What is an example from lines 1-126 of Beowulf that contains kennings written as possessives? (ex: "Hell’s captive" refers to Grendel being captured in Beowulf’s arm.)

3 Answers | Add Yours

literaturenerd's profile pic

Posted on

There are multiple kennings in the epic text, Beowulf, which shows a possessive.

1. Chapter two refers to Grendel as a "death-shadow." This refers to the fact that he belongs in darkness given his exile by God based upon his kinship to Cain.

2. Also in chapter two, one finds another reference to Grendel-- "man-hater." Grendel possess hatred for man, especially the Danes, given they are able to revel in the light because they are looked upon by God with favor.

3. One last possessive kenning appears, again, in chapter two. Here, not only is a kenning used, alliteration is as well (another popular device used in Anglo-Saxon texts). The "haunts of these hell-wizards" depicts the dwellings of those damned to hell.

francesyoungedu's profile pic

Posted on

A kenning is a description used in place of the name of a person, place, thing or idea. Many kennings from the Dark Ages (ca. 500-800 A.D.) are hyphenated words which, together, become an adjective functioning as a noun.

This question asks specifically about possessive kennings in lines 1-126. The information I give below is from the Seamus Heaney translation of the poem, Beowulf:

Line 3:  "We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns."

This kenning refers to the line of Danish kings.


Line 6: "This terror of the hall-troops had come far."

The invading soldiers' terror was of Shield Sheafson.


Line 30: "They shouldered him out to the sea's flood..."

The "sea's flood" is the incoming tide, isn't it?


Line 95: "...to be the earth's lamplight, lanterns for men..."

This kenning refers back directly to the sun and the moon (l. 94).


smuchmore's profile pic

Posted on

A kenning is a compound word that takes the place of a noun. It enhances writing by using compound words that are more descriptive than the original noun. It is a metaphor. An example of a kenning is the compound words "molder of minds" instead of "teacher". There are three types of kennings used in Anglo-Saxon literature:

1. Open - adjective and a noun replaces noun.

2. Hyphenated -  two nouns connected with a hyphen replaces a noun.

3. Prepositional - preposition used to connect two nouns.

4. Possessive - shows possessive using s' or 's.

Beowulf uses kennings extensively. Some examples of  kennings are:

  • whale-road (the sea)
  • mead hall (drinking establishment)
  • middle-earth (the area between heaven and hell)
  • mankind's enemy (Grendel)
  • the living sorrow of Healfdane's son (Hrothgar)

We’ve answered 333,498 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question