How does the kenning "gold-lord" help you understand the Wanderer's goal in The Wanderer?

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In the Anglo-Saxon poem, "The Wanderer," "gold-lord" is a kenning that describes what the Wanderer is searching and hoping for. 

A kenning is a compressed metaphor that is an attempt by the poet to go beyond a limited vocabulary.  A kenning is a metaphorical attempt at naming.

In this case, a gold-lord is a man with a mead hall.  The mead hall was the center of Anglo-Saxon life.  It was the center of the community, the village, so to speak.  But life in Anglo-Saxon England was precarious.  No central government, police force, or formal system of law existed, so life was unstable.  If  your mead hall was attacked and overtaken by another mead hall's inhabitants, you were either killed or exiled.  This is what the Wanderer has suffered, and why he is looking for a new mead hall, a new "gold-lord."   

Specifically, gold-lord is simply lord of the gold.  Such a man is the leader of the mead-hall, the provider and protector.  And the mead hall provides companionship and stability, friends one can figuratively open up to and communicate with.  Without a mead hall, the Wanderer keeps to himself and does not share information, feelings, etc., with others. 

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