Kobold Press

89 Colorful Kennings

Rackham, The Giants Seize FreyaThe Frozen Empires patronage project is calling to your warrior soul!

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A kenning is a play on words that replaces a concept, usually a single word, with more figurative language. Often associated with the Norse skalds, kennings draw on cultural and mythical knowledge. That being said, they are immensely useful and imaginative ways to add flavor and a unique cultural feeling to your game!

Kennings Related to Weather and Places

  • “Ancestor’s watch”—a stone circle.
  • “Boreas’s burning”—snow blindness.
  • “Elf-glory”—the sun.
  • “Feather’s fall”—falling snow.
  • “Frozen road”—ice-covered river.
  • “Green clearing”—shaman’s gathering place.
  • “Northern kiss”—cold wind.
  • “River-bone”—rock.
  • “Ship of night”—the moon.
  • “Sky’s black cloak”—nightfall.
  • “Swan-road”—the sea.
  • “Thor’s laughter”—thunder.
  • “Whale-way”—the sea.
  • “Weather of wolves”—harsh winter (can also allude to the end times, or “Fenris’s rising”).
  • “Winter’s blade”—cold wind.
  • “Winter’s blanket”—snow.
  • “Winter spear”—icicle.
  • “Ægir’s daughters”—waves…

Kennings Related to People and Professions

  • “Bear shirt”—berserker.
  • “Children of battle”—soldiers or raiders.
  • “Fire beater”—smith.
  • “Feller of the life-webs”—slayer.
  • “Feeder of eagles/ravens”—warrior.
  • “Forseti’s favored”—diplomat.
  • “Lord of laughter”—skald, or possibly Loki.
  • “Naglfar’s favorite”—person who does not burn their dead/cut their nails, thus furthering the completion of Naglfar and consequently, Ragnarok (could also be applied to necromancers).
  • “Ring giver”—jarl.
  • “Rune caller”—wizard.
  • “Shield-gnawer”—berserker.

Kennings Related to Battle and Death

  • “Battle metal”—weapons.
  • “Bed shame”—dying of disease or old age.
  • “Black song”—reaver’s war cry.
  • “Bright way”—burning of a dead reaver with his ship.
  • “Bone-beak”—axe.
  • “Dew of slaughter,” “toast of ravens”—blood.
  • “Feeding the eagle”—killing enemies.
  • “Giant’s back scratcher”—Danish ax or greataxe.
  • “Head of Heimdallr”—sword.
  • “Loki’s shackles”—entrails.
  • “Shield-biting hawk”—hatchet or throwing axe.
  • “Straw death”—death by disease or old age.
  • “Surtr’s blaze”—sword (in good condition).
  • “Traveling the Hel road”—dying.
  • “Tyrfingr’s kin”—cursed weapon.
  • “Un-blooded”—man not yet tested in battle.
  • “War needles”—arrows.
  • “Weather of weapons”—large-scale battle.
  • “White death”—killed by an avalanche.

Kennings Related to Gods and Giants

  • “Choker of man”—Nidhöggr (could be used for any powerful linnorm).
  • “Doom of Heimdallr,” “father of the sea’s thread”—Loki.
  • “Cloud scraper, shadow on the sky candle”—jotun.
  • “Kin of Loki”—Fenris.
  • “King of skalds”—Óðinn.
  • “Pus-spewer”—Jörmungandr (Midgard-Snake).

Kennings Related to Animals and Mythological Creatures

  • “Bow-lady”—valkyrie.
  • “Cattle tripper, red jowl, lolling jaws, hounds of ravening”—wolves and worgs.
  • “Eagle’s herald”—squirrel (reference to communication between dragon Nidhöggr and the eagle).
  • “Eater of runes”—tupilak.
  • “Eye of Óðinn”—raven.
  • “Fenris’ thirst”—nightgarm.
  • “Fjord branch of nails”—Naglfar.
  • “Grasping gold curler”—linnorm.
  • “Honey hawk”—owlbear.
  • “Horse of the hanged”—Yggdrassil.
  • “Howling mother”—nightgarm.
  • “Icicle woman, leman of the snows”—ice maiden.
  • “Light elf”—liosalfar.
  • “Skitter in the ice, termite of the sea”—kraken spawn.
  • “Sons of the thurs rune”—thursir.
  • “White jaws”—winter wolf.
  • “Wound starling”—raven.

Other Kennings

  • “Balder’s gift”—mistletoe.
  • “Branches of fjord”—ship.
  • “Cattle-kin”—derogatory term for people who can’t defend themselves.
  • “Dragon’s bile”—poison.
  • “Draught of giants”—skald’s mead/sudden (poetic) realization.
  • “Forseti’s failure”—unjust decisions.
  • “Frigg’s lapse”—mistletoe.
  • “Igniter of waves”—bile of Jörmungandr/poison.
  • “Lindworm claws”—skates.
  • “Mimir’s warning”—prophecy (of doom).
  • “Óðinn’s furrows”—runes.
  • “Ribs of Ull”—skis.
  • “Ring-rich”—generous person.
  • “Sindri’s gift”—wealth/affluence.
  • “Strong brew”—mistletoe as an ingredient.
  • “Uncut thread”—destiny to be fulfilled/life.
  • “Wind racers”—horses.
  • “Wolf’s joint”—wrist.

6 Replies to "89 Colorful Kennings"

Dan Voyce

December 14, 2010 at 6:48am

A fine kettle of kennings! Truly Bragi’s gift – or perhaps you’ve have supped deep from the draught of giants?

A lord of laughter you are, Thilo!

Wolfgang

December 14, 2010 at 9:33am

Yep, these are the sort of list I want my skald PC to have nearby at all times. Hell, I want my Midgardian reaver dwarf to have them memorized!

Fred Dailey

December 14, 2010 at 4:15pm

These are great. This is the type of thing that brings those little touches to a game and makes it magic. :)

Charles Ryan

December 15, 2010 at 12:38pm

I’d love to see a similar list that isn’t so Norse-oriented. You can pluck a lot of great ideas from this for fantasy that’s themed a bit differently, but I’d love to see a hundred or so ideas that translate more easily into more generic fantasy settings.

Sunyaku

December 15, 2010 at 1:17pm

Excellent resource. I agree with previous commenters, an entire series of these would be very useful for home campaign development.

Thilo Graf

December 17, 2010 at 8:25am

I’d be willing to write kenning-like lists for just about everything if there is a demand. Thank everybody for the kind comments. :)

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