In almost every musical ever written, there’s a place that’s usually about the third song of the evening – sometimes it’s the second, sometimes it’s the fourth, but it’s quite early – and the leading lady usually sits down on something; sometimes it’s a tree stump in Brigadoon, sometimes it’s under the pillars of Covent Garden in My Fair Lady, or it’s a trash can in Little Shop of Horrors… but the leading lady sits down on something and sings about what she wants in life. And the audience falls in love with her and then roots for her to get it for the rest of the night. ~ Howard Ashman.
For many Disney and musical theatre fans, Howard Ashman left an imprint in theatre, film, storytelling, and song that has withstood the test of time. His brilliant voice in storytelling has changed the way, we see music, film, and theatre.
Hans Christian Andersen captured the world’s attention, with his fairy tale of The Little Mermaid in 1837.
But who is Hans Christian Andersen?
Hans was born on April 2nd, 1805 in Odense, Denmark and was the only child. At an early age, Hans father exposed to literature as a child, most notably Arabian Nights. Which had a lifelong impact on him, considering Hans father had an elementary school education, while his mother was illiterate washerwoman.
His father passed away in 1816, when he was 11 years old. His mother, remarried in 1818 and sent Hans to the local elementary school, so he could receive a basic education and have a career.
Before he became an author, he was an weaver’s apprentice, and even became a tailor.
When Hans was fourteen years old, he moved to Copenhagen to become an actor. He was enrolled in the Royal Danish Theatre as a soprano, but had to stop, because his voice changed. A colleague at the theatre had advised Hans to become a poet. Hans took this advice seriously and started to write.
A director at the Royal Danish Theatre had sent Hans to a grammar school in Slagelse, and had persuaded King Frederick VI, to fund part of Hans education.
In 1822, Hans had published his first story titled The Ghost at Palnatoke’s Grave.
In 1829, he would publish his first successful short story, A Journey on Foot from Holmen’s Canal to the East Point of Amager. From there, Hans Christian Andersen, began to write for the local theatre and wrote, Love on St. Nicholas Church Tower.
Hans later went on to receive a small travel grant from the King in 1833. This allowed Hans to travel through Europe and meet some very prosperous and influential people of his day.
Between 1835-1837, Hans Christian Andersen had written his collection of fairy tales, titled Fairy Tales told for Children, that were published in three installments. The first installment that was released in May 1835 contained these stories: The Tinderbox, The Princess and the Pea, Little Claus and Big Claus, and Little Ida’s Flowers. Ida Thiele, was who Hans had created these stories for, she was the daughter of an early benefactor. Her father, folklorist Just Mathias Thiele, had paid Andersen thirty rixdollars for the manuscript, and the booklet was priced at twenty-three shillings.
His second installment, that was released in December 1835, contained the following fairy tales: Thumbelina, The Traveling Companion, and The Naughty Boy.Thumbelina was based off the story of Tom Thumb about miniature people.
The third and final booklet, which was released on April 7th, 1837, contained The Little Mermaid and The Emperor’s New Clothes. It would be The Little Mermaid that would propel Hans to stardom, cementing his career as a writer.
The Little Mermaid was written for his homosexual lover, Edvard Collin, who was the son of his benefactor and official guardian Jonas Collin. Hans was known to flirt with both males and females, and was known to fall in love quickly. He and Edvard had formed a fast friendship and Hans was smitten.
Unfortunately, Edvard didn’t feel the same romantic sentiments as Hans. When Edvard announced he was marrying a woman, Hans was devastated and felt utterly betrayed. So, he poured his heart into his work and wrote The Little Mermaid as a love letter for unrequited love for Edvard.
It is also known, that Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid was loosely based and inspired by De la Motte Fouqué‘s novella Undine that was released in 1811. Undine and The Little Mermaid have very similar themes. Most notably, a mermaid who must marry a human prince (knight) to retain a human soul.
