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The Little Mermaid, as everyone knows, is a 1989 Disney movie about a teenaged mermaid named Ariel with red hair and a dynamite singing voice (underwater, no less!), who falls in love with an air-breathing human Prince. She’s transformed into a human by an evil sea witch who says she has to get the Prince to fall in love with her within a certain amount of time, or else she’ll be turned into some kind of wretched plant thing that gets rooted in the witch’s garden for eternity. But the witch takes the mermaid’s voice away so she can’t win over the Prince with her golden vocal cords, or even communicate with him very well. Hijinks ensue, and the mermaid can’t quite pull off the task of getting the Prince to kiss her in time (due largely to the witch’s interference), but the Prince comes to his senses and saves the day, and everyone lives happily ever after, except the bad guys, who all die horribly. The end.

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid
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Possibly the best-known landmark of Copenhagen (and maybe of Denmark) is a statue of this very same mermaid, a bronze that has perched atop a large rock at the edge of Copenhagen’s harbor since 1913. Those of you who can compare numbers will have noted by now that 1913 < 1989, and may be suspiciously wondering how a sculpture can be created that’s based on a movie that was released 76 years later. The answer, of course, is that it’s not based on the movie at all. It’s based on a story created by Danish writer (and occasional creator of children’s stories) Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote a fairy tale called The Little Mermaid in 1836.

Those familiar with the ways of Hollywood will not be surprised to hear that there are many differences between the story and the movie. The most obvious difference is Andersen’s complete lack of production numbers. But there are more subtle differences as well. In the story, the young mermaid does not have a name; nor do any of the other characters. There is no mention of any friends she might have, other than her sisters, so those hoping to learn more about Sebastian and Flounder will be disappointed to find they have not been invented yet. The sea witch is not a gigantic blue octopus-woman, but is instead just an older and more unpleasant mermaid. She does silence the mermaid’s singing voice, but through less-than-magical means – she cuts her tongue out. The biggest difference, though, is the ending. The Prince gets to know the former mermaid and develops great affection for her, but he marries someone else. No one horrible and sinister – just somebody else. This is supposed to trigger the dissolution of the mermaid into a clump of sea-foam, but when she is given a chance to regain her mermaidhood by killing the Prince, she instead throws the knife away, and this act of self-sacrifice gains the attention of the "daughters of the air", who claim her for themselves. The daughters of the air are a merry band that floats around the world doing good deeds, and after doing them for 300 years they gain immortal souls, to which mermaids are not normally entitled. So the mermaid loses the Prince, but gains a shot at an immortal soul. The end. Probably not the ending modern faily tale aficionados would expect.

The Little Mermaid statue is located a few feet out to sea from the shore of Langelinie Park, north of the Amalienborg area. Getting there via public transport takes a little doing, as the bus doesn’t quite go there. One must get off and take a walk to find the statue. But Langelinie Park is a pleasant place for a walk – in addition to the shore, there is water in the form of a moat surrounding a 17th Century star-shaped fortress known as the Kastellet. We didn’t get a chance to visit the Kastellet, but we walked most of the way around it. To its south is a picturesque 1887 church called St. Alban’s Church, which is affiliated with the Church of England.


Nella and St. Alban's Church

Nella and St. Alban's Church
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Near the church is a fountain which is the largest monument in Copenhagen, the Gefion Fountain. The fountain depicts the Norse goddess Gefjun, driving a plow with four large oxen. According to the story, Gefjun has been promised as much territory in Sweden as she can plow in one night, so she turns her four sons into oxen and sets to work. She and the oxen plow a great hole, throwing the extra dirt into the sea. The hole becomes a large Swedish lake, and the discarded dirt becomes the island of Zealand, home to Copenhagen and the Gefion Fountain. The fountain was created by a Danish sculptor named Anders Bundgaard, who completed it in 1908. It was donated to the city by the Carlsberg Foundation.

Bob and Connie with Gefion Fountain
Bob and Connie with Gefion Fountain
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Gefjun and Oxen
Gefjun and Oxen
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Continuing northward through the park, we passed the Ivar Huitfeldt Column, a monument to Admiral Ivar Huitfeldt, who died in 1710. It seems Admiral Huitfeldt was involved in a sea battle against the Swedes, when his ship caught fire. Rather than abandoning ship, he continued the fight until the flames reached the ship’s powder magazine, causing the ship to be blown to bits, along with the Admiral and his 497 crewmen. The ship’s anchor and some of its guns were later recovered, and have been incorporated into the monument, which was built in 1886 following a competition sponsored by Carl Jacobsen of the Carlsberg brewery. The competition was won by an architect named Vilhelm Dahlerup.

Connie and Bob and Ivar Huitfeldt Column

Connie and Bob and Ivar Huitfeldt Column
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Finally we reached the object of our search, the Little Mermaid statue. The statue was completed in 1913 by the sculptor Edvard Eriksen, when it was unveiled atop its rock. The statue was commissioned by Carl Jacobsen (would there be any art in Copenhagen without this guy?).

Little Mermaid and Tourists
Little Mermaid and Tourists
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Little Mermaid and Tourist Boat
Little Mermaid and Tourist Boat
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At just over four feet tall it’s a fairly unassuming statue which depicts the mermaid gazing longingly leftward, presumably toward human activity or creations, or possibly toward her Prince. One would think the friendly Danish people would sympathize with her plight and treat the statue with affection and respect. But one would be wrong. Over the decades the statue has been painted several times, covered in a burqa, dismembered, decapitated (twice, plus an additional partially successful attempt) and blasted from its base with explosives. But considering all she’s been through, she doesn’t look half bad. And lest you fear for her well-being, it’s been revealed that the statue in the harbor is not the original bronze – the original is apparently kept in an undisclosed location by the heirs of the sculptor.

Mermaid, Nella and Connie

Mermaid, Nella and Connie
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Connie and Mermaid
Connie and Mermaid
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Bob and Mermaid
Bob and Mermaid
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From the mermaid we went looking for a bus we could take back to the hotel, as we were more than ready to take a break. We continued around the Kastellet and eventually found a main thoroughfare, where we located a bus stop after a short search. The map given us at the hotel desk had bus routes on it, so we were able to figure out how to get back to the Savoy.

Jesus Sacred Heart Church from Hotel

Jesus Sacred Heart Church from Hotel
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We rested at the hotel for a couple of hours and found some dinner, and then decided to explore a little bit. We set out toward a long, well-known shopping street called the Strøget (somehow pronounced "stroyuh"), passing through a large square adjacent to the city hall.

The Palace Hotel

The Palace Hotel, Next to City Hall
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The square was filled with people who were mostly looking at a small stage on which someone was standing and saying something in Danish. It took us a minute, but we figured out there was some sort of gay pride thing going on.

Stage and Attendees
Stage and Attendees
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Party Time
Party Time
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With neither the Danish thing nor the gay thing quite computing, we continued on to the Strøget, which began at the far side of the square.

The Strøget

The Strøget
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The Strøget is billed as the longest pedestrianized shopping street in Europe. We walked the full distance, but didn’t buy anything. For one thing, everything we saw was pretty expensive, and for another, many of the stores were already closed for the day. We did find more of those elephants though.

Royal Copenhagen Store
Royal Copenhagen Store
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Bob and Connie and Censor Elephant
Bob and Connie and "Censor" Elephant
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Høibrohus and Nikolaj Church Tower
Høibrohus and Nikolaj Church Tower
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Christiansborg Palace
Strøget's End: Christiansborg Palace
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On our arrival at the far end of the Strøget, we didn’t much feel like walking back, so we found a bus stop and let our Copenhagen Cards take us back to the hotel. Then we rested up for the following day, when we were planning an excursion to the National Art Museum.

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