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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Not published: do not cite (StarkSt VíkVIII (Gautr))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, 284

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

32 — StarkSt Vík 32VIII (Gautr 40)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Gautreks saga 40 (Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson, Víkarsbálkr 32)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 284.

Sjá þykkjaz þeir         á sjálfum mér
jötunkuml         átta handa,
er Hlórriði         fyr hamar norðan
Hergríms bana         höndum rænti.

Þeir þykkjaz sjá jötunkuml átta handa á mér sjálfum, er Hlórriði rænti {bana Hergríms} höndum fyr norðan hamar.

They think they can see the giant-marks of the eight arms on myself where Hlórriði <= Þórr> tore off the arms {of Hergrímr’s slayer} [= Starkaðr] north of the crag.

Mss: 590b-cˣ(6v) (Gautr)

Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 13. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Gautrekssaga II 24: AII, 328, BII, 348, Skald II, 188, FF §29; FSN 3, 37, Gautr 1900, 33, FSGJ 4, 34; Edd. Min. 43.

Context: As for Gautr 39.

Notes: [All]: This stanza refers to an episode in Starkaðr’s early life, also probably alluded to in the use of the word tjálgur ‘branches’ in Vík 5/2 (Gautr 13). This episode is known to Saxo (Saxo 2015, I, vi. 5. 2, pp. 378-9) and the composer of the prose Gautr (Gautr 1900, 11-13), as well as to the composer of the redaction of Heiðr in UppsUB R715ˣ, though in each case the story is slightly different, the main difference being that in some accounts an older, additional generation of giantlike beings with the names of Starkaðr and Stórvirkr precedes that of the Starkaðr central to Gautr and Vík. Saxo reports that Starkaðr was thought to have been born a giant with six arms. The god Þórr cut off four of them to give Starkaðr human form. Line 4 of this stanza claims he originally had eight arms, and the beginning of Heiðr according to R715ˣ gives the same number (Heiðr 1924, 90; Heiðr 1960, 67), but attributes this peculiarity to the older Starkaðr Áludrengr (see below). Vetrl Lv 1/3III lists Starkaðr as one of the giants that Þórr attacked and slew. Earlier in the prose text of Gautr (Gautr 1900, 12) the connection of Starkaðr’s giant family with Þórr is established, though the motif of the god’s tearing off Starkaðr’s extra arms is not mentioned. It is told there that Starkaðr’s father Stórvirkr was the son of an exceedingly wise giant named Starkaðr Áludrengr, and a woman named Álfhildr, daughter of King Álfr of Álfheimr, whom he abducted from her father. Þórr killed Starkaðr senior at the insistence of King Álfr because of this abduction. A similar account appears in the R715ˣ version of Heiðr (Heiðr 1924, 91; Heiðr 1960, 66-7). — [3]: This line is in kviðuháttr. — [3-4] jötunkuml átta handa ‘the giant-marks of the eight arms’: That is, the scars on his body where Þórr had torn off Starkaðr’s superfluous arms. They are giant marks in that they indicate Starkaðr’s giant nature; jötunkuml is a hap. leg. — [5-8]: This helmingr refers to an event in Starkaðr’s life which is not attested elsewhere except in the R715ˣ version of Heiðr, and there it is associated with Starkaðr Áludrengr. Ms. R715ˣ tells that a certain Hergrímr hálftrǫll ‘Half-troll’ abducted a woman named Ǫgn Álfasprengi from Jǫtunheimar, while Starkaðr Áludrengr, to whom she had been betrothed, was away in the north beyond the rivers Élivágar (cf. Vafþr 31/1, SnE 2005, 9, 10). When Starkaðr returned he challenged Hergrímr to single combat for the woman. They fought við inn efsta fors at Eiði ‘by the uppermost waterfall at Eið’ and Starkaðr killed Hergrímr though he did not get back his betrothed, who committed suicide. It is not said that Þórr had anything to do with the Hergrímr episode, as ll. 5-8 of this stanza seem to imply. However, this narrative is very similar to another, told shortly after the first in the R715ˣ version of Heiðr, in which Þórr kills Starkaðr because he abducted another woman, Álfhildr, against her father’s wishes. On this, see Note to [All] above. — [5] Hlórriði ‘Hlórriði <= Þórr>’: On this name for the god Þórr, see Note to Þul Þórs l. 5III. — [6] fyr norðan hamar ‘north of the crag’: It is not certain whether this is a reference to a particular place or to a generalised rocky, northern setting appropriate to giants. Skj B and Skald capitalise Hamarr as a p. n. It is possible that R715ˣ’s location of the fight between Starkaðr and Hergrímr as ‘by the uppermost waterfall at Eið’ refers to the same place; Eið ‘isthmus’ is a common p. n. (see Note to Sigv Austv 2/1I).

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