Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid. Copehagen Harbour, Denmark.

The Little Mermaid statue, Copenhagen, Denmark

Jo Cahill Monuments 6 Comments

The statue of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen Harbour is Denmark’s top tourist attraction, and therefore needs very little introduction. Based on the fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen, in which a mermaid falls in love with a human and chooses to give up her immortality for a chance at love, The Little Mermaid sits patiently on a rock beside the harbour.

The statue was commissioned in 1909, by Carl Jacobsen, son of the Carlsberg brewery founder, after he saw a ballet inspired by the fairytale and became enamoured with the story. He initially asked ballerina, Ellen Price de Plane, to be the model for the statue; however, she declined to pose nude so the statue is based on the sculptor, Edvard Eriksen’s wife, Eline, instead.

Unveiled in August, 1913, the Little Mermaid remained seated in the harbour for 97 years, before she took an international journey to represent Denmark at the World Expo in Shanghai. Even then, the Little Mermaid stayed on her rock, as it was cut away from the surrounding boulders along with the statue, and shipped to China. The decision to remove the statue from the harbour was contentious, but there has also been some discussion of permanently relocating her further out into the harbour to prevent further instances of vandalism.

Despite being a much-loved landmark, the Little Mermaid has twice been decapitated (plus a third attempt), had her arm cut off, and been blasted off her rock with explosives. She has also had paint tipped over her and been defaced in other ways. Each time, however, she is carefully restored to her original bronze glory, making use of the dozen or so approved (or at least tolerated) copies in existence around the world.

Much like the Mona Lisa, it is sometimes observed that the statue is smaller than she seems in pictures (although she is, in fact, slightly larger than life size), and all of the replica statues are smaller still. Eriksen’s directions in his will prevent any larger reproductions from being made.

Physical address: Langelinie Pier, Copenhagen Harbour

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About the Author

Jo Cahill


Jo's love of travel has taken her to far flung countries across the globe, and her love of books has seen her exploring even more distant times and places. Beyond the Lamp Post brings together these two passions, helping readers and travellers to explore the lives of their favourite authors and characters, through the places that inspired them.

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Comments 6

  1. Gorgeous statue! I’ve heard of it before, but it’s interesting to actually learn some of the story behind it. 🙂 it’s hard to believe that there is art like this everywhere and it all has its own stories.

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  2. It really is heartbreaking to know that such a beloved statue has been treated so poorly – and likely for no reason other than because ‘you can’.

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      I think some of the vandalism has been politically motivated, but surely you can make a point by creating something, rather than through destruction and vandalism. It seems senseless, and very sad, that she isn’t just appreciated for the loveliness of the story.

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