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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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StarkSt Vík 5VIII (Gautr 13)

Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Gautreks saga 13 (Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson, Víkarsbálkr 5)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 259.

Starkaðr gamli StórvirkssonVíkarsbálkr

text and translation

Afl gat ek ærit,         uxu tjálgur,
langir leggir         ok ljótt höfuð.
En hímaldi         af hugsi sat,
fás forvitinn         í fleti niðri.

Ek gat ærit afl, tjálgur uxu, langir leggir ok ljótt höfuð. En sat hímaldi af hugsi, forvitinn fás í fleti niðri.
‘I gained plenty of strength, my branches grew, long legs and ugly head. But I was a layabout lost in thought, curious about little down on the hall-floor.

notes and context

The prose text continues to tell of the warlike activities of King Herþjófr and his construction of warning beacons on high ground to alert him to possible incursions of enemies. He had put Víkarr in charge of the beacons on Fenhring. One day Víkarr went over to Askr and found his foster-brother Starkaðr there, sleeping among the ashes by the hearth. Víkarr was amazed at how big Starkaðr had grown. He gave him weapons and clothes and they sailed off on Víkarr’s ship. The three stanzas, Gautr 13, 14 and 15, are then introduced with the formula Svá segir Starkaðr ‘So says Starkaðr’.

Starkaðr’s representation of his great strength but ugly appearance, here and in Vík 33 (Gautr 41), is reminiscent of some of Egill Skallagrímsson’s self-portraits (cf. Egill Arbj 7-9V (Eg 103-5)). Both figures are Odinic heroes and poets, and invoke stereotypical physical traits associated with their vocation (cf. Clunies Ross 2001b, 44-6). In addition, as both the prose text and ll. 5-8 make clear, the young Starkaðr also conforms to the ‘coal-biter’ (kolbítr) stereotype, which is sometimes associated with a poet-hero (e.g. Grettir Ásmundarson in Gr).



Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 13. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Gautrekssaga II 5: AII, 325, BII, 344, Skald II, 185, FF §26, NN §2612; FSN 3, 18-19, Gautr 1900, 15, FSGJ 4, 15; Edd. Min. 38-9.


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