The Little Mermaid (statue)

The Little Mermaid (Danish: Den lille Havfrue) is a bronze statue by Edvard Eriksen, depicting a mermaid becoming human. The sculpture is displayed on a rock by the waterside at the Langelinie promenade in Copenhagen, Denmark.[lower-alpha 1] It is 1.25 metres (4.1 ft) tall[2] and weighs 175 kilograms (385 lb).[3]

The Little Mermaid
Den lille Havfrue
Statue of The Little Mermaid at Langelinie
Location in Copenhagen
LocationCopenhagen, Denmark
DesignerEdvard Eriksen
Opening dateAugust 23, 1913

Based on the fairy tale of the same name by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, the small and unimposing statue is a Copenhagen icon and has been a major tourist attraction since its unveiling in 1913. In recent decades it has become a popular target for defacement by vandals and political activists.

Mermaid is among iconic statues that symbolize cities; others include: Manneken Pis in Brussels,[4] the Statue of Liberty in New York and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. In several cases, cities have commissioned statues for such a purpose, such as with Singapore's Merlion.


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 August 23, 1913.[5] 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.[5]

The Copenhagen City Council arranged 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 officially from its perch since it was installed almost a century earlier.[3][6] While the statue was away in Shanghai an authorised copy was displayed on a rock in the lake in Copenhagen's nearby Tivoli Gardens.[7] Copenhagen officials have considered moving the statue several meters out into the harbour to discourage vandalism and to prevent tourists from climbing onto it,[8] but as of May 2014 the statue remains on dry land at the water side at Langelinie.


This statue has been damaged and defaced many times since the mid-1960s for various reasons, but has been restored each time.

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

On January 6, 1998, the statue was decapitated again;[9][10] the culprits were never found, but the head was returned anonymously to a nearby television station, and reattached on February 4. On the night of September 10, 2003, the statue was knocked off its base with explosives and later found in the harbour's waters. Holes had been blasted in the mermaid's wrist and knee.[11]

In 2004, the statue was draped in a burqa in a protest against Turkey's application to join the European Union.[12] In May 2007, it was again found draped in Muslim dress and a head scarf.[13]

Paint has been poured on the statue several times, including one episode in 1963 and two in March and May 2007.[9][14] On March 8, 2006, a dildo was attached to the statue's hand, green paint was dumped over it, and the date 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][8][15] The statue was found drenched in red paint on May 30, 2017 with the message "Danmark [sic] defend the whales of the Faroe Islands", a reference to whaling in the Faroe Islands (an autonomous country in the Kingdom of Denmark), written on the ground in front of the statue.[16][17] About two weeks later, on June 14, the statue was drenched in blue and white paint. "Befri Abdulle" (Free Abdulle) was written in front of the statue, but it was unclear what this referred to at the time. Later, police said the writing was likely referring to Abdulle Ahmed, a Somalian refugee who has been detained in a high security unit in Denmark since 2001. [18]


Aside from the statue on display, which is a replica of the original,[1] more than thirteen undamaged copies of the statue are located around the world, listed by Mermaids of Earth,[19] including Solvang, California; Kimballton, Iowa;[20] Piatra Neamţ, Romania;[20] Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid), Spain; Seoul, South Korea;[21] and a half-sized copy in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.[22] The grave of Danish-American entertainer Victor Borge includes a copy as well.[20] The Copenhagen Airport also has a replica of the mermaid along with a statue of Andersen.

Some statues similar to The Little Mermaid are In Sicily. The first it placed in 1962 on the seafront in Giardini Naxos, and measures about four meters high over a fountain.[23] A second always portraying a mermaid Post on a depth of sea about 18 meters. Inside the Marine Protected Area of Plemmiro of Siracusa.[24]

A statue of 'The Little Mermaid' looks out over Larvotto beach in Monaco. She was created, in 2000, with layers and layers of metal by Kristian Dahlgard, in hommage to the Danes who live in Monaco and for the late Prince Rainier III to mark the 50th year of his reign.