The Little Mermaid wouldn’t be the only story, that Hans would write for an unrequited love. In 1843, he wrote The Nightingale for Jenny Lind, a famous singer, who was nicknamed ‘Swedish Nightingale’ to express his love for her.
In 1845, his folklores and fairy tales, were translated in English and his audience grew worldwide.
An interesting fact about Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, is that they were originally published without any illustrations. That is until 1849, when Thomas Vilhelm Pedersen, a Danish artist became the first artist to illustrate the fairy tales.
In 1872, Hans Christian Andersen, would pass away, a lifelong bachelor, who yearned for nothing more in life than to be love and to be loved in return. In his lifetime, he had written over 100 children’s stories.
Over a century has passed, since the death of Hans Christian Andersen, and his life and his beloved fairy tales are immortalized in our culture. His classic children’s fairy tales have been adapted to films, ballets, operas, tv series, songs, etc.
His stories have withstood the test of time and will for centuries to come. We shall always remember the man who captured our hearts with The Little Mermaid.
“But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.” – Hans Christian Andersen
Tragedy struck Copenhagen on July 3rd, when the bronze statue of The Little Mermaid on the Langelinie Pier vandalized with the words ‘Racist Fish’. The words ‘Racist Fish’ were graffitied on the large rock, that the mermaid sits on.
Copenhagen authorities have no inclination of who could’ve graffitied the famed sculpture and have launched an investigation to find the culprits.
The Copenhagen police made the statement, “We consider it vandalism and have started an investigation.”
It is speculated, that Disney’s controversial casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel in the live-action adaption of The Little Mermaid is whatcould’ve what prompted the act of vandalism.
In 1909, The Little Mermaid statue was commissioned by Carl Jacobsen and sculpted by Edvard Erichsen. Ellen Prince, a well-known ballerina was the model for the head, while Edvard’s wife was the model for the mermaid’s nude figure.
Edvard had designed the mermaid to be human with a fish tail, looking out at sea, depicting the mermaid remembering her life in the sea.
The 107 year old statue was given as a gift to the city of Copenhagen on August 23rd, 1913- to honor Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale of The Little Mermaid or Den Lille Havfrue. The statue attracts a million visitors a year and is Copenhagen’s largest tourist attraction.
The Little Mermaid is the story about a young mermaid, who rescues a human prince and falls in love with him. The story of The Little Mermaid is a cultural phenomenon and has been adapted into various films, ballets, TV Shows, paintings, etc.
The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, Denmark, pays homage to the story that put Copenhagen on the map. All thanks to fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen.
The idea for the statue, began in 1909, when Carl Jacobsen attended a a ballet performance of The Little Mermaid with prima ballerina, Ellen Prince in the title role. He was instantly inspired to sculpt a statue, using Ellen Prince as the model. So, he hired a little known sculptor, by the name Edvard Erichsen to do the job for him.
Ballerina, Ellen Price modeled the head of the statue, while Edvard Erichsen’s wife, modeled the nude body of the little mermaid.
The sculpture, Edvard Erichsen decided to depict the little mermaid with legs and a fish tail, overlooking the sea, as a way for the mermaid to recall that she was a mermaid from the sea.
The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen is the cities biggest tourist attraction and attracts more then a million visitors per year. The statue is a little over 4-feet high and weighs 386 pounds. It is Copenhagen’s smallest attraction, yet the most popular. It’s made of bronze and had resided along the Langelinie Pier since August 23, 1913.
Every year, on August 23rd in Copenhagen, the city holds a huge celebration in honor of the statue at Langelinie Pier. People dress up in mermaid costumes and swim near the statue.
The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, also served as inspiration for Disney in the 1989 film of The Little Mermaid. In one of the final scenes of the film, after the final battle against Ursula, Ariel is sits on a rock, gazing the shore. This was the animators homage to the statue in Copenhagen and Hans Christian Andersen.
For over a century, this remarkable statue in Copenhagen has stood proudly on Langelinie Pier.
It is a must-see for any fan of The Little Mermaid!