Souvenirs from Copenhagen, Denmark
Following the elegantly discrete Scandinavian style, the most iconic symbol of Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, is the seemingly fragile statue of the Little Mermaid, left to rest on a stone near the shore of the Copenhagen Harbor to melancholically gaze at the sea. The statue of the Little Mermaid is a tribute to the legacy of acclaimed Danish author Hans Christian Anderson. His tragic fairy tale bearing the same name tells the famous story of a little mermaid who accepts an unfair bargain with a witch in order to become human and win the love of a prince. The Danish magical land of sailors and sea legends which some believe still lies in the heart of Copenhagen Harbor is the inspiration for Copenhagen’s most famous tourist attraction. Situated in Langelinie, the unimpressively small statue is a graceful reminder of sea fascination and unfulfilled love. The sculpture depicts the mermaid after getting her human legs in a nostalgic pose of sad contemplation. Its fragile profile is now depicted on a resin fridge magnet souvenir available online to all those charmed by her beauty.
Little Mermaid, a Symbol of Grace and Beauty
The statue’s venue is a common place for cruise ships to enter the Harbor of Copenhagen and it’s also close to the Royal Castle of Amalienborg, the colorful old district of Nyhavn and Kongens Nytorv.The sculpture was a donation gift from Carl Jacobsen (the son of the famous brewer Carlsberg) and it was commissioned in 1909. Impressed by the “Little Mermaid’’ ballet staged in Copenhagen (and inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's famous fairy tale), Jacobsen asked sculptor Edvard Eriksen to create a statue which would resemble the Danish ballerina Ellen Price. The statue was completed in 1913 but only its head was finally modeled after the ballerina as the body was actually sculptured after the artist’s wife, Eline Eriksen. The little bronze statue is just 125 cm tall and weighs no more than 175 kg.
A History of Vandalism and Politics
Since the 1960s, the statue was vandalized several times and in 2006, there was an official announcement to move it further into the water so as to make it difficult for tourists to damage the statue. In 1964, the Little Mermaid was beheaded by members of the artistic movement Situationist and a new head was created. In 1984, her arm was cut off but returned some days later and in 1990, there was another attempt to cut her head off. In 1998 and 2003, the statue was once again beheaded and even nearly blown off. The symbol was also used to make unconventional political statements: in 2004, the Little Mermaid was dressed in a burqa as a protest against Turkey’s attempt to join the European Union and it was even painted several times (in 1963 and 2006).
The Little Mermaids around the World
However, in order to protect the precious masterpiece, the statue displayed in Copenhagen is actually the copy of the original one which is kept at a secret location by the Erikson family. The Little Mermaid has also been protected by copyrights and attempts to copy it have ended up in court (a famous example is its copy in Greenville, Michigan created to honor the community’s Danish roots). Every year, on the 23rd of August, the Danish officials celebrate the Little Mermaid’s birthday and in 2010, the Copenhagen Council decided to transport the statue to the Shanghai Expo 2010 as a representative item of Danish culture. It is said that 75% of the tourists who visit Copenhagen choose to see the Little Mermaid.