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 February 26, 2010, but was recovered on April 7 abandoned in the park.[25]

The statue is under copyright until 2029, seventy years after the 1959 death of the creator.[20] As of 2019, replicas can be purchased, authorized for sale by the Eriksen family.[26]

A replica was installed in Greenville, Michigan in 1994 to celebrate the town's Danish heritage,[20] at a cost of $10,000.[20] In 2009 the Artists Rights Society asked the town for a $3,800 licensing fee, claiming the work violated Eriksen's copyright.[20] 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.[20] The copyright claim was later reported to have been dropped.[27]

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 female diver (titled Girl in a Wetsuit by Elek Imredy) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada was commissioned when, unable to obtain permission to reproduce the Copenhagen statue, Vancouver authorities selected a modern version.[20]


Social Democrat politician Mette Gjerskov tried to post a photo of The Little Mermaid on her Facebook page but was initially told it had "too much bare skin or sexual undertones", and the post was blocked; Facebook later rescinded the ban and approved the image for posting.[28]

The sculpture is seen in the following films:[29]

See also


  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. "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. August 17, 2008. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  2. Little Mermaid Copenhagen - Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  3. "Travelling Little Mermaid to resurface in Copenhagen by video". The Independent. Agence France-Presse. April 30, 2010. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  4. Southwick, Albert B. (June 3, 2007). "An imaginative explanation of the boy and the turtle". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  5. "The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen Harbor". Copenhagen Pictures. Archived from the original on November 28, 1999. Retrieved August 17, 2008.
  6. "Maid in China". Jyllands-Posten. The Copenhagen Post. September 11, 2008. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  7. "The Little Mermaid statue in Tivoli Gardens in 2010". Mermaids of Earth. November 27, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
  8. "Denmark may move Little Mermaid". BBC News. March 30, 2006. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  9. Den Lille Havfrue reddet fra gramsende turister (in Danish). Jyllands-Posten. Published August 1, 2007. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
  10. "Feminists claim responsibility for statue attack". BBC News. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  11. Little Mermaid's unexpected swim, BBC News, September 12, 2003
  12. Darin, Johan (May 20, 2007). ""Den lilla sjöjungfrun" kläddes i burka". Kvällsposten (in Swedish). Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  13. Danish Mermaid Statue Given a Headscarf, Associated Press, May 21, 2007
  14. Little Mermaid statue vandalized. - Yahoo! News. Archived copy from July 12, 2007. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
  15. "Little Mermaid defaced with paint, dildo" Mail & Guardian March 9, 2006.
  16. Jenkins, Aric (May 30, 2017). "Little Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen Drenched in Red Paint". Time.
  17. "Denmark's Poor 'Little Mermaid' Vandalized Again". NBC News. May 30, 2017.
  18. "Denmark's Little Mermaid turns blue and white after latest vandalism". The Local. June 14, 2017.
  19. "Public Art Mermaid Statues & Sculptures around the World". Mermaids of Earth. 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  20. "In a Mermaid Statue, DanTimothy". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. July 27, 2009. Archived from the original on July 27, 2009. Retrieved July 27, 2009.
  21. "Little Mermaid's replica statue unveiled in Seoul". Korea Herald. 2016. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  22. The Little Mermaid Archived April 10, 2012, at the Wayback Machine - Downtown Public Art Circuit tour - The City of Calgary. Retrieved February 11, 2012.
  23. "Monumenti: La Sirenetta". Archived from the original on March 14, 2017.
  24. RagusaNews (August 18, 2011). "Visita dei sommozzatori iblei alla statua di una sirena". Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  25. Little Mermaid statue found in International Peace Gardens - ABC4 Salt Lake City ( Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  26. "Products and prices". The Little Mermaid. The Partnership of Sculptor Edvard Eriksen's Heirs. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  27. Claim Against Greenville's "Little Mermaid" Dropped - Fox17 Online. Retrieved May 20, 2012
  28. "Denmark: Facebook blocks Little Mermaid over 'bare skin'". BBC News. January 4, 2015.
  29. "Søllerød Den Lille Havfrue". (in Danish). Retrieved March 16, 2017.
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