Saturday, May 1, 2010

Blast from the Past

Denmark: Tears for a Mermaid Friday, May. 01, 1964

Of all the Sea King's six pretty daughters, she was the youngest and fairest. "Her skin," said Denmark's Hans Christian Andersen, "was as soft and tender as a rose petal, and her eyes were as blue as the deep sea—but like all the others, she had no feet. Her body ended in a fishtail."
She was The Little Mermaid. And of all the Sirens and Scyllas seen by all the storm-tossed mariners, she was the first and only daughter of her finny race to serve as Neptune's permanent, peaceful ambassador to the footed world. Inspired by the Andersen story, a sculptor gave her form. Her abode became a wave-washed rock outside Copenhagen's harbor; her sleek, demure figure personified the life-giving sea and sea-sustained Denmark.

Alas for The Little Mermaid! Peering in horror across the misty bay early one morning last week, a Danish laborer found that the Sea King's daughter had been most foully murdered. Where glistening head and neck had once bent yearningly seaward, there was only a jagged hole. As news of the deed spread through Copenhagen, Danes by the thousands came to stand and grieve along the waterfront. City officials assured Danes that Sculptor Edvard Eriksen's 50-year-old mold had been preserved; the mermaid would be recapitated within the week. Maybe. To earthlings who had come to love the Sea King's daughter, there was little comfort in the thought that welders could repair such wanton carnage. But, of course, The Mermaid is immortal, a creature of foam and sky. If tears were to be shed, they should be for the vandal—or, as Hans Andersen put it, for the "naughty child. And each tear adds a day to the time of our trial."

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