Hidden underwater in the Slotsholm Canal near to the Hyborg Bridge in Copenhagen is a statue called “Agnete & the Merman.” I was wandering around Copenhagen a year ago and impulsively decided to take a 40 minute boat tour along the river and the canals to get a general idea of all the sights around the city to get my bearings. At one point in the tour, we rounded a corner in the canal with a measuring stick protruding from the water. They stopped the engine and gingerly made the turn, resuming their speed after we cleared it. Nobody said anything. Pretty much a totally unremarkable experience.
Later on, I learned that that was where the Agnete & the Merman statue was! I had read about it a while back and planned to visit it eventually, but didn’t get around to mapping it out at that point. Later on when I went looking specifically for the statues, that corner seemed familiar to me. Smh. That goes to show you how under the radar this statue is – our tour literally stopped to float over them and the guides didn’t say a word. Lol.
So yes. When you think of Mermaids and Denmark you’ll obviously think of the iconic statue in the harbour. Or Disney’s Ariel. Or the fact that the actual Little Mermaid story written by Danish-born Hans Christian Andersen is actually depressing and horrific (spoiler alert, the Prince marries someone else, she dies, turns into foam. No dancing crabs in that story). In fact, you don’t give much thought to Mermen apart from Triton or at the end of the movie when Ursula’s sad looking seaweed turns back into Mer-people. But according to Danish folklore, Mermen seem to have their own sad stories, like that of Agnete & the Merman.
The story goes that a Merman fell in love with Agnete, (a human) and asked her to marry him and join him underwater (let’s call it a partial reverse Little Mermaid). She agreed, and bore him seven sons (damn) and one day heard the ringing of a church bell on land. She went to visit, promising to return but (can you figure out what happened?)….she didn’t. So the statues are all frozen in sad positions (the children are reaching to the surface, head in hands, etc.), mourning for their mother who never returned. Super depressing for a country known for its Hygge.
These bronze statues were designed by Suste Bonnén in 1992. There isn’t a sign pointing tourists to it nor it is listed on major tourist maps. I think it adds to the coolness factor because once you spy one of the heads in the water and the rest of the scene takes shape in front of your eyes, you feel like you’ve discovered something that nobody else has. If you aren’t really looking for it, there’s a good chance you’ll walk right past it, admiring the city around you.
The last photo was taken from Tripadvisor. Link Here.