The 11th century icelandic skald Þórðr Sjáreksson wrote this kenning, quoted from wikipedia:

nausta blakks hlé-mána gífrs drífu gim-slöngvir "fire-brandisher of blizzard of ogress of protection-moon of steed of boat-shed" — from the Hafgerðingadrápa, by Þórður Sjáreksson (this is the longest kenning found in skaldic poetry; it simply means "warrior"[citation needed])

I've read around and can see how shorter kenning work (i.e. the ones on this list seem immediately obvious, such as 'bane of wood' kenning 'fire').

But I'm struggling to parse one quoted above, particularly the order in which the words apply because it has so many layers. As in, is it the 'fire-brandisher of blizzard' that is 'of ogress' or is the 'fire-brandisher' of the 'blizzard of ogress'?

How do I break this down to help understand the wordplay?

1 Answer 1


It unpacks as follows:

nausta blakks ‘steed of boathouses’ = ship
hlémána ‘protecting moon’ of the ship = shield
gífr ‘terror’ of the shield = sword
drífa ‘storm’ of the sword = battle
gim ‘fire’ of battle = sword
slöngvir ‘slinger’ of the sword = warrior

Thomas Andrew DuBois (2008). Sanctity in the North: Saints, Lives, and Cults in Medieval Scandinavia, p. 127. University of Toronto Press.

gífr seems to mean literally “witch, hag” (A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic, p. 165), hence “ogress” in Wikipedia, whereas DuBois takes it in the more abstract sense of “terror”, but clearly the kenning works much the same either way.

  • So the parts don't interact, but it's sort of read backwards towards 'slöngvir'. I guess it's like saying "wielder of the fire of, the storm of, the terror of, the moon-like shield... ? Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 18:38
  • 6
    Alternatively, read it forwards using possessives: "boathouses' steed's protecting-moon's terror's storm's fire-slinger". Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 18:51
  • that's even more epic! Commented Feb 21, 2022 at 18:54

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