Do You Know that the Little Mermaid Statue was Modelled After Two Women?

It was not straight out of a fairy tale like the subject herself but the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark was indeed modelled after two women. Really? Why?

The Little Mermaid statue

Tourists seeing the sculpture for the first time would have mixed reactions. Some would be enthralled that they have laid their eyes upon Copenhagen’s most photographed icon. Others would seem unimpressed as if their expectations have been short-changed. “Is that all there to it?” they would ask. Love her or not and regardless of people’s reactions or viewpoints, there is a moving and tragic story behind this forlorn looking mermaid.

Hans Christian AndersenFirst of all, The Little Mermaid was a product of Hans Christian Andersen’s imagination, Denmark’s most prolific story-teller. The young mermaid lives under the sea with her five sisters. She rescued a prince from a sinking ship and fell in love with him. After being seduced by an evil witch, she gave up her voice in favour of having legs so she can be with her prince ashore. However, the mermaid will die should the prince marries another woman.

As fate would have it, the prince was forced to marry a princess from a different kingdom. Before the wedding, the mermaid’s sisters offer her a knife so she can kill the prince and she can go back to the waters. The mermaid did not stab her prince, the wedding took place and she died. She sacrificed her life. The poor mermaid chose martyrdom over revenge – what a selfless and remarkable character!

Mr. Carl Jacobsen, Carlsberg brewery’s head was so moved and enchanted after seeing the ballet version of The Little Mermaid. He commissioned the sculptor Edvard Eriksen to make a statue of the mermaid.

Edvard Eriksen

Edvard Eriksen (Photo credit:

Nothing beats this undertaking by having a top model for the sculpture, no less than the prima ballerina named Ellen Price who played the heroine. However, she refused to model in the nude but allowed her head to be part of the sculpture.


Ellen Price (Photo credit:

Eriksen was in a predicament. He cannot do justice for the mermaid’s statue in a head bust only. It has to be the face and the whole body or he doesn’t have a mermaid! Lady luck smiled at him as his lady and wife, Eline willingly obliged to model for the statue’s body.

Eline Eriksen

Eline Eriksen (Photo credit:

The bronze statue found a home on a rock by the waterfront in Langelinie harbour in 1913 and since then has become a symbol for Copenhagen.


Photo credit:

So there you go, two women in one sculpture – Ellen and Eline. Amaze your friends on the statue’s behind the scene story and I am sure they would be impressed as much as I was.

24 thoughts on “Do You Know that the Little Mermaid Statue was Modelled After Two Women?

  1. Gracie

    This is very interesting! I will be travelling to Denmark and Norway in the near future to meet my friends and they’ve told me about this lovely mermaid statue!

    1. Ash Post author

      Very interesting story indeed, Gracie! I’m sure you would appreciate seeing the statue more after learning about it’s story instead of seeing it as a mere piece of sculpture. Enjoy your future travels!

    1. Ash Post author

      Now you can share about the Little Mermaid’s history to your friends and I guess they will be equally fascinated as you. Thanks for dropping by!

  2. Rhiannon

    Okay so I had no idea of the original Little Mermaid story!! So much more tragic (and kind of morbid!) than Disney! Thanks for sharing the history behind it; lucky thing Eriksen had what sounds like a pretty laid back wife to model for him.

  3. Only By Land

    That’s one of the best pics I’ve seen of the mermaid, I didn’t realize boat tours visited it too. That is such an interesting history of the Mermaid, I didn’t know Carl Jacobsen of Carlsberg was involved. Putting a woman’s head on another woman’s body, how interesting!

    1. Ash Post author

      Thanks! Copenhagen’s attractions including the statue can be seen from a different angle through a cruise of the city’s canals and harbours by boat. Interesting stories indeed of the mermaid and the statue!

  4. Gareth

    Now this really was fascinating! I was always aware of the “real” Little Mermaid story – a much darker affair than the Disney version – but it’s always interesting to look further into the history of the tale. And each time I go to Copenhagen, I’m always surprised at the lack of British tourists there are there. With such a short distance between the two countries and flights always reasonably priced, it would seem like a great weekend retreat. Anyway, thanks for the info, hopefully it will come in useful in a pub quiz sometime!

    1. Ash Post author

      Copenhagen is a great place to visit not only during weekends but weekdays as well. You’re welcome, hope that the mermaid and statue stories will be asked in a pub quiz and you still remember them.

  5. Jennifer

    I knew there was a story behind this statue, but never heard the true version. So much history! We have a similar statue in Vancouver that may or may not be related to the mermaid statue…

  6. Jenn and Ed Coleman

    There always seems to be two sides to every Hans Christian Anderson story. The ones you tell the kids and the one you finally understand when you reach adulthood. It is the complexities of Denmark that make it so special.

  7. Tracy Chong

    Sometimes before visiting one place, it would be good to find a little information about it so we can enjoy and appreciate the place more. As much as we know the Little Mermaid story but the story behind the statue is not less interesting, too. 🙂

  8. sophie

    This Copenhagen’s Mermaid is what I have seen alot in last year on Instagram to Facebook to everywhere. Travelers just love this. even I have been to this place but I didn’t know about the story behind this. Thanks for sharing this , I loved it. 🙂

  9. Riely

    Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the Little Mermaid, is one of my favourite fairy tales. I did not, however, know, as shocking as it sounds, that his hometown was in Copenhagen or that the statue was modelled after two women. Interesting facts! I have always wanted to visit Copenhagen and here is another reason why I should go.

  10. Katie

    I didn’t realise this! I would love to visit the Little Mermaid Statue (Along with all the other many tourists I’m sure! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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