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kenning ( Old Norse kenning , [cʰɛnːiŋɡ] Modern Icelandic ) is a [cʰɛnːiŋk] circumlocution, an ambiguous or roundabout figure of speech, used instead of an ordinary noun in Old Norse, Old English, and later Icelandic poetry.
This list is not intended to be comprehensive.
Kennings for a particular character are listed in that character's article. For example, the Odin article links to a list of names of Odin, which include kennings. Only a few examples of Odin's kennings are given here. For a scholarly list of kennings see Meissner's Die Kenningar der Skalden (1921) or some editions of Snorri Sturluson's Skáldskaparmál
Source language abbreviations [ edit ]
OE - Old English
D - Danish
G - Germanic
Ic - Old Icelandic
N - Norse
ON - Old Norse
List of Kennings [ edit ]
N Snorri Sturluson
One reference for this kenning comes from the epic poem,
. As Beowulf is in fierce combat with Beowulf Grendel's Mother, he makes mention of shedding much battle-sweat.
Eyvindr Skáldaspillir 7. Hákonarmál
chieftain or king
breaker of rings
Alludes to a ruler breaking the golden rings upon his arm and using them to reward his followers.
sleep of the sword
Implicitly honourable death
bane of wood
ON Snorri Sturluson
girl of the houses
Snorri Sturluson 36 Skáldskaparmál
seeds of the
Hrólf Kraki spread gold on the Fyris Wolds to distract the men of the Swedish king
Eyvindr Skáldaspillir 8 Lausavísa
Serpents (and dragons) were reputed to lie upon gold in their nests
Derived from the story of when
Loki cut off Sif's hair. In order to amend his crime, Loki had the dwarf Dvalin make new hair for Sif, a wig of gold that grew like normal hair.
Hrólf Kraki spread gold on the Fyris Wolds to distract the men of the Swedish king. Can also be used to imply generosity; q.v. Hrólf Kraki
gold, sometimes amber
Derived from the story of when Freyja could not find
Óðr, her husband, the tears she shed were gold, and the trees which her tears fell upon were transmuted into amber.
Feed the eagle
Killing enemies left food for the eagles
Loki wolf's father
an allusion to Loki's fathering of
Loki father of the sea thread
Loki was the father of Jörmungandr, the Midgard serpent
The kenning derives from the story in which all plants and creatures swore never to harm Baldr save mistletoe, which, when it was overlooked,
Loki used to bring about Baldr's death by tricking Hodur.
Mjollnir, Thor's hammer Hrungnir's slayer
Hrungnir was a giant whose head was smashed by a blow from Mjollnir
Odin Lord of the gallows
See the separate page
List of names of Odin for more Odin kennings
Odin Hanged god
Odin hung on the Tree of Knowledge for nine days in order to gain wisdom.
Grímnir is one of the names of
swan of blood
ravens ate the dead at battlefields
10: "In the end each Beowulf clan on the outlying coasts beyond the whale-road had to yield to him and begin to pay tribute"
1429 b Beowulf
The Seafarer 63 a; Beowulf
200 a Beowulf
headland of swords
sverða nesi There is a connection to the word "nesa" meaning subject to public ridicule/failure/shame, i.e. "the failure/shame of swords", not only "where the sword first hits/ headland of swords" Kennings can sometimes be a triple entendre.
þorbjörn Hornklofi: 3 Glymdrápa
27; Hervararkviða Skáldskaparmál
Arnórr jarlaskáld 19 Magnúsdrápa
OE Exodus 115 b
OE The Phoenix 183
glory of elves
álf röðull ( alfrodull), meaning "glory-of-elves" refers both to the chariot of the sun goddess Sól and to the rider (the sun herself).
icicle of blood
Egill Skallagrímsson: Höfuðlausn 8
leek of battle
Eyvindr Skáldaspillir 8 Lausavísa
Thor slayer of giants, basher of trolls
felli fjörnets goða flugstalla
felli fjörnets goða flugstalla is a compound kenning. Literally feller of the life webs (fjörnets ) of the gods of the flight-edges, i.e. slayer of giants, life webs ( fjörnets) is a kenning in its own right since it refers directly to the operations of the Norns in severing lives, flight-edges ( flugstalla) being the high and dangerous places inhabited by eagles and hawks, i.e. the icy mountains of Jotunheim.
weather of weapons
feeder of ravens
grennir gunn-más "feeder of war-gull" = "feeder of
raven" = "warrior" Ravens feed on dead bodies left after a battle.
Þorbjörn Hornklofi: Glymdrápa
destroyers of eagle's hunger
eyðendr arnar hungrs "destroyers of eagle's hunger" = "feeders of eagle" = "warrior" Eagles, also, feed on dead bodies left after a battle.
Þorbjörn Þakkaskáld: 1 Erlingsdrápa
Ægir had nine daughters called
billow maidens who were personifications of the waves.
breaker of trees
Gunnr is a valkyrie
úlfliðr An allusion to
Tyr's loss of his hand when fettering the wolf Fenrir
References [ edit ]