You Can Find Multiple Flags Hidden Within Norway's Flag

The Norwegian flag
The Norwegian flag | © Mikita Karasiou / Unsplash
Photo of Danai Christopoulou
11 August 2018

Flags are the ultimate symbols. A country’s flag can represent its beliefs, religion, the number of its states – or it may depict the prevailing colors of the region. Norway’s flag is a bit more complicated than that, both for historical reasons and out of sheer coincidence. Here’s what you need to know about the flag that lately has been called, “the mother of all flags”.

The history of the Norwegian Flag

As is the case with most nations, the flag of Norway underwent quite a few ‘makeovers’ until it reached its final look as we know it today. The first known version was raised around 1280; a red flag with a crowned, golden lion holding a silver axe. The lion was a common symbol for monarchy, and the axe was a commemoration of the axe that killed St. Olaf in the Battle of Stiklestad, connecting “Norway’s Eternal King” to the Norwegian government. To this day, this flag is used as the Royal Standard by the Norwegian Royal family.

As Norway came under Denmark’s rule, the red and white ‘Dannebrog’ was used from the 1600s onwards. When Norway became briefly independent in 1814, the Norwegian golden lion was added to the flag – but this version was short-lived as Norway joined Sweden in a union that same year. A common flag started being used for both countries, but it was so confusing and complicated that it was soon known as the ‘herring salad’ flag.

Then, in 1821, Norway’s current flag was designed by Parliament Member Fredrik Meltzer or, as legend has it, his young son. Apparently Meltzer’s son was drawing the Danish flag and accidentally drew something blue, which gave Meltzer the idea to combine Norway’s past with Denmark and the union with Sweden in a flag that has red, white and blue. These colors were by that time made popular by France and the United States, as colors that represent freedom, so Meltzer thought it was quite fitting. The rest, is literally history.

The red, white and blue of the Norwegian flag | © Julian-G. Albert / Flickr

Why it’s called, “the Swiss Army knife of flags”

We’ve already seen how the Norwegian flag practically contains the Danish flag while paying tribute to the Swedish flag. But while that was done on purpose, the following is just a coincidence – spotted by some very observant people on the internet. Apparently, if you isolate certain parts of the Norwegian flag, you can find six other flags from different countries “hiding” within it.

Simon Kuestenmacher, a Melbourne-based demographics researcher posted a tweet about how if divided into sections, Norway’s flag also contains the flags of France, Indonesia, Poland, Netherlands, Thailand and Finland. Calling it, “the Swiss Army knife of flags” he created an internet buzz around the Norwegian flag that was certainly well received by local companies such as Norwegian Air, who used this concept to promote flying from Norway to these six destinations. Happy coincidence or historical importance, one thing is for sure: the flag of Norway is one of the most democratic and all-encompassing flags, ever.

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