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A kenning is a metaphorical phrase or compound word used to name a person, place or thing indirectly. Used primarily in Anglo-Saxon poetry, the epic poem Beowulf is full of kennings. For example, the term whale-road is used for the sea and "shepherd of evil" is used for Grendel. Other well known kennings include "battle sweat" for blood; "raven harvest" for corpse; and "sleep of the sword" for death.
It should be noted in this regard different kennings have been used to describe a single object in different parts of Beowulf. For example ‘sea’ has been described as “sail road” and “swan road” in different sections of this Anglo-Saxon poem. Other good examples of kenning include: “the foamy-necked floater” (used for ‘ship’) and “sea wolf of the depths” (used for ‘Grendel’s mother’).
A kenning was simply a compound metaphor of two or more words. In theory, kennings can be multiple words, but in practice, they were usually two or sometimes three word combinations. The poem is replete with examples. Beowulf's name itself is a riddle in the form of a kenning: Beo=Bee+wulf=wolf (the wolf of bees, i.e. a bear)
Kings are called ring givers, swords are called battle gleams, the sea is called the whale road or the swan road, the sun is called sky candle and heaven's joy.
There are literally hundreds of examples.
bear of wolves
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