Definition: • A kenning a literary device in which a noun is renamed in a creative way using a compound word or union of two separate words to combine ideas.
Characteristics of a kenning: • Originated in Anglo-Saxon Old English and Old Norse poetry • A type of figurative language, specifically a METAPHOR • Some kennings were coined by poets and used repeatedly in various works • Sometimes utilized ALLITERATION
Types of kennings include: • Open compound (i.e.) wakeful sleeper or icy wave • Hyphenated compound (i.e.) gold-shining hall or whale-road • Possessive compound (i.e.) hell’s captive or Hrothgar’s son • Prepositional Compound (i.e.) shepherd of evil or proud with wine
Throughout time, kennings have become increasingly more complex and detailed. For Instance, they began with: • “Foamy-throated ship” Then progressed to: • “Foamy-throated sea-stallion” And concluded with • “Foamy-throated sea-stallion of the whale-road”
Modern example of kennings include: • “gas guzzler” • “head-hunter” • “gold digger”
Poetic Form • Lines are made up of two balanced halves or caesuras, each with 2 stressed syllables. • This can be seen in our translation, though not consistently. • Poetic forms are notoriously difficult to maintain through translation
Old English (line 355) Hwearf þa hrædlice þær Hroðgar sæt eald ond anhar mid his eorla gedriht; eode ellenrof, þæt he for eaxlum gestod Deniga frean; cuþe he duguðe þeaw. Wulfgar maðelode to his winedrihtne: "Her syndon geferede, feorran cumene ofer geofenes begang Geata leode; þone yldestan oretmecgas Beowulf nemnað. Hy benan synt þæt hie, þeoden min, wið þe moton wordum wrixlan. No ðu him wearne geteoh ðinra gegncwida, glædman Hroðgar. Hy on wiggetawum wyrðe þinceað eorla geæhtlan; huru se aldor deah, se þæm heaðorincum hider wisade."
Modern English - Heaney With that he turned | to where Hrothgar sat, An old man | among retainers; The valiant follower | stood four-square in front of his king: | he knew the courtesies. Wulfgar addressed | his dear lord: “People from Geatland | have put ashore. They have sailed far | over the wide sea. They call the chief | in charge of their band By the name of Beowulf. | They beg, my lord, An audience with you, | exchange of words And formal greeding. | Most gracious Hrothgar, Do not refuse them, | but grant them a reply. From their arms and appointment, | they appear well born And worth of respect, | especially the one Who has led them this far: | he is formidable indeed.”
Modern English - Raffel He went quickly | to where Hrothgar sat, Gray and old, | in the middle of his men, And knowing the custom | of that court walked straight To the king’s great chair, | stood waiting to be heard, Then spoke: “There are Geats who have come sailing the open Ocean to our land, | come far over The high waves, | led by a warrior Called Beowulf. | They wait on your word, bring messages For your ears alone. | My lord, grant them A gracious answer, | see them and hear What they’ve come for! | Their weapons and armor are nobly Worked -- these men are no beggars. And Beowulf Their prince, who showed them the way to our shores, Is a mighty warrior, | powerful and wise.”