The Nordfjordlag Banner
The familiar Nordfjordlag
banner shown above has been with us since 1919. It was sent to us by Firda
Ungdomslag of Nordfjord, Norway, as a gift to The Nordfjord Lag in America and has been in use at Lag stevner ever since.
A little about the history and imagery of the
The picture was painted by
Ferdinand Kjerulf Tranaas (1877 - 1932). His signature and the date, 1916, can be
found on the lower right hand edge of the painting. He lived in Stryn, Norway, for several years. He also is known to have
painted another banner (shown below) and a large altar board for Nedstryn Church which is still hanging in the church but
no longer over the main altar. F.K.Tranaas was both a well known Norwegian painter and
At the left is a photo of the banner belonging to Olden Ungdomslag. It is of a very similar design and was also
painted by F. K. Tranaas. The painting
on this banner and the wording are different, but the material, layout, oak leaf
borders and size are all the same. It
was created at about the same time and presumably by the same people. This banner is now encased, due to its
fragile condition, and is hanging in Olden, Norway
I believe the location
shown in our painting is an area just to the northwest of Stryn. (The buildings, mountain and valley are
familiar to some Lag members who have recently visited that area.) The picture shows a young couple, bags in
hand, leaving what would appear to be the young girl's home, presumably for a
new life in America. Her mother
has turned to the door, weeping, and her father is back in the trees behind
the house working (He cannot bear to watch them go.). The young man has his face set toward the
journey while in the background the sky has an ominous tone as though a storm
is approaching the quiet valley below.
Over the painting are the
Norwegian words "Tidt eg minnest ein gamallgard"
- "Often I'll remember my old homeland". These words are a slight twist on the opening line of a song/poem
written by Ivar Aasen
that was popular in the early 1900's. (The full text of the song and a rough translation are included
below.) The twist is that in the song
the words "gamal gard"
have been altered to be a single word "gamallgard"
which fits better with the theme of the banner. This difference when translated changes
"old farm" to "old homeland". The song
speaks of leaving one's homeland where everything was friendly, familiar, and
pleasant for a land of hardship, degraded standing in the community and
squandered resources. In hindsight,
the hardships that were known were easier to bear than the hardships that are
On the back of the banner
is the text " Frende : Til
Nordfiordingar i vesterheimen Fra Nordfiordingar heime" -
"Friends: Greetings to Nordfjordings in the western
lands from Nordfjordings at home.".
Over the years the banner
has not always had the best of care; the fabric and painting are showing
signs of wear. With closer examination
we see that tassels and seams have come apart and some repair work has been
done. Water stains show that it has
not always been possible to keep it from the weather. I know that it has been stored at times in
an attic, under a bed, and up on the rafters of a farm shed. (Not that there may have been any better
place available at the time.) Since a
visit to a textile conservator in the 1990's, the banner has been stored
gently rolled within a layer of unbleached muslin at more moderate
temperatures. As with all older things
the painting is showing its age with a large number of fine cracks and
occasional bits of paint that have flaked off.
As Nordfjord Lag celebrates
one hundred years of activity we have decided to retire our wonderful old
banner with love and with respect. We
are proud of it and proud of the members who so hardily came through the
hardships it foretold. Arrangements
are being made to give the banner to Vesterheim Museum in Decorah Iowa, after the centennial celebration in September
2010. As stated in our constitution,
Vesterheim is to be the recipient of all lag artifacts when we no longer need
Looking forward to the next
one hundred years of Lag activity, we wave a new banner. As stated in our constitution, Nordfjord
Lag is "Founded to foster and preserve the cultural values of the emigrants
from Nordfjord, Norway, and their descendents".
Born August 5, 1813, died September 23, 1896.
Ivar was a lyricist and linguist who wrote the song
lyric below which became very popular in the early 1900s. There are two tunes
that are generally used. The tune that has been most used in the last 50
years is found in the Whoever's in Dance song book which was written by Rasofiel
Rise (1844-1929) from Hareid, Norway. Earlier, they used a Reinlender-folk-tune
that was found in "Symra" from 1875. The song was taught in the schools and sung
by young and old. Following are the
four verses in Norwegian with a literal (and not very lyrical) English
translation beside them. The first
line of the first verse is the source of the text found at the top of Nordfjordlaget's original banner (with the words "gamal gard" changed slightly to
"gamallgard" - "old farm" to "old homeland".). Even now Norwegian "leikarring" (folkdance groups) often use this song during
Ivar has also been known as the father of Nynorsk. His work with Norwegian linguistics is well
known. By combining the common
language of all the districts and including parts of the Danish-Norwegian
language of the time, he invented a "folke-maal" -
"peoples-language". That language has
now become "Nynorsk" - "New Norwegian". Songs and poems like "Tidt eg minnest" were used to teach
the sounds and structure of this new language.
Tidt eg minnest / Gamle grendi
Tidt eg minnest ein gamal gard
med store tre og runner
Vollar, bakkar og berg og skard
og blomster på grøne grunnar.
