Denmark - A Toast
Denmark is a country rich in history. The beginnings go as far back as prehistoric times and have woven the Danish legends and culture throughout the Western world. Very few of us will go through life without having something Danish touch our lives.
The history of the Danes begins so long ago beyond recorded history, but the most famous, or should I say infamous, ancestors of Denmark are the Vikings. Their iconic helmets and furry cloaks along with their battle axes can be seen everywhere in the West from books, to movies, and even the opera. Around 800 A.D. the world began to change at the hands of the Vikings. Their raids along the coast lines of northern Europe caused a ripple effect. No longer could there be the people of other lands go about their daily lives normally. Fear began to reside in hearts as eyes kept watch on the watery horizon for the familiar curved bow of the Viking ships. Because of the courage and daring of Vikings, more lands were discovered such as North America (no, Christopher Columbus was not the first European to see its shores) and cultural influences were spread with the numerous raids.
Today’s Denmark is much different than the one the Vikings were familiar with. It can proudly boast over five million Danes that live within its borders. Beginning in 1523 some of the land Denmark claimed began to be independent. It all started with Sweden becoming its own nation. In 1814 Norway followed with Iceland standing on its own in 1944. As of 1953, Denmark could claim Greenland as part of its nation.
This northern Europe country gives the Danish rolling plains to sit and admire. Its routine flooding adds to the richness of the land. Wheat, potatoes, and barley are the prominent agricultural products that can be found in Denmark. Of its natural resources petroleum, fishing, natural gas, salt, and stone lead the way. These lead to the most popular industries of iron, steel, chemicals, and textiles. Some of the greatest scientific research is conducted in Denmark.
Over the years, the Danes have continued to leave their mark on the world. During World War II, Denmark did something that very few countries did. They approached the war calmly and deliberately sought ways to save the persecuted Jews. When Hitler invaded, the monarchy passively allowed it while keeping their stances on issues hard and strong. Every Jew in Denmark was smuggled out as confusion was created for the Nazi’s. When the Jews were ordered to wear the gold Star of David as a “brand”, the royal family and others in power wore them also. Who were the real Jews? The Nazi’s could not distinguish which gave the Danes the opportunity to save countless lives.
The monarchy of Denmark is a constitutional one. This means that the rulers do not have unlimited power. They are subject to the national constitution and governing bodies. The monarchy line can be traced as far back as the 10th century with the Vikings. Today residing in the capital of Copenhagen is Queen Margrethe II. The royal family has a long and distinguished line of rulers who have left their mark on history. Though the names of the rulers probably do not easily roll off the average person’s tongue, their influence has rippled through history.
Today you can find that the vast majority of Danes claim to be Lutheran, with about two percent following Islam. Though a tourist can walk through Denmark and note the Christian influence, it was not always so. Nordic mythology originated in Denmark and brings to our language the thunder god, Thor. He can be found as topics of video games, business slogans, and in literature. With the mythology of ancient Denmark you can find the ever popular troll. The trolls of Denmark were known for throwing rocks and causing all sorts of trouble. The stories of long ago and the intriguing tales of yesteryear helped to bring to us the most famous Dane that has ever walked the earth – Hans Christian Andersen.
When fairy tales are told, many of them are from the pen of Hans Christian Andersen. His gift of words has given us many of the days of joy during our childhood and if we were honest even our adult lives. The most famous of his tales is the story of the Little Mermaid. Though everyone is familiar with the Disney version, it did not create it. Mr. Andersen penned the original story that was handed down over the centuries before him. The legacy he left behind in his many written works is immortalized in the harbor of Copenhagen with a special monument of the Little Mermaid.
Denmark has not gone through history quietly and does not do so today. Though they might be drowned out by other cultures, their influence is vast and rippling. They continue to influence the arts, science, and archeology. To Denmark we raise our glasses in a salute to their past, their present, and their future.
- Hans Christian Andersen: Danish Popular Legends
- Royalty.nu - The Kingdom of Denmark - Danish Royalty, Kings and Queens of Denmark
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- Enlightenment - The Experience Festival
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