The Little Mermaid is the smallest attraction in Copenhagen. It is only four feet tall and she sits by the shore of the “Langelinie” cruise harbor in the old port district of Nyhavn, which is a short walk to the main pier and other tourist spots in Copenhagen.
Who wrote the original story of the Little Mermaid?
We are all familiar with the Disney movie the Little Mermaid, which was based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story which he wrote in 1836.
It is the story of a 15 year old Little Mermaid who saves the life of a shipwrecked prince and sets off on a perilous quest to win his love. The price she pays is dear: To become human she must give up her lovely voice as well as her mermaid’s tail, and if the prince should wed another, she will turn into foam on the waves and disappear forever. The Disney version has a happy ending of course, but the real story ends tragically when the little mermaid no longer gets her prince and she transforms into cold sea foam. You will recognize a sad, melancholic look on the face of the statue…
The sculpture pictures her as she sits and looks out over the water reminiscing her lost mermaid past.
Read on the complete Little Mermaid story by H.C Andersen
Why is there a Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen
It was in 1909 that the founder of Carlsberg beer, Carl Jacobsen attended Hans Beck’s and Fini Henrique’s ballet ‘The Little Mermaid’ which was based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. He was so impressed that he asked Edvard Eriksen, a Danish sculptor to create a sculpture of the Little Mermaid.
Edvard Eriksen unveiled it to the public four years after in August 1913. It was unveiled at the harbor as a part of the city’s initiative to decorate parks and public areas with classical and historic figures. Since then that specific date, August 23 (in the year 1913) was commemorated as the mermaid’s birthday.
To this day, the Little Mermaid Copenhagen is the most famous tourist attraction in Denmark. It is also one of the most photographed statues in the world. As one of the distinct landmarks of Copenhagen, this statue has become popular among tourists worldwide that when they finally set foot in the Danish capital one of their must-see spots is the mermaid sculpture.
Little Mermaid facts
- The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen is a copy; the sculptor’s heirs keep the original at an undisclosed location. So what you see in Copenhagen is already a copy. But it’s a legitimate copy, of course.
- There are similarities between the Little Mermaid statue and the Pania of the Reef statue on the beachfront at Napier in New Zealand. Pania of the Reef is a figure of Maori mythology.
- In 1961, bra & knickers were painted on her, and her hair was ‘dyed’ red.
- The Little Mermaid character is taken from the fairy tale by Danish author and poet Hans Christian Andersen.
- The Little Mermaid is only 1.25 metres high
Did you know that?
And here’s a trivia. Did you know that two women were made as model to create this Little Mermaid statue? The head was modeled after prima ballerina Ellen Price. But the body was modeled after the sculptor’s wife Eline Eriksen. The reason was that Price did not agree to model in the nude.
Copenhagen Little Mermaid tickets
The Little Mermaid statue is free to access. You can have a walk on the Langelinie road along the sea. But if you want to learn more about the Mermaid story, you can join a canal boat tour. You’ll have a lot of interesting comments with an English audioguide.
Little Mermaid Copenhagen 100th Birthday
The Little Mermaid may be small in stature, but it sure makes up for it in popularity and age.
In 2013, the Little Mermaid Copenhagen celebrated it centenary around the World
With the Little Mermaid celebrating her 100th birthday on August 23rd of 2013, the Langelinie promenade in Copenhagen was jam-packed with locals and tourists alike turning up to commemorate the world-renowned statues big day. Of course, the Little Mermaid was her beautiful but stoic self, posing gamely for cameras as people snapped away for proof that they were there with for the historic day.
Copenhagen, however, was not along in celebrating the Little Mermaid’s birthday, with reports of Hans Christian Andersen heroine being honoured around the world in major cities such as Rome, Sydney, Paris, London, and Tokyo by women clad in costumes. This is proof that Lars Bernhard Jørgensen, managing director of city tourism bureau of Copenhagen, was right in saying that
“The Little Mermaid may be a small artifact compared to other great historical monuments around the world, but she captures both history and fairytale, which causes quite a stir outside of the borders of Denmark.”
Those who didn’t manage to come to Copenhagen for the famous statues birthday, or simply didn’t wish to compete with the crush of visitors and partygoers that day can, of course, always stop by anytime at the Copenhagen Harbour for a quick photo shoot.
Little Mermaid Copenhagen visited China
Some 70 million people were expected to attend the World Exhibition in China in 2010. At least 3 million of them were expected to visit the Denmark pavilion.
When the plan to send the statue to China emerged the year before, it created a heated debate in Denmark. Some politicians have said six months was too long for one of Copenhagen’s landmarks to be away from the Scandinavian country.
Meanwhile in the place of the Little Mermaid statue
If you think it’s only people who travel to other countries, you are totally right. Lucky for Denmark’s famous Little Mermaid statue, it’s making the rounds of various nations.
The world renowned sculpture that made Denmark’s capital of Copenhagen well known was sent to Shanghai in China few years ago. The Little Mermaid statue graced the World Expo scheduled to take place in April 2010 and was brought to Shanghai by the Denmark Pavilion’s designer.
While the statue was abroad, its specific location at the Copenhagen harbor welcomed an installation from a Chinese artist. This move was seen as a positive development towards establishing a closer and more productive Denmark-Shanghai relationship.
The Little Mermaid statue has been placed in the center of a basin with water from the Copenhagen Harbour itself during the exhibition at the World Expo in Shanghai. The design concept is courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group which won in an earlier competition on how Denmark should be best presented at the Expo.
Little Mermaid anecdote
At this period, a replica of the Little Mermaid in a community in Western Michigan that has been the subject of a claim was finally free to stay there. The estate of Edvard Eriksen who was behind the original Little Mermaid sculpture apparently lodged a trans-Atlantic copyright claim earlier but has decided to drop it. The replica statue in the U.S. town of Greenville is only about 30 inches in height while the original at Langelinie in Copenhagen stands at five feet tall.
No more Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen?
So what does this mean then? No mermaid at all in Copenhagen? Not really.
Fortunately, tourists and local residents will still get to see their favorite Danish sculpture in the city. The good news is that the heirs of the famous Little Mermaid sculptor Edvard Eriksen has been lending their personal replica of the statue to the Tivoli Gardens during the event time. This authentic copy of the mermaid has been displayed at the Tivoli Gardens lake from April to the autumn holiday break 2010. It’s usually during these months that the Tivoli Gardens amusement park is closed to the general public.