1. Home
  2.  › 
  3. Denmark
  4.  › 
  5. Copenhagen

Little Mermaid

The bronze landmark of Copenhagen

Numerous anecdotes surround the Little Mermaid in the old harbor of the Danish capital Copenhagen. The bronze figure on a granite rock on Langeliniekai has been sitting there for more than a hundred years and is the most photographed motif for visitors to the metropolis. Every vacationer wants to photograph her, but few know her story.

A fairy tale cast in bronze

The Danish poet Hans Christian Andersen is something like the spiritual father of the pretty figure on the Copenhagen waterfront. And this rather unintentionally, because when he published the fairy tale "Lille Havfrue" in 1837 and told the story of the pretty mermaid who wished nothing more than to emerge from the sea and listen to the chirping of the birds, Andersen could not have imagined that his fantasy would one day be cast in bronze.

A prima ballerina was the model

One day, the fairy tale was turned into a ballet by the composer Fini Henriques, and after a visit to the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, the brewery's scion Carl Jacobsen was so fascinated that he commissioned the little statue that is so famous today. The prima ballerina Ellen Price was the model for the sculptor Edvard Eriksen in the early days of 1910. But the client did not agree with the first design, because the little mermaid was missing the tail of a fish. After lengthy discussions, a compromise was reached - fins were added to the legs.

Resting Pole on the Stormy Sea

In 1911, a clay model finally became the final bronze version, after the sculptor was able to assert himself against the brewer one more time. The client had wanted the figure surrounded by flowers, but Eriksen saw his creation more as a resting pole in front of a stormy sea. In August 1913 the mermaid was placed at the entrance to Copenhagen harbour. During this period, there were sculptures at many points in public parks and along the streets in the Danish capital.

The long journey to Shanghai

The mermaid weighed 175 kilograms at the inauguration. She is 125 centimetres high. In 2010, the figure went on a long journey and became a popular and admired eye-catcher of the Danish pavilion at the Expo in Shanghai. Throughout her history, she has been the victim of targeted attacks. In 1964, she was decapitated and the head was later anonymously given to a television station. She was once missing an arm, painted, and even completely blown off her pedestal in 2003. But the figure at the harbour is only a copy - the original is kept in a secret place.