The Russian poem Songs of the skalds (Песни скальдов), by Leonid Martynov, 1967, plays on the kennings used in Icelandic skaldic poetry, and quotes three rather complex kennings — translated into Russian, of course. I would like to track down the originals of these translated + quoted kennings — I have located one, but I can’t find the other two.

  1. Russian: Метатели огня вьюги ведьмы луны коня корабельных сараев — English: throwers of the fire of the storm of the witch of the moon of the steed of the ship stables.

  2. Russian: Расточители янтаря холодной земли великанского кабана — English: squanderers of the amber of the cold earth of the great boar.

  3. Russian: Прибоем дрожжей людей костей фьорда — English: Surf of yeast of the people of the bones of the fjord

(The Russian versions are as given in Martynov’s poem, which in turn may have taken the first two from Icelandic Culture (Культура Исландии), Mikhail Steblin-Kamensky, 1967. These English versions are from the translation of Martynov used in A course in mathematical logic, Yuri Manin 1977 (trans. Neal Koblitz) — the poem translation isn’t separately attributed, so are presumably by Koblitz and/or Manin.)

The first wasn’t too hard to track down — it’s widely noted for its exceptional length:

  1. Original: gimslöngvir drífu gífrs hlémána blakks nausta — English: fire-slinger of storm of giantess of protection-moon of horse of ship-sheds (from a defunct website, archived on Archive.org)

But the other two elude me so far!

  • There's a website called Skaldic.org which has a database of Icelandic poetry, but I'm having trouble figuring out how to navigate it. However, this page looks a lot like your 2nd one? ("amber-thrower of the salty, cool meadow of the boar")
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 11, 2023 at 16:24
  • @Randal'Thor: That does look like it’s my second one — thanks! Indeed, skaldic.org (The Skaldic Project) was one of the places I’d looked, and seems like a great resource, but like you, I found its navigation/searching is a bit opaque. Jan 11, 2023 at 16:28
  • I guess that the first might possibly refer to "Greek fire" sprayed by eastern Roman or "Byzantine" warships on the ships of their enemies, including viking raiders from Kievan Rus. Tales of "Greek fire" probably reached Iceland Jan 11, 2023 at 16:57
  • See this question for nausta blakks etc. Jan 12, 2023 at 9:00
  • @M.A.Golding: That would be pretty spectacular, but all the glosses I’ve seen read it less literally, following the rather strictly stylised conventions of kennings, as “throwers of [fire of […]” = “throwers of [fire of battle]” = “throwers of swords” = “warriors” — as noted in andejons’ answer. Jan 12, 2023 at 10:24

1 Answer 1


As noted by Rand al'Thor in the comments, skaldic.org has good information on the scaldic poetry that typically uses these long, complicated kennings, meaning many-part, complicated likenesses that typically boils down to a simple meaning, such as "chieftain" or "gold" or "women".

  1. is gimslöngvir drífu gífrs hlémána blakks nausta, by Þórðr Sjáreksson, 11th century, and preserved in Snorri's Edda. Collapsing the kennings, we get "throwers of the fire of the storm of the witch of the moon of the steed of the ship stables" -> "throwers of the fire of the storm of the witch of the moon of ships" -> "throwers of the fire of the storm of the witch of the shield" -> "throwers of the fire of the storm of the axes" -> "throwers of the fire of the battle" -> "throwers of the swords" -> warriors.

  2. is, again as noted, svalteigar […] salts Víðblinda galtar rafkastandi, from a poem by Hallar-Steinn, active ca 1200. Collapsing the kennings, we get "squanderer of the amber of the sea" -> "squandered of gold"-> "generous man, chieftain".

  3. is fyrða fjarðleggjar brim dreggjar, by Einarr Helgasson, court scald of jarl Haakon Sigurdsson. The lines appears in Snorri's Edda as an example of kennings. Collapsing the keenings, the meaning is "surf of yeast of people of the rocks" -> "surf of yeast of the dwarves" -> "surf of Kvasir" -> "verse, poetry". See skaldic.org.

  • Hey, good to see you back! Haven't seen you posting here for a long time.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 12, 2023 at 9:04

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