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The Little Mermaid - Leading Landmarks
2815    Dibyendu Banerjee    17/06/2018

Carl Jacobsen, a local brewer, residing in the City of Copenhagen, was deeply moved and fascinated by a ballet performance, ‘The Little Mermaid’ at the Copenhagen Royal Theatre. The ballet was based on a fairy tale of the same name by the Danish author Hans Christian Anderson. The story is all about a mermaid, who sacrificed everything in her life to be united with a young, handsome prince of the land. Every day, in the morning and the evening, she used to come out from the bottom of the sea to swim on the surface, perched on her rock in the water and stare longingly towards the shore with the faint hope to catch a glimpse of her beloved, the handsome prince.

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Carl Jacobsen was so deeply moved and profoundly captivated by the story and the performance of the ballet that he commissioned the sculptor Edvard Eriksen in January 1909, to create a sculpture of the mermaid. He also requested the star ballerina, Ellen Price, who played the lead role in the ballet, to be the model for the statue. However, as the ballerina did not agree to model in the nude, the sculpture’s wife, Eline Eriksen, who modeled for several other works of her husband, agreed to pose for the sculpture of the Little Mermaid. Sometimes it is said that, the ballerina Price modeled for the face of the statue, while Eline Eriksen was used for the body. But, that is not true as Eline Eriksen was the model for the entire sculpture, which is evident from the photographs of Eline.

The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid

Since its unveiling on 23 August 1913, The Little Mermaid, a gift from the Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen to the City of Copenhagen, has been a major tourist attraction in the City. The 4.1 feet (1.25 m) tall lounging bronze mermaid, atop its water-locked rock at the Langelinie promenade in Copenhagen, stares wistfully into the distance and is frozen forever in a look of pensive dejection. Like the Statue of Liberty in New York or Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, the twin tailed Little Mermaid is an iconic statue that symbolizes the city of Copenhagen.

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Since the mid-1960s the Little Mermaid has been damaged and defaced many times, but has been religiously restored each time. On 24 April 1964, the head of the statue head was sawn off in surgical precision by a politically motivated group. The head was never recovered and a new head was grafted onto the body. On 22 July 1984, the right arm of the statue was sawn off, which was recovered later. Another attempt of decapitation attempt in 1990 left a wide gash in the figure’s neck. The head of the mermaid was stolen again on 6 January 1998. The culprits were never identified, but the head of the statue was returned anonymously to a nearby television station, and reattached on February 4. Finally, on the night of September 10, 2003, some miscreants used explosives to knock off the mermaid from its base. The statue was later found in the water of the harbour, but the blast created holes in the mermaid's wrist and knee.

The Little Mermaid

From time to time the Little Mermaid also became the soft target of different motivated communities. In a protest against Turkey’s intention to join the European Union, it was draped in a burqa in 2004. It was again found draped in a Muslim dress complete with a hijab, a head scarf, in the month of May 2007. Apart from that, several times the helpless mermaid was drenched with paints. On 8th March 2006, a dildo was found attached to the statue’s hand, with green paint dumped over it with the date ‘March 8’ written on it. It was suspected that the vandalism was somehow connected with the International Women’s Day, which is coincides on the same date. On 30 May 2017, the statue was found bathed in red paint, with a message: ‘Danmark defend the whales of the Faroe Islands’, written on the ground in front of the statue. On 14th June, within 15 days of the above incident, the statue was found painted in blue and white. Though in front of the statue ‘Befri Abdulle’ (Free Abdulle) was written, it was not sufficient to provide a clue to find out the group connected to the action.

The Little Mermaid
Red paint covers the Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaild painted in blue and white

During the Expo 2010, almost a century after its installation, the Little Mermaid was officially moved for the first time from its perch to Shanghai, when the Copenhagen City Council arranged to exhibit the statue at the Danish Pavilion. While the statue was away, an authorised copy was displayed on a rock in the lake in Copenhagen's nearby Tivoli Gardens. To discourage vandalism and to prevent tourists from climbing onto the statue, Copenhagen officials have often considered moving the statue several meters out into the harbour. But, the Little Mermaid still remains on dry land at the water side at Langelinie.

The centenary of the Little Mermaid was celebrated on August 23 2013 in the city of Copenhagen, as well as around the world.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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