She has been sitting on that rock for the last hundred years, staring longingly towards the shore. According to the touching fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, the little bronze mermaid, with the far-seeing eyes, swims up to the rock from the bottom of the sea every morning and evening hoping to see her beloved prince.
While she waits, perched on her rocky pedestal, over a million people a year come by to photograph her. Her popularity has made her one of those icons that define or identify a city. The Little Mermaid is now regarded as the embodiment of Copenhagen. So much so the city has been celebrating her birthday for a number of years.
The Little mermaid’s birthday is celebrated on 23 August. For it was on that day, in 1913, sculptor Edvard Eriksen’s creation was unveiled. He was commissioned by brewer Carl Jacobsen who was entranced by the fairy tale character and the ballerina Ellen Price. Ms. Price had danced the character in a performance, at the Royal Danish Theatre, Copenhagen, in 1909.
Since then the little (she is only four feet, one inch tall) lady has been decapitated, had her arm sawed off, paint poured on her and a burqa tied on her face. She was even blown off her pedestal with explosives on the night of 10th September 2003. Each time, though, she has been rescued, repaired and restored.
One of the annual events to mark her birthday has real life ‘mermaids’ jumping into the water and forming the number of her years of existence. It has been done for so long now that it has become a tradition. This year the mermaids will swim around the rock on which she sits to form the number 100.
Besides the swimming mermaids the city of Copenhagen has planned a series of activities for 23rd August 2013. The celebrations include story-telling, about mermaids, by the Blue Planet Aquarium staff; a mermaid concert; birthday songs by the Tivoli Gardens’ Boys Choir; a scene from the Russian musical The Little Mermaid and a dance performance by Selene Munoz of Hans Christian Andersen’ fairy tale. The finale will be a fireworks display.
All the while Den lille havfrue (Danish for The Little Mermaid) will be sitting on her rock at Langelinje Pier. Keeping her lonely vigil and braving the the winds, vandals and tourists.