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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Not published: do not cite (StarkSt VíkVIII (Gautr))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, 266

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

13 — StarkSt Vík 13VIII (Gautr 21)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Gautreks saga 21 (Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson, Víkarsbálkr 13)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 266.

Vart þú eigi         með Víkari
austr í Væni         árdag snemma,
þá er sóttu vér         Sísar á velli;
þat var þrekvirki         þokks megnara.

Þú vart eigi með Víkari austr í Væni árdag snemma, þá er vér sóttu Sísar á velli; þat var þokks megnara þrekvirki.

You were not with Víkarr east on Vänern early in the day, when we attacked Sísarr on the [battle-]field; that was a still more powerful feat of strength.

Mss: 590b-cˣ(4r-v) (Gautr)

Readings: [1] eigi: ei 590b‑cˣ

Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 13. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Gautrekssaga II 13: AII, 326, BII, 346, Skald II, 186, NN §122; FSN 3, 23, Gautr 1900, 20, FSGJ 4, 20; Edd. Min. 40.

Context: After their victory over King Herþjófr, Víkarr and Starkaðr take over all the king’s ships and sail east along the coast of Norway to Agder, where many men join them. Víkarr becomes the ruler of all the districts that Herþjófr had controlled, and embarks on viking raids every summer. One such took him and his men to Lake Vänern in Sweden, where they fought a fierce battle with King Sísarr of Kiev (ON Kænugarðr). Starkaðr fought hand-to-hand with Sísarr, who gave him two serious head wounds, broke his collarbone, and wounded him on one side above the hip. Vík  13, 14 and 15 (Gautr 21, 22 and 23) give a verse account of these events, introduced by svá segir Starkaðr ‘so Starkaðr says’.

Notes: [All]: There is no obvious addressee (þú ‘you’ l. 1) for this stanza and the opening gambit ‘you were not there at a dangerous encounter’ where the speaker says he fought bravely is strongly reminiscent of the mannjafnaðr ‘comparison of men’ convention, such as we find it in Ǫrv 34-58. The implication is usually that the addressee is a coward. The stanza seems out of place in Vík, unless it and the following stanzas detailing Starkaðr’s wounds have been drawn into Vík from a separate source. Gautr 21 and 22 are only in 590b-cˣ, but Gautr 23 is also in 152. — [3] í Væni ‘on Vänern’: The largest lake in Sweden, in the southwest of the country. — [4] árdag snemma ‘early in the day’: Árdag, possibly acc. sg. of time, is an unparalleled form, beside árdagar m. pl. ‘days of yore’, often found in eddic poetry, as in Vsp 61/5-6 (cf. LP: árdagar). The meaning of árdag here in combination with snemma ‘early’ is unclear. Finnur Jónsson (LP: árdagar) suggests the composer of Gautr 21 may have misunderstood the meaning of the cpd to mean the morning or early part of the day, and that is the sense given here. Edd. Min. emends to árdags (gen. sg.) but this does not make the meaning clearer. — [6] Sísar ‘Sísarr’: Name for the ruler of Kiev (ON Kænugarðr), according to the prose text. The name itself is probably derived from Lat. Caesar (cf. Gautr 1900, ic) and perhaps reflects a generalised awareness of the princely status ascribed to the rulers of Kiev in the late Viking Age and later (cf. Melnikova 1996 for a discussion of such legends).

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