The Little Mermaid (statue)

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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.[a] It has a height of 1.25 metres (4.1 ft)[2] and weighs 175 kilograms (385 lb).[3]

Based on the fairy tale of the same name by 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.


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 23 August 1913.[4] 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.[4]

The Copenhagen City Council decided 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 from its perch since it was installed almost a century earlier.[3][5]


Police technicians examine the damage to the statue after it was blasted off its base on 10 September 2003.

This statue has been damaged and defaced many times since the mid-1960s for various reasons, but has each time been restored. In 2006, Copenhagen officials announced that the statue may be moved farther out in the harbour, so as to avoid further vandalism and to prevent tourists from climbing onto it.[6]

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][7] In 1990, an attempt to sever the statue's head left a cut in the neck 18 centimeters (7 in) deep.[1]

On January 6, 1998, the statue was decapitated again;[7][8] the culprits were never found, but the head was returned anonymously to a nearby TV station, and re-attached on February 4. On the night of September 10, 2003, the statue was knocked off its base with explosives and later found in the harbor's waters. Holes were blasted in the mermaid's wrist and knee.[9]

In 2004, she was draped in a burqa as a statement against Turkey joining the European Union.[10] In May 2007, she was again found draped in a Muslim dress and head scarf.[11]

Paint has been poured on the statue several times, including one episode in 1963 and two in March and May 2007.[7][12] On March 8, 2006, a dildo was attached to the statue's hand, green paint was dumped over it, and the words 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][6][13]


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,[14] including Solvang, California; Kimballton, Iowa;[15] Piatra Neamţ, Romania[15] and a half-sized copy in Calgary, Canada.[16] The grave of Danish-American entertainer Victor Borge includes a copy as well.[15]

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 26 February 2010, but was recovered on 7 April, evidently abandoned in the park after the thief became nervous about being caught with it.[17]

Copyright issues[edit]

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

The statue is under copyright until 70 years after the death of the creator, in 1959, therefore several copies of the statue have provoked legal actions.[15] As of 2012, replicas of the statue can be purchased on the internet, authorized for use by the Eriksen family.[18]

A replica was installed in Greenville, Michigan in 1994 to celebrate the town's Danish heritage,[15] costing $10,000.[15] 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.[15] 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.[15] The copyright claim was later reported dropped.[19]

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 woman 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.[15]

Iconic statues[edit]

The Mermaid falls into a category of iconic statues that cities have come to regard as mascots, or as embodiments of the spirit of a place, among these are the Manneken Pis in Brussels.[20] In several cases, cities have commissioned statues for the purpose.


  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. ^ a b c d e f g "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. 17 August 2008. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  2. ^ Little Mermaid Copenhagen - Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Travelling Little Mermaid to resurface in Copenhagen by video". The Independent. Agence France-Presse. 30 April 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen Harbor". Copenhagen Pictures. Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  5. ^ "Maid in China". Jyllands-Posten. The Copenhagen Post. 11 September 2008. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  6. ^ a b "Denmark may move Little Mermaid". BBC News. 30 March 2006. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Den Lille Havfrue reddet fra gramsende turister (in Danish). Jyllands-Posten. Published 1 August 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Feminists claim responsibility for statue attack". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-05-25. 
  9. ^ Little Mermaid's unexpected swim, BBC News, 12 September 2003
  10. ^ Darin, Johan (20 May 2007). ""Den lilla sjöjungfrun" kläddes i burka". Kvällsposten (in Swedish). Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  11. ^ Danish Mermaid Statue Given a Headscarf, Associated Press, 21 May 2007
  12. ^ Little Mermaid statue vandalized. - Yahoo! News. Archived copy from 12 July 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2012.
  13. ^ "The tradition of vandalising the Little Mermaid statue". The Copenhagen Post. March 16, 2006. Retrieved November 18, 2011. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Public Art Mermaid Statues & Sculptures around the World". Mermaids of Earth. 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2013. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i "In a Mermaid Statue, DanTimothy". The Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones & Company). July 27, 2009. Archived from the original on July 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  16. ^ The Little Mermaid - Downtown Public Art Circuit tour - The City of Calgary. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  17. ^ Little Mermaid statue found in International Peace Gardens - ABC4 Salt Lake City ( Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  18. ^ "Products and prices". The Little Mermaid. The Partnership of Sculptor Edvard Eriksen's Heirs. Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  19. ^ Claim Against Greenville's "Little Mermaid" Dropped - Fox17 Online. Retrieved 20 May 2012
  20. ^ Southwick, Albert B. (3 June 2007). "An imaginative explanation of the boy and the turtle". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved 26 August 2013. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°41′34.3″N 12°35′57.4″E / 55.692861°N 12.599278°E / 55.692861; 12.599278