Kennings are a stylistic feature commonly used in Old English poetry, such as in "Beowulf". They are metaphorical phrases or compound words that replace a simple noun. For example, the kenning "battle-sweat" refers to blood, "battle-adder" represents an arrow, "seawood" denotes a boat, and "whale-road" signifies the sea. Kennings serve to add depth and richness to the text, making it more compelling and vivid.

Cartoonist and science writer explains that kennings can act almost like riddles, using familiar phrases that are repeated within the poetic tradition. This allows the reader to unravel their meanings through context. For instance, in his own writing, Weinersmith came up with the original kenning "sliding sea" to represent a river, chosen specifically for the alliteration with the 's' sound. Overall, kennings contribute significantly to the aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of poetry, enhancing both its complexity and its allure 1.

The Power of Kennings

Discover the captivating world of Old English poetry and the art of kennings, clever phrases that add richness and depth to the text. Zach Weinersmith shares insights on the significance of kennings and how they enhance the reading experience.


Zach Weinersmith on Beowulf and Bea Wolf