Whale Road
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There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,
a wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.
This terror of the hall-troops had come far.
A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on
as his powers waxed and his worth was proved.
In the end each clan on the outlying coasts
beyond the whale-road had to yield to him
and begin to pay tribute. That was one good king.

(from) Beowulf Trs. Shamus Heaney

Basic Information

The whale-road was a Nordic kenning for the sea or ocean: a route of passage, frequented by whales.

Like most kennings, this tells us something of early Scandinavian culture - that they looked on the sea as something to be travelled rather than a wasteland to be feared (as a more land-bound culture might). This is borne out by history - the Nordic nations were well known seafarers and travellers by water generally, making the first attested crossings of the Atlantic and showing up in North Africa as well, whether trading or viking.


1. full source reference

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