Installed in 1913, The Little Mermaid basks leisurely atop its water-locked rock as the symbol of the city of Copenhagen. But notoriety has led to the figure’s head being removed a number of times in protest.
Inspired by a ballet performance of the classic folktale, the piece was originally commissioned by the son of a local beer magnate and has now been gracing the waters off of Copenhagen for more than a century. The lounging figure stares wistfully into the distance, features forever frozen in a look of sadness, perhaps due to the constant threat of decapitation the mermaid has faced since her inception.
As the piece became a popular tourist attraction, it soon became an unofficial mascot for the entire city. With this attention came a number of protests and random acts of vandalism to befall the statue. The mermaid’s head was first stolen in 1964 by political dissidents, and was never recovered. A new head was grafted onto the body, but then the statue’s arm was taken off in 1984. The arm was later recovered, but then another decapitation attempt in 1990 left a wide gash in the figure’s neck. In 1998 the head was once again stolen— but this time recovered— and finally, in 2003, the entire statue was blown off its rock with explosives. This little mermaid simply can’t seem to catch a break.
Today the statue has been restored and still draws countless admirers each year. Yet it seems like only a matter of time before the mythical maid is imperiled once again.