Expert on Hans Christian Andersen says it is ‘hard to see what is racist’ about fairytale
COPENHAGEN (The Guardian) – The statue of the Little Mermaid in the entrance to Copenhagen harbour has been daubed with the words “racist fish”.
The 107-year-old statue has often been vandalised by protesters, ranging from pro-democracy activists to anti-whaling campaigners. As recently as January, “Free Hong Kong” was scrawled on the rock on which the 1.65-metre bronze sits.
Protesters have variously knocked the mermaid off her perch, beheaded her, lopped off an arm and poured paint over her. Copenhagen police said no one had claimed responsibility for the latest assault. “We consider it vandalism and have started an investigation,” a spokesman said.
Visited by a million tourists a year, the statue, designed by the sculptor Edvard Eriksen and modelled on his wife, Eline, was created as a tribute to the celebrated fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen about a mythical sea king’s mermaid daughter who falls in love with a prince and longs to become human.
Black Lives Matter protesters have toppled statues of historical figures around the world linked to slavery and racism. Last month the statue of a Danish missionary who played a major role in the colonisation of Greenland was doused with red paint.
On Thursday activists accused Danish officials of being unable to recognise racism after authorities said the killing of a biracial man by two white men was not racially motivated.
Andersen has not been widely viewed in this light, although the author did tackle colonialism and issues of race in an 1840 play, the Mulatto, and some scholars have said they detected racist implications in some stories.
Last year a Disney live-action remake of The Little Mermaid became the subject of some controversy after the African American actor Halle Bailey was cast in the central role.
Ane Grum-Schwensen, a researcher at the HC Andersen Centre at the University of Southern Denmark, told the Danish news agency Ritzau: “I am having a hard time seeing what is particularly racist in the fairytale The Little Mermaid.”
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