Why the Danish Little Mermaid is the most long-suffering monument in history

Vandals do not spare the statue of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. On the pedestal of the sculpture, this time they wrote "racist fish". How this is connected with Black Lives Matter remains a mystery.

Perhaps no monument in the world, and even such a one-not connected in any way with politics or ideology, has been subjected to acts of vandalism as many times as the long-suffering Danish Little Mermaid.

Why the Danish Little Mermaid is the most long-suffering monument in history

The monument to the Little Mermaid is one of the most famous symbols of Copenhagen and a popular tourist attraction. The image of the heroine of Andersen's fairy tale was embodied in bronze by the sculptor Edward Eriksen in 1913. Her prototype was Ellen Price, whose ballet part in the production of "The Little Mermaid" so impressed the son of the founder of the Carlsberg brewery that he asked the sculptor to depict the dancer in the image of a sea inhabitant.

Why the Danish Little Mermaid is the most long-suffering monument in history

The bronze Little Mermaid and her prototype — ballerina Ellen Price

The Little Mermaid is a small bronze figure with a height of 125 cm and a weight of 175 kilograms and is located in the port of Copenhagen on a granite pedestal.

Probably, no statue in the world has been disfigured so many times. The bronze Little Mermaid seems to have suffered no less than her fairy-tale prototype. For 50 years, the Little Mermaid sat quietly on her stone and even survived the Second World War and the Fascist occupation of Denmark without any damage. And then it started…

Why the Danish Little Mermaid is the most long-suffering monument in history

On April 24, 1964, residents and guests of Copenhagen were shocked by a terrible sight: a headless Little Mermaid was sitting on a boulder near the Langelinje embankment.

The head of the statue was never found, so we had to create a new one. 

Why the Danish Little Mermaid is the most long-suffering monument in history

The injured Little Mermaid was taken to the workshop of the Royal Theater. Due to the fact that the original plaster model of the statue, made by Edward Eriksen, was preserved, it was possible to cast a new head, although it was quite difficult.

After this act of vandalism, the original plaster model of the Little Mermaid, created by Eriksen, was hidden by the sculptor's heirs in a secret place. Unfortunately, it was useful more than once later.

Why the Danish Little Mermaid is the most long-suffering monument in history

The scandal with the Little Mermaid became a global event: journalists from different countries covered the situation in their publications, thousands of sympathetic letters and money were sent to the mayor's office of the Danish capital to restore the statue. Ironically, this contributed to the further popularization of the Little Mermaid, and a flood of tourists poured into Denmark.

Why the Danish Little Mermaid is the most long-suffering monument in history

In the wake of interest in this topic, journalists contacted Ellen Price, who became the model for the statue. The famous ballerina was already 84 years old at that time, and the photos above are the only ones in which she is depicted with the Little Mermaid. Ellen died 4 years later, in 1968.

33 years after the incident, Jorgen Nash admitted in his book that this act of vandalism was the work of his hands: so the previously convicted "situationist" artist struggled with "obsolete classical art".

But in the fate of the Little Mermaid, Our attack was not the first and, unfortunately, not the last. In 1961, 1963 and 1976, she was doused with red paint, panties and a bra were painted on.

Why the Danish Little Mermaid is the most long-suffering monument in history

In 1984, the long-suffering Little Mermaid lost her right hand, in 1990, her head was almost sawed off.

The second time the Little Mermaid was beheaded in January 1998. The head was then searched for almost a month, and in early February it was anonymously planted at a local TV studio. For a whole month after that, access to the sculpture was closed.

And in 2003, vandals generally staged an explosion near the statue, which caused the Little Mermaid to fly off her stone into the bay, where she was found only two days later.

In 2007, the Copenhagen authorities decided to move the monument further into the harbor to avoid repeated cases of vandalism, as well as to prevent constant attempts by tourists to climb the sculpture. But the water did not stop the vandals either.

Why the Danish Little Mermaid is the most long-suffering monument in history

The painted Little Mermaid in May 2017

Activists have repeatedly used the sculpture for protests – it was doused with paint, twice dressed in a burqa, in early 2020, Free Hong Kong was written on it in red paint.

Why the Danish Little Mermaid is the most long-suffering monument in history

On July 3, 2020, the attackers made an inscription with paint Racist Fish on the stone-base where the sculpture is located.

By mid-2020, activists supporting protests against police brutality and oppression of black people turned against monuments to historical figures who were involved in the "racist" past — the slave trade or colonizing state decisions.

Why the Danish Little Mermaid is the most long-suffering monument in history

In part, the Little Mermaid became part of this discussion when, in 2019, Disney announced plans to shoot a live-action version of its famous 1989 cartoon. The main role was taken by the African-American artist Hallie Bailey.

Each time the monument was restored, and then put in its former place to the delight of tourists and to calm the residents of the city. Already every Dane is convinced that everything will be fine in the country, as long as the Little Mermaid, cast in bronze, sits on her stone unharmed.

Keywords: Europe | Denmark | Sights | Copenhagen | Mermaids | Vandals | Monument

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