Our last post was a review of the movie Headhunters, a Swedish thriller from 2011. While we were doing our extensive academic research of the countries of Scandinavia, we grabbed images of the flags of Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. We were going to put them in the movie review post but decided to give them their own space. We’ve highlighted the flags below with a brief statement about their history.
All of the flags represent versions of the Nordic cross. At some point in their respective histories, the Christians came a-knocking conquering the pagan tribes of the northern lands with love and a fat book. All of the flags present an off-centered cross whose center is left-justified.
Legend has it that the establishment of the flag mimics the Mosaic story of a critical battle between Israel’s army led by Joshua and the Amalekites. In the Israelite version of the story found in Exodus Chapter 17, Moses raised his hands to God and helped turn the course of the battle in favor of Israel. When Moses became tired and his hands began to fall, the Amalekites suddenly regained the advantage. Aaron and Hur, close companions to the prophet, stepped in to help keep Moses’ arms up and the battle was won. In the Danish legend, the Danes were the good guys and the Estonians were the bad guys. The Danes also experienced the same swing in battle with a Danish priest and two soldiers playing the roles of Moses, Aaron and Hur. As the battle moved in favor of the Danes for good, the Danish flag (called Dannebrog) fell from the sky into the hands of the king who in turn used it to rally his troops for a final hurrah.
Whatever the actual origins of the flag, it is very old. The Danish Dannebrog is actually the world’s oldest flag, dating back to the 1300s. It has remained virtually unchanged except for dimensions throughout its history. It has the shortest proportion of width compared to height of the Scandinavian flags with a ratio of 28:37 (meaning its height is about 75% the size of the width).
The flag of the Finns, Siniristilippu, is actually quite new with its adoption coming less than 100 years. It’s colors, blue and white, represent blue sky and water, and snow respectively. The design of the flag was selected during a competition right after Finland’s independence from Russia. It’s origins are in a similar flag flown by a Finnish yacht club in the 1800s. Siniristilippu has the longest width compared to its height of all the Scandinavian flags with a ratio of 11:18 (i.e., its height is about 61% of its width).
Again, another relatively new flag, the Icelandic flag (íslenski fáninn) was originally a blue flag with a white cross. Shortly before its independence from Denmark, a red cross was inserted into the white cross, giving the flag three colors. The red is said to represent fire from the country’s many volcanoes; white represents snow and ice; and, blue represents the view of its mountains. It has a ratio of 18:25 (i.e., its height is 72% of its width).
Like all of the Scandinavian flags, the Norwegian flag’s origins point to several variants before the current version was established. The Nordic cross features prominently in most of them since it was based on the close relationship Norway had with Denmark over its history. The current flag uses three colors (red, white, and blue) to represent liberty as is the case on flags from other countries like France, the U.K. and the U.S. It was unofficially adopted in the early 1800s and essentially came to its current format at the end of the century. It has a ratio of 16:22 (i.e., its height is about 73% of its width).
The basis of the Swedish flag has its origins in a coat of arms from the 1200s and has mostly used blue and yellow throughout its history. Its legend is based on the story of the Swedish king, Eric the Holy, seeing a golden cross in the blue sky just as his troops were about to invade Finland. It is also said to be distinctly different than the Danish red and white flag to demonstrate Swedish resistance to the Danes. It has a height to width ratio of 10:16 (i.e., its height is about 63% of its width).
Of course, in one form or another the Comics A-Go-Go! pantheon of flags mimics several flags of the world. Here are various designs formed around the Nordic cross. We don’t have any history of going to war against other nations in the name of Christ, so these flags are purely knock-offs for show.