How a kids’ song promotes security

Norwegian driver’s licenses use Wergeland’s patriotic poem to guard against forgeries

Photo: Norwegian Public Roads Administration Current Norwegian Driver’s License front. “Ola Normann” is the hypothetical average man, equivalent to “John Doe” in the U.S.

Photo: Norwegian Public Roads Administration
Current Norwegian Driver’s License front. “Ola Normann” is the hypothetical average man, equivalent to “John Doe” in the U.S.

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

Forgery probably is among the oldest—and now, aided by modern technology, probably the most diversified—of non-violent crimes. Likewise, anti-forgery measures such as holograms, ultraviolet designs, and embossed printing now are commonplace in everyday items such as banknotes, credit cards, and driver’s licenses.

As for the banknotes of the Euro and other national currencies in Europe, Norwegian banknotes are issued in different sizes ascending in order of value. The differences between denominations are discernible to blind users and also foil counterfeiters who might otherwise attempt to print a large denomination note over a smaller one. For example, a Norwegian NOK 100 banknote is about four-fifths the size of a NOK 1000 banknote.

And as required by EU/EEA Directive across Europe, Norwegian driver’s licenses now conform to international standards that mandate anti-forging measures (Further reading). Technically, the Norwegian anti-forgery measures are similar to those used in other European countries. But culturally, one Norwegian anti-forgery measure stands out. In the lower right-hand corner of the back of a plastic, credit-card-sized driving license, there’s an extract of the first three stanzas of a familiar song-poem, embossed in undulating lines of small type barely discernible to the naked eye.

Photo: Norwegian Public Roads Administration Magnified view of first three stanzas of song poem embossed in lower right corner on back of driver’s license.

Photo: Norwegian Public Roads Administration
Magnified view of first three stanzas of song poem embossed in lower right corner on back of driver’s license.

The song-poem is “Smaaguttnes Nationalsang” (Small boy’s national anthem), by poet and patriot Henrik Wergeland (1808-1845), first published in 1841 in the For Arbeiderklassen (For the Working Class) magazine. It has six stanzas, of which the first is:

Vi ere en Nation vi med,
vi Smaa, en Alen lange:
et Fædreland vi frydes ved;
og Vi Vi ere mange.
Vort Hjerte veed, vort Øje seer,
hvor godt og vakkert Norge er,
vor Tunge kan en Sang blandt fleer
af Norges Æressange.

There are differing translations into English from the Dano-Norwegian koiné language of Wergeland’s time. A literary compromise might read:

Also we are a nation,
we small ones just two feet tall:
joyful in our fatherland,
we are the many.
Our heart knows, and our eyes see,
the good and beauty of the country;
on our tongues is one of many songs
of praise, Norway’s Anthem.

Wergeland’s “Small boy’s national anthem” is the third song-poem to appear on Norwegian driver’s licenses. The first was Ivar Aasen’s “Mellom bakkar og berg” (Amongst hills and cliffs) on the first series of EU/EEA standard plastic-card licenses issued in 1998-2001. The second was a Sámi poem on the second series of driver’s licenses issued 2002-2012.
There are no comparative surveys of such matters, but this writer might wager that Norway is alone in using a children’s song to help promote the security of driver’s licenses.

Further reading:
Nytt norsk førerkort fra 19. januar 2013 (New Norwegian driving license as of January 19, 2013), Statens Vegvesen (Norwegian Public Roads Administration) 4-page brochure, PDF downloadable at www.vegvesen.no/_attachment/493459/binary/801365?fast_title=Nytt+f%C3%B8rerkort+brosjyre+-+norsk_21062013.pdf (Norwegian only)

• EU/EEA Directive 2006/126/EC on Driving Licenses, PDFs published in 23 language versions, selectable at eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32006L0126

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 5, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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