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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Not published: do not cite (StarkSt VíkVIII (Gautr))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, 278

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

27 — StarkSt Vík 27VIII (Gautr 35)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Gautreks saga 35 (Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson, Víkarsbálkr 27)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 278.

Þess eyrendis,         at mér Þórr um skóp
níðings nafn,         nauð margskonar;
hlaut ek óhróðingr         ilt at vinna.

Þess eyrendis, at Þórr um skóp mér nafn níðings, margskonar nauð; ek hlaut óhróðingr at vinna ilt.

With this result, that Þórr shaped for me the name of traitor, distress of many kinds; inglorious, I was fated to perform evil deeds.

Mss: 590b-cˣ(6r), 152(199vb) (Gautr)

Readings: [2] at mér Þórr: so but with repetition of the whole phrase 152, at mér þar 590b‑cˣ

Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 13. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Gautrekssaga II 19: AII, 327, BII, 347, Skald II, 187; FSN 3, 35, Gautr 1900, 31, FSGJ 4, 32; Edd. Min. 42.

Context: As for Vík 26.

Notes: [All]: This stanza has only six lines in both mss but no gaps to indicate lacunae, and has other irregularities as well. Both syntax and sense suggest that the first line might originally have been part of a main clause, the rest of which is missing, while l. 3 changes to kviðuháttr, leading Gautr 1900 and FSGJ to adjust ll. 2-3 to at Þórr um skóp | mér níðings nafn. — [All]: Again, as in the previous stanza, Starkaðr attributes the cause of his apparently inexplicable behaviour, changing from loyal champion to treacherous king-killer, to supernatural powers, in this case the god Þórr. — [1] þess eyrendis ‘with this result’: One has to assume that this line is part of an otherwise unpreserved clause, which presumably related to the struggle between Óðinn and Þórr to govern Starkaðr’s fate, as reported in the prose text and also in Saxo. In particular when Óðinn granted him to live for three human lifespans, Þórr countered that hann skal vinna níðingsverk á hverjum mannzalldri ‘he will perform a níðingr’s deed in each human lifespan’ (cf. Gautr 1900, 29). The particular níðingsverk in this case is Starkaðr’s killing of Víkarr. The word eyrendi here means ‘result, consequence’ (of a particular message or action), as it does in some eddic poetry (cf. LP: ørendi), including Þry 10/1 (NK 112), Hefir þú erindi sem erfiði? ‘Have you got a result for your trouble?’ — [3]: The metre of this line is kviðuháttr. — [3] nafn níðings ‘the name of traitor’: The Old Norse noun níðingr has a semi-legal sense and encompasses the semantic range ‘wretch, worthless man, traitor, apostate’, terms that indicate that the person in question was both socially and morally undesirable (cf. Meulengracht Sørensen 1983, 31-2). The noun is strongly condemnatory, and derives from the noun níð ‘insult, shaming slander’, itself a term defined in both early Norwegian and Icelandic law codes (NGL I, 70; Grg II, 392). In Starkaðr’s case, his crime is that of treachery towards his lord, King Víkarr, whom he killed unintentionally in what he was led by Óðinn to believe was a mock sacrifice.

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