Oral Tradition

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Oral Tradition
Stories told orally during the Anglo-Saxon time period were carefully crafted, containing various literary features to make the stories easier to remember. A few of these literary techniques were the kenning and the caesura.

A kenning is a two-word poetic renaming of a person, place, or thing; much like a metaphor. Scops used kennings often to add a sense of allure to the story and to give themselves a chance to remember the succeeding events in the story. In The Seafarer, in line thirty-three, hail is referred to as “The coldest seeds.” This kenning was used not only to emphasize how horridly cold the hail was, but also to give the listeners something to contemplate while the scop took a moment to recollect the next segment of the story. Kennings were exceptionally recurrent in the Anglo-Saxon’s oral tales. In The Wanderer, “The Warden of Men” (Line 77), is interpreted as God. Instead of simply stating “God,” which would require no interpreting, scops used kennings to supplement the story with interest. An example of a Kenning used in The Wife’s Lament, is in line 29, the scop calls a cave an “earth hall.” Once again, this kenning adds creativity to the story, since a cave does resemble a natural hallway if you think about it. Kennings make a story more complex, and give them a deeper meaning, they also allow for more unnoticed pauses.

Another technique used in oral tradition is the caesura. A caesura is the natural pause that occurs within a line of poetry. Storytellers like the scops of the Anglo-Saxon period used the pause to give themselves a chance to remember where they were in their storyline and to create a rhythm to make it easier to remember the long detailed stories. Line 17 in The Seafarer is a prime example of a caesura; “Hung with icicles. The hailstorms flew.” The pause in this middle of this line substantially increases the level of drama, which it projects. Since both of the sentences are short, the dramatic...
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