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Not published: do not cite (StarkSt VíkVIII (Gautr))

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SkP info: VIII, 277

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

26 — StarkSt Vík 26VIII (Gautr 34)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Gautreks saga 34 (Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson, Víkarsbálkr 26)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 277.

Fylgða ek fylki,         þeim er framast vissak,
— þá unða ek bezt         ævi minni —
áðr fór †ór†         — en því flögð ollu —
hinzta sinni         til Hörðalands.

Ek fylgða fylki, þeim er vissak framast — þá unða ek bezt ævi minni —, áðr fór †ór† hinzta sinni til Hörðalands; en flögð ollu því.

I followed the ruler, the one I knew [to be] most distinguished — then I enjoyed my life the best — before I went … for the last time to Hordaland; but demons caused that.

Mss: 590b-cˣ(6r), 152(199vb) (Gautr)

Readings: [2] þeim er: om. 152    [3] þá: þá þá 152    [5] †ór†: verr 152    [6] því: ‘þun’(?) 152    [8] ‑lands: ‘lannz’ 152

Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 13. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Gautrekssaga II 18: AII, 327, BII, 347, Skald II, 187; FSN 3, 35, Gautr 1900, 31, FSGJ 4, 31-2; Edd. Min. 42.

Context: The five following stanzas, Vík 26-30 (Gautr 34-8), are cited without intervening prose in two mss, 152 and 590b-cˣ, at the end of the long prose account of how Starkaðr was persuaded by his foster-father, Hrosshárs-Grani, who is now revealed as the god Óðinn, to sacrifice Víkarr to him by hanging his lord from a tree. After this event, Starkaðr was reviled in Hordaland and fled Norway, spending a long time at Uppsala with the kings Eiríkr and Alrekr. The prose text presents Vík 26-30 as part of Starkaðr’s response to King Alrekr’s request to him to tell his life story: þá orti Starkaðr kvæði, þat er heitir Víkarsbálkr: þar segir svá frá drápi Víkars konungs ‘then Starkaðr composed the poem that is called Víkarr’s section; there it says thus about the killing of King Víkarr’ (the wording of 590b-cˣ).

Notes: [All]: Aside from l. 5, which is corrupt, the metre of this stanza is fornyrðislag. — [All]: This stanza probably alludes to the story of Starkaðr’s killing of Víkarr by hanging him from a tree and piercing him with a reed-stalk in lieu of a spear. The hanging was presented to Starkaðr by Hrosshárs-Grani as a symbolic act, but it became a real sacrifice when the reed inexplicably became a spear and the noose of animal guts became a strong band. The story is told with some variation both in Gautr (Gautr 1900, 28-31) and in Saxo’s Gesta Danorum (Saxo 2015, I, vi. 5. 6-7, pp. 380-3). It is likely that the kernel of the narrative is old, though how old is not possible to determine. Other aspects of the story, such as the hero’s patronage by both Þórr and Óðinn, and the gifts that each god bestows on him, are also well established in Old Norse literature; for a review, see Turville-Petre (1964, 205-11). — [1] ek fylgða fylki ‘I followed the ruler’: This line echoes Vík 25/7 (Gautr 33) and the two stanzas may well have followed one another in Vík (there is now a good deal of intervening prose between them). — [5] áðr fór ór† ‘before I went …’: Most eds accept the conjecture áðr fórum vér ‘before we went’, based in part on 152’s verr, though this would necessitate a change from the speaker’s 1st pers. sg. discourse in the first helmingr. — [6] en flögð ollu því ‘but demons caused that’: The line is reminiscent of the intercalary clause bǫnd ollu því ‘the powers caused that’ in Þjóð Haustl 17/2III, although flǫgð are lesser beings than the pre-Christian gods (bǫnd). Starkaðr is here attributing the cause of his dastardly sacrifice of his own leader to flǫgð, translated here as ‘demons’ rather than the more specific ‘ogresses, troll-women’. As the noun can refer to male as well as female supernatural beings (cf. Ingimarr Lv 1/1II), and may do so here, given the context, female causative agents have not been written into the translation. — [7] hinzta ‘last’: Both mss have inzta, but the <h> has been restored to achieve regular alliteration. — [8] til Hörðalands ‘to Hordaland’: According to the prose text, Víkarr had sailed north from Agder to Hordaland with a large army when they encountered unfavourable winds near a group of small islands. They tried divination to find out when the wind would turn and were informed that Óðinn demanded a human sacrifice. They cast lots to discover who it was fated to be and all signs pointed to Víkarr.

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