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Kennings in Beowulf

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 words 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.

Find kennings from the first four sections of Beowulf. Provide the line number and identify what
it refers to or what it is naming.

Beowulf Attacks the Danes


Line# Kenning What does it name or refer to?

The Coming of Beowulf


Line# Kenning What does it name or refer to?

The Battle with Grendel


Line# Kenning What does it name or refer to?

The Battle with Grendel’s mother


Line# Kenning What does it name or refer to?
As your group reads The Battle with the Dragon, summarize your section, identify kennings in your
section, and answer the questions that relate to your section. Be prepared to read, summarize, answer the
questions, and share the kennings when you present.

Group 1: Lines 580-646


 How much time has passed? What has happened to Beowulf? Why does the thief steal from the
dragon?
Group 2: Lines 647-732
 How does the dragon destroy the Geats’ land? Why? What is the “last straw” for Beowulf?
Group 3: Lines 733-824
 What will Beowulf fight for in this battle? What heroic characteristics does he show? Why do his
men leave?
Group 4: Lines 825-891
 What noble traits does Wiglaf symbolize? Why does Wiglaf scold the other men? What is his
point?
Group 5 – Lines 892-974
 How might Wiglaf’s actions affect the fight (purple)? Why does Beowulf believe that he has been
a good king? Why is the treasure so important to Bewoulf?
Group 6: Lines 975-1043
 Describe the treasure. Why is Wiglaf quick to return with the treasure? Why does Bewoulf plan
the tower so carefully?
Group 7: Lines 1044-1090
 What does the return of Beowulf’s men say about them? Why does Wiglaf sprinkle water on
Beowulf’s face? How does Wiglaf treat the Geats?

Your Group’s Summary: ________________________________________________________________


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Kennings in The Battle with the Dragon:
Line# Kenning What does it name or refer to?