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Visiting the 'Little Mermaid' Statue, Heads and Tales

by Keith Gatling | 4 years ago

The year was 1976, and about 60 of us from SU’s Hendricks Chapel Choir had arrived in Copenhagen to begin a four-week concert tour of Europe. And where was one of the first places we went after we checked into our hotel and had lunch? You guessed it, to see the statue of The Little Mermaid.

This was a good 13 years before the Disney movie made her really famous, but we all knew about her, even if we didn’t know the very strange story by Denmark’s favorite son, Hans Christian Andersen; and so we all had to go have our pictures taken with the original statue.

Or was it?

The statue was commissioned in 1909 by Carl Jacobsen of the Carlsberg beer family, after he’d seen a production of the ballet; and was unveiled in 1913. The sculpture is based on two people. The head is based on Ellen Price, who played the nameless mermaid in the ballet, but since she refused to pose nude, the body is based on Eline Eriksen, wife of the sculptor.

But the question whether or not we saw the original statue. And the answer is “mostly”...we think.

The statue has been the victim of numerous instances of vandalism. The first case was in 1964, when the head was sawed off and stolen. It was never found, and a new one was cast and placed on the statue. So when we saw it in 1976, we saw a mostly original Little Mermaid.

Another incident of vandalism happened in 1984, when the right arm was sawed off by two young men. It was returned several days later. Since then it has suffered even more Incidents of vandalism, including one time when it was actually blasted from its base and blown into the water.

So...after all this, is the statue sitting there perched on its rock still the original? Well, according to the German magazine Der Speigel, it never was...not even the one we saw back in 1976. They say it has always been a reproduction, and the original, as well as the casts for it, are hidden in a very secret place.

But whether it’s the actual original of another reproduction from the original casts, it’s still one of Copenhagen’s biggest tourist attractions.