Monday, November 12

I love kennings. There's a site about them, formed into a game. I'm not into the 'game' or modern uses. I'm very conservative when it comes to kennings. The best come from Beowulf, eg, 'Beowulf, leader of the host
unlatched his word-hoard.' (Grendel Attacks about 2/3 down or Edit/Find on Page). Anyway, here's the selected, classic stuff.

What are Kennings?
Kennings are an old Norse poetic device based on the analogy. They're similar to Homeric epithets. Where the Greeks might say "the wine-dark sea" in their epic poetry, the Norse would say "whale road." This of course comes from the analogy "sea is to whale as road is to horse" or something like it. To use the standard shorthand, this becomes

sea : whale :: road : horse
You can also diagram it as

sea road
----- :: ------
whale horse
The key to the Kenning Game is realising that such an analogy provides four kennings possible (or at least permissible). In this case, we have

sea = whale road
whale = sea horse
road = horse sea
horse = road whale
You get these kennings by going "vertically" then "diagonally" from the word in question in Figure 2. With a valid analogy, you can always get a kenning by going vertically then diagonally. Try it and see.

Some of these seem a little strange, but we might make sense of them by positing that "road whale" for "horse" is the product of a culture of aquatic intelligent beings that ride whales the way we ride horses. Some kennings do come out strangely, but one thing we are after in art is the novel viewpoint.

sun : moon :: gold : silver

sun = gold moon
moon = silver sun
gold = sun silver
silver = moon gold
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