The Little Mermaid (statue)

Statue of The Little Mermaid in Langelinie

The Little Mermaid (Danish: Den lille Havfrue) is a bronze statue by Edvard Eriksen, depicting a mermaid. The sculpture is displayed on a rock by the waterside at the Langelinie promenade in Copenhagen, Denmark.[lower-alpha 1] It is 1.25 metres (4.1 ft) tall[2] and weighs 175 kilograms (385 lb).[3]

Based on the fairy tale of the same name by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, the small and unimposing statue is a Copenhagen icon and has been a major tourist attraction since 1913. In recent decades it has become a popular target for defacement by vandals and political activists.

Mermaid is among iconic statues that symbolize cities; others include: Manneken Pis in Brussels,[4] the Statue of Liberty in New York and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. In several cases, cities have commissioned statues for such a purpose, such as with Singapore's Merlion.


The statue was commissioned in 1909 by Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of Carlsberg, who had been fascinated by a ballet about the fairytale in Copenhagen's Royal Theatre and asked the ballerina, Ellen Price, to model for the statue. The sculptor Edvard Eriksen created the bronze statue, which was unveiled on August 23, 1913.[5] The statue's head was modelled after Price, but as the ballerina did not agree to model in the nude, the sculptor's wife, Eline Eriksen, was used for the body.[5]

The Copenhagen City Council arranged to move the statue to Shanghai at the Danish Pavilion for the duration of the Expo 2010 (May to October), the first time it had been moved officially from its perch since it was installed almost a century earlier.[3][6] While the statue was away in Shanghai an authorised copy was displayed on a rock in the lake in Copenhagen's nearby Tivoli Gardens.[7] Copenhagen officials have considered moving the statue several meters out into the harbour to discourage vandalism and to prevent tourists from climbing onto it,[8] but as of May 2014 the statue remains on dry land at the water side.


Police technicians examine the damage to the statue after being blasted off its base the day of September 10, 2003.

This statue has been damaged and defaced many times since the mid-1960s for various reasons, but has been restored each time.

On April 24, 1964, the statue's head was sawn off and stolen by politically oriented artists of the Situationist movement, amongst them Jørgen Nash.[1] The head was never recovered and a new head was produced and placed on the statue.[1] On July 22, 1984, the right arm was sawn off and returned two days later by two young men.[1][9] In 1990, an attempt to sever the statue's head left an 18 centimeters (7 in) deep cut in the neck.[1]

On January 6, 1998, the statue was decapitated again;[9][10] the culprits were never found, but the head was returned anonymously to a nearby television station, and reattached on February 4. On the night of September 10, 2003, the statue was knocked off its base with explosives and later found in the harbour's waters. Holes had been blasted in the mermaid's wrist and knee.[11]

In 2004, the statue was draped in a burqa in a protest against Turkey's application to join the European Union.[12] In May 2007, it was again found draped in Muslim dress and a head scarf.[13]

Paint has been poured on the statue several times, including one episode in 1963 and two in March and May 2007.[9][14] On March 8, 2006, a dildo was attached to the statue's hand, green paint was dumped over it, and the date March 8 were written on it. It is suspected that this vandalism was connected with International Women's Day, which is on March 8.[1][8][15]


Aside from the statue on display, which is a replica of the original,[1] thirteen undamaged copies of the statue are located around the world, listed by Mermaids of Earth,[16] including Solvang, California; Kimballton, Iowa;[17] Piatra Neamţ, Romania;[17] Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid), Spain; and a half-sized copy in Calgary, Canada.[18] The grave of Danish-American entertainer Victor Borge includes a copy as well.[17] The Copenhagen Airport also has a replica of the mermaid along with a statue of Andersen.

