National Arms of Greenland

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Heraldry of the World
Civic heraldry of Greenland
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THE NATIONAL ARMS OF GREENLAND

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Official blazon

Origin/meaning

The national arms depict the polar bear, the largest land-based carnivorous animal in Greenland.

The bear is known as the arms for Greenland since the 17th century, when King Frederik III collected the arms of all this territories, which included Greenland. This was surprising, as there were no Danish officials on the island until 1721. The island was inhabited first by Europeans in the year 1000 by Icelandic settlers. These Europeans or Norsemen disappeared in the second half of the 15th century.

From the end of 16th century onwards many European countries sailed to Greenland for whaling, mainly British and Dutch. These countries never tried to built longtime settlements on the island. The Danes started this in the 18th century. The claim of Frederik thus was based on the Norsemen, as Iceland at the time was a Danish possession. The colours are also known since 1666 and have not changed.

Until the Greenlandic Home Rule the bear had his right paw raised, instead of the left paw, which is the normal pose for heraldic animals. The bear is also part of the Danish National Arms, with the right paw raised. But, as Greenlanders have found out by experience, a polar bear normally attacks with his left paw. It is therefore more logical to have the left paw raised.

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The Greenlandic arms from 1958-1985
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The Greenlandic arms from the 1990s with red tongue
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The Greenlandic arms on an (unofficial) coin from 2011


Literature : Achen, S.T. : Danmarks Kommunevåbener. Komma, København, 1982.


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