A tragic love story
The Little Mermaid tells the sad story of a young mermaid who saves a prince from drowning at sea during a storm. She falls madly in love with him and wants to trade the ocean for dry land. To find her prince, she gives up her voice in exchange for a pair of legs. She has 3 days to receive his passionate kiss so she can transform into a human being. If she fails to be kissed, she will turn into sea foam. The prince is captivated by her appearance but fails to recognize her - he only remembers being saved by a girl with a magical voice. Eventually he marries someone else. Broken hearted, the Little Mermaid throws herself off a cliff and turns into sea foam.
The statue has a rich history
One mermaid, two models
Jacobsen was keen to have Danish prima ballerina Ellen Price be the model for the sculpture but she refused to pose nude. Eventually the body of the Little Mermaid was modelled after Eriksen’s wife and Price lent her face to the sculpture’s head. The 1.25-metre sculpture was unveiled in August of 1913 and fit in with Copenhagen’s trend at the time of decorating the city’s parks and streets with sculptures of classic and historic figures.
The Mermaid has been beheaded several times
Beheaded and copied
It takes away some of the magic, but the statue in the harbour is actually a copy. The original is stored in an undisclosed location by Eriksen’s heirs. And that is probably a good thing. Through the years, the little mermaid has been damaged several times and has even been beheaded - in 1964, politically engaged artists of the Situationist movement decapitated the statue. Her head was reattached but went missing again in 1998. Like in a real crime story, the head was later returned anonymously to a local TV station.