Danish mermaid turns 100 years old

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 9:44 am on Friday, August 23, 2013

“The Little Mermaid,” a statue that was created by Edvard Eriksen and has been on display in the harbor of Copenhagen, Denmark, since 1913.


Lakeview artist Steve Willison created a replica of “The Little Mermaid” statue (inset photo) and gifted it to the city of Greenville in 1994.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Danish cousin of Greenville’s mermaid statue is celebrating her 100th birthday today.

Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen created the “Little Mermaid” statue in 1913 as a tribute to Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. Sitting at the harbor of Copenhagen, Denmark, the statue draws an estimated 1.5 million visitors a year. The statue has become an icon and symbol of

Denmark and has been copied and installed in 13 other locations across the world, including China, Brazil, Romania, the Virgin Islands, Spain and multiple locations in the United States, including Greenville.

Greenville’s bronze “Little Mermaid” was created by Lakeview artist Steve Willison and was given to the city in 1994 as a gift from the Danish Festival Board. Part of a citywide collection of statues that portray Hans Christian Andersen fairytales, the mermaid sits about 30 inches tall and is bolted to a rock along the Flat River.

The Danes are enjoying a week of celebrations this week in honor of the mermaid’s birthday. And just in time for the historic birthday, a new book has been released in honor of the mermaid.

A commemorative edition of “The Little Mermaid” by Philip Jepsen contains illustrations and color photographs of replicas of the mermaid statue across the world — information that has not been available in one place until now.

Like most Danes, Jepsen knew the story of “The Little Mermaid” from an early age. Mermaids captured his attention again during a trip that brought him face to face with a replica of mermaid statue in Kimballton, a small town in Iowa largely settled by Danish immigrants. Jepsen started

Mermaids of Earth (MermaidsOfEarth.com), which publishes details on each of the many public art mermaid statues across the world.

Jepsen’s book provides an exact translation into contemporary English directly from the original 1837 Danish story by Hans Christian Andersen. It also includes historical information and photos of the original author and illustrator, the statue’s sponsor, sculptor and model.

The book is available for purchase through FriesenPress bookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and most book retailers. The eBook is available on Kindle, Kobo and Nook.

Greenville’s mermaid statue was the center of some controversy in summer 2009.

City officials were notified that officials from Eriksen’s estate believed that Greenville’s statue was illegal and should be removed. According to the

Artists Rights Society in New York City, permission had not been granted to create Greenville’s replica of the famous statue.

Happily, the Artists Rights Society and Eriksen’s estate decided to withdraw the claim after the issue received a great deal of media attention throughout the summer.

According to Greenville City Manager George Bosanic, the city was inundated with an outpouring of support to “save the mermaid.” Checks arrived from as far away as Florida and offers to donate mermaid pins to raise money were some of the unexpected offerings.

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