About the Statue:
Not far from where we were standing and not far from the whirling gold and black tower sits The Little Mermaid. She was placed on a riverside embankment in 1913 in memoriam of Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish lad who wrote the original The Little Mermaid in 1837 alongside The Emperor’s New Clothes, and published the two stories together in a short compilation. Andersen later went on to write other famous fairytales, many of which have remained bedtime stories for children worldwide nearly two centuries later including The Ugly Duckling and The Princess and the Pea.
The life-size stature is microscopic in scale to her adoration and fame, but is easy to spot from afar as eager fans crowd around, swallowing her in a paparazzi-like field of cameras and tablets. From several hundred meters away, we were able to spot her exact location and my mind was taken back to a present I received for my fourth birthday: A rock.
This wasn’t just any rock. Weighing in at nearly 30 pounds, it was a rock that I barely could lift, roll, or push in order to position it exactly as it should be. It was a rock found in the fields of our new home, and it was a rock sized perfectly for an accompanying gift: a Little Mermaid Barbie dressed in purple plastic seashells and a sparkly turquoise fin. We all know Ariel’s fairytale is not complete without a handsomely dressed prince, so naturally a charming Prince Eric accompanied her as well.
Moments long forgotten played out in my head as we approached the swarm of people and soon found the peaceful bronze maiden gazing into the calm waters she once called home. Her face is turned away from the church steeple I had earlier become so fond of, a figure reminiscent of the glistening palace in Disney’s illustrated depiction of the classic story. Underneath her, a small stack of boulders supports her finless form. Fairytale scenes we know and love can be recreated by squeezing through eager bodies and posing quickly on nearby stones. Yes, I was quick to partake. And yes I chose to wear a turquoise shirt that day to replicate the color of her tail, and because I don’t typically carry purple seashells in my backpack, though hindsight says maybe I should have!
Through the years, The Little Mermaid has dealt with a plethora of difficulties in addition to those she originally had under the sea with the evil villain Ursula. Above water, she’s faced multiple decapitations, an outfit of unwanted paint several times, and in 2013 her entire body was blown off its rocky seat by vandals. Poor Ariel. Still, she manages to sit peacefully for visitors aplenty, and along with icons such as Mannequin Pis and Christ the Redeemer, is an attraction for a slew of sculpture seekers and fairytale lovers.
The Little Mermaid now lives the life she’d once imagined: Her beautiful poised figure glows in the moonlight each night just as the young eager mermaid once dreamed. She’s constantly surrounded by walking, breathing humans, and ships sail past her just as she’d imagined. Nearly two hundred years later, she is part of our world.
When was the last time you read The Little Mermaid? If you’re like me, the story has stuck with you, but a refresher is welcome. When writing this post, I took time off and read Hans Christian Andersen’s original translated version of “Den Lille Havfrue” (The Little Mermaid) and I encourage you to do the same: