Mermaids are a big part of Copenhagen’s culture. There is, of course, Hans Christian Andersen (known in Denmark simply as HC) and his tale of the Little Mermaid, who was so enamored with a life she had no real connection to, she was willing to sacrifice everything in order to have it.
I never really made the association between the story of the Little Mermaid and migration to foreign lands (bastardized as the story was by Disney, it’s easy to miss the true meaning of it), but Claudia – a woman I met in my Danish language class – did. Claudia wrote and directed a one-woman show inspired by the Little Mermaid. A story of how it feels like to leave everything familiar and move to Denmark, a move most foreigners find challenging. The title of the show is Me-r-Maid and considering how talented she is, I have high hopes for it! I was there for the original performance and I loved it.
The Little Mermaid is not the only mermaid story in Danish folklore. There are plenty more. Also, there is more than one mermaid statue in Copenhagen.
Designed by Edvard Eriksen and created in 1909, the Little Mermaid is Copenhagen’s biggest (smallest) attraction. She always has a bunch of disappointed tourists crowded around her, who mostly complain about how little she is (which part of “little” in the Little Mermaid did you not understand?!). I think she’s adorable, but unfortunately, not everyone does. She’s been decapitated a number of times, her arm has been sawn off and nearly every year she manages to be splashed with paint. To all the vandals out there: pick on someone your own size.
This well-endowed mermaid is known as the Great Mermaid. She’s bigger and heavier than the original. While the Little Mermaid daintily sits on a rock, this mermaid is much more forceful in her demeanor. Designed by Peter Bech, the Cafe owner by which she stands, this mermaid weighs a hefty 14 tons and was chiseled out in a quarry in China.
Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen created this little lady in 1921. Although I love the original Little Mermaid in the harbor, this one is absolutely beautiful and very life-like. She looks like the real deal. I mean, if there were mermaids out there, what would they look like? Like this, I think.
And finally, The Genetically Modified Little Mermaid, unveiled in 2006, is a sick creation by Bjorn Noergaard. If you need an anti-GMO icon, she could be it.
Also, let’s not forget Agnete and the Merman. A reversal of the Little Mermaid, this folktale tells a story of a human girl being lured into the sea by a merman. It’s a reversal and it isn’t. It’s still the woman making the sacrifice to follow the man. Anyways, sorry for the not the best quality photo. Obviously, they live under the sea and aren’t always very well lit.
The statues can be found here:
- The Little Mermaid – off Langeline in the harbor (the exact location is easy to find. Just follow the tour buses)
- The Great Mermaid – in front of the tourist trap known as the Lingelinie Cafe (if you walk north along the harbor, past the Little Mermaid, you will find her)
- Carl-Nielsen’s Mermaid – right next to the Black Diamond (the Copenhagen public library)
- The Genetically Modified Little Mermaid – next to the sculpture park on Pakhuskaj (also in the general vicinity of the Little Mermaid)
- Agnete and the Merman – underneath Højbro, the bridge that’s just in front of the Absalon statue