A copy of the statue forms the Danish contribution to the International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake City. The half-size replica was stolen on February 26, 2010, but was recovered on April 7, evidently abandoned in the park after the thief became nervous about being caught with it.[19]

Girl in a Wetsuit by Elek Imredy, a statue similar to The Little Mermaid, in Vancouver

The statue is under copyright until 2029, which is 70 years after the 1959 death of the creator; therefore several copies of the statue have provoked legal actions.[17] As of 2012, replicas of the statue can be purchased on the internet, authorized for sale by the Eriksen family.[20]

A replica was installed in Greenville, Michigan in 1994 to celebrate the town's Danish heritage,[17] at a cost of $10,000.[17] In 2009 the town was sued by the Artists Rights Society claiming the work violated Eriksen's copyright, and asking for a $3,800 licensing fee.[17] At about 76 cm (30 in) in height, the replica in Greenville is half the size of the original, and has a different face and larger breasts as well as other distinguishing factors.[17] The copyright claim was later reported to have been dropped.[21]

There are similarities between The Little Mermaid statue and the Pania of the Reef statue on the beachfront at Napier in New Zealand, and some similarities in the little mermaid and Pania tales. The statue of a female diver (titled Girl in a Wetsuit by Elek Imredy) in Vancouver, Canada was placed there when, unable to obtain permission to reproduce the Copenhagen statue, Vancouver authorities selected a modern version.[17]


Social Democrat politician Mette Gjerskov tried to post a photo of The Little Mermaid on her Facebook page but was initially told it had "too much bare skin or sexual undertones", and the post was blocked; Facebook later rescinded the ban and approved the image for posting.[22]

See also


  1. According to German magazine Der Spiegel, the statue located in Copenhagen harbour has always been an exact copy, with the sculptor's heirs keeping the original at an undisclosed location.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Kopenhagens Nixe: Alter schützt Meerjungfrau nicht vor Rabauken" [Copenhagen Mermaid: Age does not protect Mermaid against vandals]. Der Spiegel (in German). JOL/Deutsche Presse-Agentur. August 17, 2008. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  2. Little Mermaid Copenhagen - Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  3. 1 2 "Travelling Little Mermaid to resurface in Copenhagen by video". The Independent. Agence France-Presse. April 30, 2010. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  4. Southwick, Albert B. (June 3, 2007). "An imaginative explanation of the boy and the turtle". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  5. 1 2 "The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen Harbor". Copenhagen Pictures. Retrieved August 17, 2008.
  6. "Maid in China". Jyllands-Posten. The Copenhagen Post. September 11, 2008. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  7. "The Little Mermaid statue in Tivoli Gardens in 2010". Mermaids of Earth. November 27, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  8. 1 2 "Denmark may move Little Mermaid". BBC News. March 30, 2006. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  9. 1 2 3 Den Lille Havfrue reddet fra gramsende turister (in Danish). Jyllands-Posten. Published August 1, 2007. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
  10. "Feminists claim responsibility for statue attack". BBC News. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  11. Little Mermaid's unexpected swim, BBC News, September 12, 2003
  12. Darin, Johan (May 20, 2007). ""Den lilla sjöjungfrun" kläddes i burka". Kvällsposten (in Swedish). Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  13. Danish Mermaid Statue Given a Headscarf, Associated Press, May 21, 2007
  14. Little Mermaid statue vandalized. - Yahoo! News. Archived copy from July 12, 2007. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
  15. "Little Mermaid defaced with paint, dildo" Mail & Guardian March 9, 2006.
  16. "Public Art Mermaid Statues & Sculptures around the World". Mermaids of Earth. 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "In a Mermaid Statue, DanTimothy". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. July 27, 2009. Archived from the original on July 27, 2009. Retrieved July 27, 2009.
  18. The Little Mermaid - Downtown Public Art Circuit tour - The City of Calgary. Retrieved February 11, 2012.
  19. Little Mermaid statue found in International Peace Gardens - ABC4 Salt Lake City ( Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  20. "Products and prices". The Little Mermaid. The Partnership of Sculptor Edvard Eriksen's Heirs. Retrieved February 11, 2012.
  21. Claim Against Greenville's "Little Mermaid" Dropped - Fox17 Online. Retrieved May 20, 2012
  22. "Denmark: Facebook blocks Little Mermaid over 'bare skin'". BBC News. January 4, 2015.
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