Copenhagen Denmark Local Stories

The Little Mermaid: the story of Copenhagen’s most iconic statue

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen is nowadays not only the city’s most famous statue but also one of Denmark’s landmarks. If you ever received a postcard from Copenhagen (oh, how I loved those times when people still used to send real postcards and not only a picture on Instagram), or if you open any Copenhagen travel guide, you will find it there: the granite and bronze statue looking melancholically to the shore.

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Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale

Hans Christian Andersen wrote The Little Mermaid in 1836 – it was the story of a mermaid who saves a beautiful prince from drowning, and, to be with him, he gave up her voice and her mermaid’s tail. The original version of “The Little Mermaid” doesn’t have a happy ending, as the Disney version has: the mermaid never gets her prince and instead turns into cold sea foam. 

A fairy tale, a ballerina and a sculptor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1909, Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of Carlsberg, attended “The Little Mermaid” ballet performance, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, and fell in love with this story, so he commissioned the sculptor Edvard Eriksen to create a sculpture that would illustrate the mermaid, with the ballerina Ellen Price, as a model.

But since Ellen Price didn’t agree to model nude, the sculptor asked his wife, Eline Eriksen, to pose for the Little Mermaid, and only the statue’s head was sculpted after the famous ballerina. On August 23, 1913, the Little Mermaid statue was unveiled to the public and ever since it remained a symbol of the city.

Little Mermaid facts

The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen is actually a replica of the original, which is kept by the sculptor’s heritors at an unknown location.

In 2013, Little Mermaid statue turned 100 years, and its centenary was celebrated in Copenhagen and all over the world.

Despite its impressive fame, the statue is relatively small – only 1.25 meters high.

Throughout the years, the statue has become the victim of many vandalism acts. The head was stolen in 1964 and 1998; one of the arms was taken off in 1984. In 2003, was knocked off with explosives and then recovered from the harbor’s waters.

In 2010, Little Mermaid statue was moved to Shangai, China, to be exposed at Denmark’s Pavilion at World Expo 2010. While the original statue was overseas, a copy of the Little Mermaid was displayed at Tivoli Gardens.

Several copies of the statue are located all over the world, including the United States, Spain, Romania, South Korea, Canada, and Monaco.

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