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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Not published: do not cite (StarkSt VíkVIII (Gautr))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, 286

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

33 — StarkSt Vík 33VIII (Gautr 41)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Gautreks saga 41 (Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson, Víkarsbálkr 33)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 286.

Hlæja rekkar,         er mik sjá,
ljótan skolt,         langa trjónu,
hangar tjálgur,         hár úlfgrátt,
hrjúfan háls,         húð jótraða.

Rekkar, er sjá mik, hlæja ljótan skolt, langa trjónu, hangar tjálgur, úlfgrátt hár, hrjúfan háls, jótraða húð.

Men who see me laugh at [my] ugly snout, long muzzle, dangling branches, wolf-grey hair, scabby neck, scarred skin.

Mss: 590b-cˣ(6v) (Gautr)

Readings: [5] hangar: haugar 590b‑cˣ

Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 13. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Gautrekssaga II 25: AII, 328, BII, 348, Skald II, 188, NN §§2613, 3363; FSN 3, 37, Gautr 1900, 33, FSGJ 4, 34; Edd. Min. 43.

Context: As for Gautr 39.

Notes: [All]: This is the final stanza of Vík, according to 590b-cˣ, and it is in a mixture of fornyrðislag and kviðuháttr; ll. 1 and 5 are fornyrðislag, ll. 2 and 6 are hypometrical, while ll. 3 and 7 are kviðuháttr. Shortly after its citation the prose text in all mss of the longer Gautr brings the story of Starkaðr to a rather abrupt end, with a few summary remarks about his later career as a viking, in which he was always victorious. As a concluding stanza to Starkaðr’s life-history, Vík 33 is rather unconvincing; it is a list of Starkaðr’s repulsive physical traits, which one might expect to lead on to further stanzas describing his various adventures, but they do not, leaving one to speculate that there may have been more stanzas not used in the prose saga. — [All]: The list of Starkaðr’s physical traits is strongly suggestive of the animal as much as the human. Skoltr (the younger form of skolptr) ‘snout’ (l. 3) and trjóna ‘muzzle’ (l. 4) suggest the long face of an animal, like a bear or a wolf; skoltr is used in two places in Old Norse poetry to refer to figure-heads on ships, possibly dragon heads (cf. HSt Rst 14/5I and Valg Har 10/5II). The adj. úlfgrár ‘wolf-grey’ (l. 6) contributes to this picture, not only by indicating Starkaðr’s age, but also by drawing a comparison with a wolf, an animal frequently symbolic of both physical aggression and the position of social outcast in Old Norse and other Germanic literature (cf. Hildr Lv 1I and Jacoby 1974). The same adj. is used by Egill Skallagrímsson in Arbj 7/5V (Eg 103) of his own grey head. Both Egill and Starkaðr are figures of great physical strength but also have supernatural connections; the animal qualities ascribed to them may be a way of symbolising the mixture of these two sources of their power (cf. Clunies Ross 2015, 83-4).  — [1-2]: These two lines show metrical and alliterative irregularities. Both Gautr 1900 and Edd. Min. replace rekkar ‘men’ in l. 1 with menn ‘men’ to regularise both metre and alliteration, while Skj B addresses the metrical irregularity of l. 2 by indicating that words must be missing between mik ‘me’ and sjá ‘see’. Skald, on the other hand, keeps rekkar in l. 1 and replaces mik ‘me’ in l. 2 with raum, from raumr ‘large, ugly person, giant’ (NN §2613). — [5] hangar tjálgur ‘dangling branches’: On the likely implications of the word tjálgur ‘branches’, see Vík 5/2 (Gautr 13) and Note. The proposed adj. hangar ‘dangling’ (from *hangr ‘hanging down’, not otherwise attested) is an emendation of the ms.’s haugar ‘mounds’ which does not make sense in context. It was first proposed in FSN and has been adopted by all subsequent eds. — [8] jótraða húð ‘scarred skin’: Starkaðr mentions his scars of battle elsewhere in Vík 15/9-10 (Gautr 23).

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