Der eg hadde meg so godt eit rom :
hus og mark med både bær og blom,
alt eg nøytte som ein eigedom
med både lut og lunnar.
Often as I remember my old farm
with large trees and bushes.
Ridges, hills, mountains and skard (fissured rock)
and flowers on the green fields.
There, I had me so good a place:
house and lands with both berries and flowers,
all I used as a property
with both equipment and benefits.
Der var dalar og lier nog,
der lur og bjøllor klungo;
der var ruster og fager skog,
der tusund fuglar sjungo.
Tett ved stova stod ei bjørk så breid,
der hadde skjorene sitt gamle reid,
staren song i kvar ein topp, som beid,
og erlor i tunet sprungo.
There were valleys and mountain sides steep,
where you can hear lur and bells (on animals);
there were bushes and beautiful forests,
where a thousand birds are singing.
Close to the cottage stood a birch so broad,
which had a magpies old nest upon it,
starling song on every peak that offered itself,
and wagtails in the farmyard springing.
Heime var eg so vida kjend
og slapp inn, kvar eg ville,
i kvart hus i den heile grend,
om endå folket kvilde.
Der var kjenningar i kvar ei krå,
og når eg ukjende folk fekk sjå,
spurde eg radt, kvar dei var i frå,
og dei var lika milde.
At home I was so widely known
whenever I wanted, the people would let me in
to each house in the whole neighborhood,
even if the people were resting.
There were acquaintances on each corner,
and when I caught sight of unknown people,
I asked quickly, where they were from,
and they were just as friendly and kind.
Var det nokon som der leid vondt
og vart fyre tap og spilla,
brått det spurdest om bygdi rundt,
og alle tykte, det var illa.
Ofte minnast eg mi gamle grend,
når eg framand uti verdi stend,
heimlaus, frendelaus og lite kjend,
og likar på leiken illa.
Was there anyone there (Norway) who was in pain
or had losses or squandered,
quickly it was asked around the countryside,
and everyone thought it was sad.
Often I remember my old village,
when I'm a stranger standing out in the world,
homeless, friendless and unknown,
and liking the game less (having regrets).
A New Banner
In 2007 we began
discussions on the design of a new banner to replace the original that was to
be retired in 2010. Several proposed
designs were reviewed including a map of Nordfjord, a picture of hands across
the sea, Nordfjord and the Midwest states, text only, commissioning an artist to come
up with a totally new design, a cluster of the kommune shields, and a
repainted version of the original banner.
After much discussion it was decided that we should
look at a design that used the shields of the seven Nordfjord kommune. At the stevne in 2007 I presented several
versions of a banner using the shields. The drawing shown to the right was
chosen as the preferred design. Since
the shield designs are the property of each kommune, a copy of the design was
sent to the Nordfjord governing bodies for approval of our use. After almost a year and varied letters, the
Stryn kommune gave reluctant approval but indicated that they could not speak
for the other six.
The problem was that these
shields are the official seal of each kommune as is the Presidential Seal of
the United States. Giving us approval would be equivalent to
the Nordfjord government granting official endorsement of our lag. They were reluctant to do that since it may
also have then bound them to support or defend us in legal matters. Once this was understood we quickly
abandoned this design and thanked them for their time and consideration.
By 2009 we were looking for
an artist that would consider painting a new copy of the original picture. No one was found. Then the possibility of having the original
painting digitally scanned and reproduced was entertained. I located a company in Minneapolis that specialized in digital printing and
reproductions, DigiGraphics Inc. The Nordfjordlag officers looked over the
costs and type of materials to be used and approved a new banner using these
digital techniques. A high resolution
scan of the painting was ordered and a closer look at the results showed just
how badly the painting was deteriorating. Thousands of tiny cracks and missing paint chips were found.
The process of restoration
began in November 2009 using a program called PhotoShop Elements and many
hours of digital "patching". Although
the restoration is by no means perfect, I believe that the untrained eye will
easily accept the results. The photos
below show a small section (about 1.5 inches square) of the digital photo
before and after the restoration process.
Once the photo restoration was
completed I began a quest to learn more about the painter and the texts of
the original banner. E-mails to
friends in Norway and the U.S. along with searches on the internet resulted in the
exciting information on the original banner presented above.
I am still looking for a
reason, if any, for the use of English Oak leaves to line the edges of the
banner. This is the only tree that has
leaves similar to this shape. English
Oaks are known for their strength, resistance to disease, and longevity. Leaves from the original banner were not
scanned so new ones had to be created from scratch using drawing tools
available in PhotoShop. The daisy
patterns were also digitally repainted.
Discovery of the entire
song lyric has given new meaning to the painting and how much it must have
meant to those lag members present when it first arrived. An attempt to retain and convey that
information has been a driving factor in the design of the new banner and its
texts. We who are present now will
never be able to fully understand the feelings of those founding members, but
I hope we can retain some semblance of their courage and dedication.
The New Centennial Banner
Oak leaf and daisy pattern.
Photo of the new banner.
New text layout for back side.
April 26, 2010