“Went to the Little Mermaid. Spent a lot in Tivoli. Tank game – great!”
Contrary to what the Disney Corporation would like you to think, The Little Mermaid is not a Hollywood creation.
It is instead a fairy tale – first published in 1837 – written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.
Andersen’s poetry and stories have entertained children since 1829 and include classic works such as “The Snow Queen”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “Thumbelina” and “The Little Match Girl”
However, his tale about the mermaid who is willing to give up her mermaid identity to marry a human prince is, perhaps, the best known worldwide thanks to its simple story about love and sacrifice.
The statue in honour of Andersen’s finest moment was commissioned in 1909 by Carl Jacobsen (the son of the founder of Carlsberg Beer!) who had been so fascinated by a ballet based on the fairytale he had seen that he asked the prima ballerina – Ellen Price – to model for the sculptor.
The sculptor was Edvard Eriksen and whilst the head was indeed based on Price’s, the body was not. Price refused to pose nude, so the Little Mermaid’s body is actually that of Eriksen’s wife, Eline.
The statue was placed on a series of rocks in Copenhagen’s harbour – in the area known as Langelinie – and unveiled to the public in the summer of 1913.
Most tourists who see it for the first time say the same thing… “Isn’t it tiny?!!”
It is FAR from an imposing statue. Indeed, without the hordes of visitors crowding around it, it would be very easy to walk straight past it without even noticing it was there.
It is just 1.25 metres high and weighs a mere 175 kg.
In the Little Mermaid’s almost 100 year life as one of Denmark’s most prominent tourist attractions she has been the target of vandalism many times over, most famously in 1964 and 1998 when she was decapitated. She’s also had her right arm sawn off, paint dumped over her many times and was draped in a burka as a political statement.
Most tourists are unaware that the statue displayed in the harbour is actually a copy of the original which is kept in a secret location and owned by the sculptor’s heirs. It is also subject to strict copyright, so much so that when the city of Greenville, Michigan installed a replica to celebrate Danish heritage in the area, the city was sued for a $3800 licensing fee!
As her centenary approaches Copenhagen officials are considering moving the statue further out into the harbour so that tourists will no longer be unable to climb on and possibly damage her further. How this will stop the determined ‘vandals’ and ‘anarchists’ is anybody’s guess?
In other news I can vaguely remember the ‘tank game’ of which I speak, but internet research failed to come up with its name or premise. It was a video arcade game and it involved tanks. Tanks which cost me ‘quite a bit’.