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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Not published: do not cite (StarkSt VíkVIII (Gautr))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, 265

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

11 — StarkSt Vík 11VIII (Gautr 19)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Gautreks saga 19 (Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson, Víkarsbálkr 11)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 265.

Var Víkari         vant at fylgja,
þvíat fremstr ok fyrstr         í flokki stóð.
Hjuggum hjálma         með höfuðgnípum,
brynjur sníddum         ok brutum skjöldu.

Var vant at fylgja Víkari, þvíat stóð fremstr ok fyrstr í flokki. Hjuggum hjálma með höfuðgnípum, sníddum brynjur ok brutum skjöldu.

It was difficult to follow Víkarr, because he stood foremost and first in the troop. We hewed helmets with head-peaks, we cut mail-coats and broke shields.

Mss: 590b-cˣ(4r), 152(198vb) (Gautr)

Readings: [1] Var Víkari: Víkari er 152    [3] ok fyrstr: hann 152    [7] brynjur: brynjum 152;    sníddum: sneiddu 152    [8] brutum: brutu 152;    skjöldu: so 152, hjálma 590b‑cˣ

Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 13. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Gautrekssaga II 11: AII, 326, BII, 345-6, Skald II, 186; FSN 3, 21, Gautr 1900, 18, FSGJ 4, 18; Edd. Min. 40.

Context: A short prose paragraph summarises the outcome of the battle: Herþjófr’s men put up a good fight, but Víkarr’s select troop prevails in the end. The stanza is put into Starkaðr’s mouth, with the usual svá segir Starkaðr ‘so says Starkaðr’ formula.

Notes: [6] með höfuðgnípum ‘with head-peaks’: The cpd höfuðgnípa is a hap. leg. and its meaning is uncertain. Most interpretations have understood the phrase með höfuðgnípum to be a metaphorical way of referring to the tall heads of the warriors inside their helmets, as in Skj B’s proposed translation vi huggede hjælmene med (på) de höje hoveder ‘we hewed the helmets with (on) the high heads’. However, other senses are possible, including that með ‘with’ might have instrumental function, and refer to some kind of weapon, or that the ‘head-peaks’ were some kind of ornament or crest on top of the warriors’ helmets. The C10th helmet from a chieftain’s grave at Gjermundbu in Ringerike has a crest with a small spike on it (Graham-Campbell 1980, no. 271; Grieg 1947). Swedish helmets from the Vendel period also bore crests, often with protective images of boars surmounting them, as did several from Anglo-Saxon England dated from C7th-11th (Marzinzik 2007, 33-42; Beowulf ll. 303-6). In the Viking Age and later, the typical Scandinavian helmet is conical, as can be seen from the figures on the Bayeux Tapestry and other witnesses (cf. Steuer 1999, 337-8).

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