Today’s Nordic Translation Duel at the Winchester Poetry Festival

  • Self heard the word kennings for the first time ever. She learned that a kenning is a stylistic device used in old Norse sagas. It’s a way of referring to something by describing something else.

For example: A ship is also known as “the horse of the sea.”

Examples of modern kennings: clotheshorse, skyscraper

  • There is a repetitiveness in Nordic epic poetry: The sentence “I killed _______” is used over and over and over again.
  • Old Norse has many different words for “blood.” (Fascinating. Ancient Filipinos had many different words for “rice.”)
  • The Gisla Saga was written in the 13th century, but refers to events in the 10th. The featured presenters, Debbie Potts and Carolyne Larrington, presented their own translations of the same verses from the Gisla Saga (and the translations couldn’t have been more distinctive)

For example, a passage where “Gisli compares his sister to a legendary figure and finds his sibling wanting”:

Debbie Potts’ translation:

Fixated on fashion, my sister
lacks the gumption of Gudrun.

Carolyne Larrington’s translation of the same passage:

My sister, obsessed with her
superb wedding head-dress,
hasn’t Gudrun Gjukadottir’s
unrelenting temperament;

The duel was moderated by John McGavin, Joan McGavin’s husband.

Fascinating. Simply fascinating.

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Stay tuned.

 

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