gods’ good faith, but, when they later refused to release the wolf, he bit Týr’s hand off at the wrist, and that is why the wrist may be called úlfliðr. The first element in this cpd probably derives from ǫln ‘forearm’; cf. Þul á hendi l. 5 and Note.

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