Submerged Sculpture of Hans Christian Andersen – Odense, Denmark - Atlas Obscura

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Submerged Sculpture of Hans Christian Andersen

After funding was cut for a memorial to the Danish author, the sculptor had his statue ceremonially lowered into the city harbor. 

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Odense is the hometown of Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) and the city has plenty of monuments commemorating the world-renowned fairy tale author. Few of them, though, have been involved in such controversy as the 10-foot (three-meter) bronze figure of Andersen created by local artist Jens Galschiøt.

For five years, the sculpture stood outside the Odense City Hall waiting to become part of The Storyteller’s Well, a planned fountain dedicated to the world of Andersen’s fairy tales. The whole project was, however, literally buried after the city council cut the funding and failed to find a suitable downtown location for the artwork. 

Galschiøt was disappointed, to say the least. On October 8, 2011, as a symbolic protest against bureaucracy, the sculptor arranged a public “burial” for his statue. A brass band played while a horse-drawn carriage transported the €250,000-sculpture from the city center to the harbor, where it was lifted up in the air by a crane before slowly being submerged into the water in front of hundreds of “mourners” devouring free hot dogs and “funeral beer.”

Some locals found the happening disrespectful, while others were pleased that the author of The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling now was physically closer to some of his fairy tale characters.

Half a year later on April 2, 2012, Galschiøt “resurrected” the figure and brought it back to dry land for a combined celebration of Easter and Andersen’s birthday. After, the statue toured Denmark for a while before eventually being sold to a golf club.

This could have been the end to what some call “a modern Hans Christian Andersen story” if it hadn’t been for a final twist: One morning, the sculpture seemed to have returned to its former spot in the harbor basin. It turned out, though, that Galschiøt had installed a reproduction during the night. This substitute statue has resided in the docks without permission for over a decade now.

Know Before You Go

From Odense Central Station, you can reach the sculpture by foot in about 10 minutes. It's located below Odense Havnebad, the public outdoor swimming pool.

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