painting-17mai1893The National Anthem of Norway, Ja, vi elsker dette landet (Yes, we love this country) was written by romantic nationalist poet Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, with the music composed by his cousin Rikard Nordraak. Nordraak was only 21 when he composed the tune, and he died two years later from tuberculosis with some 40 works in his portfolio.  The anthem was originally written and performed for the 50th anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution in 1864, and some time later informally replaced the previous national anthem Sønner av Norge (Sons of Norway).
In addition to the National Anthems, Norway has a number of other highly beloved national songs. These include:

  • Fedrelandssalmen / Gud signe vårt dyre Fedreland (The Fatherland Hymn / God Bless our precious Fatherland.)
  • Smaaguttenes Nationalsang (Little Boys’ National Anthem – later renamed the Childrens’ National Anthem. Also written by Bjørnson.)
  • Kongesangen (The King’s Song – same melody as God Save The Queen.)
  • Å Vestland, Vestland (Oh Western Land – the anthem for Western Norway.)
  • Eg veit meg eit land (I know a Land – the «National Anthem» of Northern Norway.)
  • For Norge, Kiæmpers Fødeland (To Norway, birthplace of Giants (heroes) – a drinking song(!) that served as the national anthem before Sons of Norway.)

In fact, all these songs are more specific to the 17th of May celebrations, whereas the National Anthem is for general use like sports events, public functions etc.

Although Ja, vi elsker has a total of eight verses, only verses one, seven and eight are normally sung. The lyrics speak of the wars, struggles and significant historical events that formed the country from the Viking age until the 19th century. Most people are only expected to know the first and last two verses as they speak less about detailed history and focus more on the Norwegians’ love and devotion to their country. Below is the song in its entirety, with a brief explanation of each verse.

Norwegian Lyrics Theme

1.

Ja, vi elsker dette landet,
som det stiger frem,

furet, værbitt over vannet,
med de tusen hjem.
Elsker, elsker det og tenker
på vår far og mor.
Og den saganatt som senker
drømme på vår jord.
Og den saganatt som senker,
senker drømme på vår jord.

We love this country with its majestic, rugged nature. We remember our ancestors and the tales of old, on which our dreams are built.

2.

Dette landet Harald berget
med sin kjemperad,
dette landet Håkon verget
medens Øyvind kvad;
Olav på det landet malte
korset med sitt blod,
fra dets høye Sverre talte
Roma midt imot.

The uniting of Norway by king Harald I, protection from civil war by king Håkon the Good, introduction of Chrtistianity by St. Olav and the rebellion against Rome by king Sverre.

3.

Bønder sine økser brynte
hvor en hær dro frem,
Tordenskiold langs kysten lynte,
så den lystes hjem.
Kvinner selv stod opp og strede
som de vare menn;
andre kunne bare grede,
men det kom igjen!

An army of peasants would stand up against the advancing enemies (Sweden) in the early 18th century. A tribute to the brave naval commander Peder Wessel Tordenskiold. Also a tribute to the brave women who «stood and fought as if they were men».

4.

Visstnok var vi ikke mange,
men vi strakk dog til,
da vi prøvdes noen gange,
og det stod på spill;
ti vi heller landet brente
enn det kom til fall;
husker bare hva som hendte
ned på Fredrikshald!

We fought bravely against Sweden, although we were greatly outnumbered. At the 1716 battle of Fredriksten, Norway, the citizens set their homes on fire to stop the Swedes taking the town and fortress.

5.

Hårde tider har vi døyet,
ble til sist forstøtt;
men i verste nød blåøyet
frihet ble oss født.
Det gav faderkraft å bære
hungersnød og krig,
det gav døden selv sin ære -
og det gav forlik.

After the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark surrendered to Sweden and gave up Norway. Norway took the opportunity to declare its independence on 17 th of May 1814. This gave us renewed strength to endure hard times.

6.

Fienden sitt våpen kastet,
opp visiret for,
vi med undren mot ham hastet,
ti han var vår bror.
Drevne frem på stand av skammen
gikk vi søderpå;
nu vi står tre brødre sammen,
og skal sådan stå!

After a brief war with Sweden, peace was made and we embraced our former enemies. Ashamed by centuries of war, we also made peace with Denmark and now forever stand as «three brothers united».

7.

Norske mann i hus og hytte,
takk din store Gud!
Landet ville han beskytte,
skjønt det mørkt så ut.
Alt hva fedrene har kjempet,
mødrene har grett,
har den Herre stille lempet
så vi vant vår rett.

A plea to Norwegians to thank their God for protecting the country through dark times. All the wars and struggles of our forefathers, and God’s silent intervention has won us our freedom.

8.

Ja, vi elsker dette landet,
som det stiger frem,
furet, værbitt over vannet,
med de tusen hjem.
Og som fedres kamp har hevet
det av nød til seir,
også vi, når det blir krevet,
for dets fred slår leir.

Once again a tribute to the majestic nature of Norway. We must remember our ancestors’ struggles and, when needed, stand to defend our peace.

The three most common verses of Ja, vi elsker has also been translated into English and is sung by descendants of Norwegian immigrants in the United States. The wording is, of course, somewhat different for aesthetic reasons, but still holds the same thematic content as the original above:

Yes, we love with fond devotion
This our land that looms
Rugged, storm-scarred o’er the ocean
With her thousand homes.
Love her, in our love recalling
Those who gave us birth.
And old tales which night, in falling,
Brings as dreams to earth.

Norsemen whatsoe’er thy station,
Thank thy God whose power
willed and wrought the land’s salvation
In her darkest hour.
All our mothers sought with weeping
And our sires in fight,
God has fashioned in His keeping
Till we gained our right.

Yes, we love with fond devotion
This our land that looms
Rugged, storm-scarred o’er the ocean
With her thousand homes.
And, as warrior sires have made her
Wealth and fame increase,
At the call we too will aid her
Armed to guard her peace.

Ja, vi elsker never actually received formal status as the official National Anthem – Sønner av Norge is still the official one but very few Norwegians are aware of this (as it is hardly ever used). Nonetheless, Ja, vi elsker has established itself firmly as the true National Anthem in the hearts of Norwegians since it was first presented more than 140 years ago.