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The Real Little Mermaid Calls Copenhagen Home

Fact: Captivated by Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Mermaid" story, the founder of Carlsberg Breweries commissioned a statue in Copenhagen Harbour, which was unveiled in 1913.


The most famous mermaid statue in the world sits upon a rock in Denmark’s Copenhagen Harbour, commissioned by Carlsberg Breweries owner Carl Jacobsen and unveiled in 1913. Indeed enamored with the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, The Little Mermaid, Jacobsen chose the mermaid as a symbol to hearten wary travelers entering and leaving busy Copenhagen Harbour.

Sculptor Edvard Eriksen originally intended to model the statue after Copenhagen Royal Theatre ballet dancer Ellen Price, who had recently starred in a production choreographed to the Andersen tale, but Ms. Price refused to model nude for the sculptor. The final statue, based on its realistic, understated feminine proportions, is presumably a very good likeness of the sculptor’s wife, Eline.

The original statue proved so popular in Copenhagen Harbour that multiple full-sized and miniature reproductions were soon created throughout Denmark, and subsequently throughout the world.  Copies of the statue may be found at Carlsberg Breweries and Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark; Utah, Iowa, Michigan, California and Connecticut in the USA; China; Spain; Brazil, Romania; and The Virgin Islands.

This mermaid’s design is uniquely different from the general conception of the single fishtailed siren of popular folklore in that she has twin tails morphing off of very human-like legs and feet, thus creating a fresh vision of “The Mermaid". In the 100 years since Jacobsen and Eriksen unveiled their masterpiece, The Little Mermaid has become a world famous icon, most notably as a result of the 1989 Disney cartoon musical of the same title.

And Disney, as it does, turned what was supposed to be Anderson’s sad story of doomed love, endless heartbreak, and eventual death into the fairytale with a happy ending that we have grown up loving.

Which characters in books or movies from your childhood are native to your country? Find out about more than just fairytales from Denmark in our True or False Danish Video!