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The Nordfjordlag Banner


photo of old 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.



photo of signature A little about the history and imagery of the banner:

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 writer.


photo of Olden banner





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 new.

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 them.

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".


photo of Ivar Aasen

Ivar Aasen

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 their performances.

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.

photo of rejected 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.

photo of old banner section photo of new banner section


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 new banner front photo of new banner detail photo of new banner back

Photo of the new banner.



New text layout for back side.


April 26, 2010

Eugene Rodi



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