I call her the Danish Mona Lisa. She’s extremely tiny in the scheme of things, is constantly surrounded by hordes of tourists wanting to take their picture with her, has a reputation that’s a bit overblown and yet she’s lovely. I’m of course referring to Den lille havfrue, the Little Mermaid, the most iconic statue in all of Copenhagen and perhaps even Scandinavia.
I’ve always loved the story of the Little Mermaid and as Disney movies go, it also happens to be one of my favorites (it must be a red hair thing). So when it came time to planning my extremely quick visit to the Danish capital I knew that a visit to her was a must even though she’s a bit of a hike from the Nyhvan area.
Via the Internet I’ve encountered plenty of people who made the “obligatory” stop at the statue but then promptly leave, making it seem like it’s the ultimate tourist trap, as in you don’t want to spend a moment more there than you need to. But you know something? I think they’re missing out. I think those people failed to take in the cultural significance of this little statue. So many of the places that are deemed “tourist traps,” have such rich and deep histories (the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona). And Den lille havfrue is no different.
Hans Christian Andersen is Denmark’s most famous writer. He may have died well over 200 years ago but it’s his beloved fairy tales that continue to enchant children worldwide today. Sure, there are various places in Copenhagen where you can walk in his footsteps but what better place to pay homage than at the site of his beloved Den lille havfrue, the mermaid girl who just wanted to be like everyone else.
What about the time the statue was created? It was unveiled in 1913 and the fact a woman modeled in the nude and then such a statue was put on display in public speaks volumes. To have a nude female statue along the Langelinie promenade was a huge deal, especially as Denmark was not Italy or Greece and where nude statues are more common. Although I’m sure at the time of its unveiling plenty of people wanted the statue to disappear, today one can’t imagine Copenhagen without it.
When I finally saw her up close (while mentally pushing into the water all of the people that just had to be posing right alongside her and thus looking obnoxious), I loved admiring her. It’s a simple statue but also one that is quite beautiful in a timeless way. With how she’s positioned it’s almost as if you can see the Little Mermaid being caught between her life under the sea and the life she wants on land.
If you’re hesitant about visiting what you think to be a tourist trap, don’t be. The walk along the water is lovely and the adjacent grounds are also beautiful. A stone’s throw from the statue there are also countless park benches to sit on where you can look out onto the water and also gaze at the Den lille havfrue.
Have you ever visited the Little Mermaid? If not, would you do so on a trip to Copenhagen?