The Little Mermaid fountain is located in Kimballton, a small town of approximately 300+ people located just north of Interstate 80 in Audubon County. It was installed in 1978 by a couple of California college students. While it started out as a fiberglass statue, it sustained a lot of weather wear. It was eventually recast in bronze around 2008. It was also around time that the fountain was added, as well as the landscaping. The Little Mermaid statue is a replica of the original Little Mermaid statue, which was erected in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1913.
As you can see from this second picture, the area surrounding the statue and fountain is beautifully decorated. The statue and the park that surrounds it, is all a dedication to Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), who wrote the fairy tales depicted in the photos below.
You might remember Hans Christian Andersen also being mentioned in a previous post of mine about the Danish Windmill in Elk Horn. Because Elk Horn is only a few miles from Kimballton, they both have a strong Danish heritage.
In 2013, eight bronze sculptures were placed around the fountain, all created by Iowan Troy Muller. Each of the eight sculptures depict a different Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.
“The Ugly Duckling” was first published in 1843. It’s about a poor little “ugly” bird that is made fun of and abused by the other birds, until he grows up to be a swan. This fairy tale has been adapted and retold many times, including Disney films in 1931 and 1939.
“The Little Matchgirl” was published in 1845. The story is about a poor little girl that is trying to sell matches for money to help her family. Every time she lights a match to stay warm, she has warm visions of happy things, including seeing her deceased grandmother. Sadly, the little girl dies in the story, but the happy ending is that she is now with her grandmother in heaven.
“The Steadfast Tin Soldier” (1838) is about a tin soldier, who happens to be a little different than the other soldiers because he has a bad leg. He falls in love with another toy, the paper ballerina. Again, another sad story that ends in death.
“The Tinder Box” (1835) is the story of a solider who discovers a magic tinderbox (a box full of items to help build a fire). That tinderbox has magical powers, causing three dogs to appear. He asks them to perform certain tasks, and then they also end up in the end saving his life.
“The Princess and the Pea” (1835) is the story about a prince trying to find a suitable princess to marry. Every one that he meets has some kind of fault, and so he doesn’t consider them to be “real” princesses. One night during a storm, a strange woman comes to the castle looking for an escape from the rain. The prince’s mother decides to test the woman, and leaves a small pea underneath 20 mattresses and 20 feather beds for the woman to sleep on. Knowing that a real princess would be able to feel that pea underneath all of those layers, she is put to the ultimate test.
Of course, the woman was kept up all night because the bed was so uncomfortable from that one pea. The prince and princess are then married.
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” (1837) is the story of an emperor that is fooled by two crooks. They come to town bearing their clothing for sale. They offer to make the emperor a new suit, but tell him that the clothes cannot be seen by anyone that is stupid or inept. Of course, the crooked salesmen are lying, and there really aren’t any clothes at all, but the emperor is afraid to admit he can’t see anything. He then parades through, and all of the townspeople are afraid to speak up as well, for fear someone will think they are fools.
Finally a young boy speaks up and loudly proclaims that the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothing and the crooks are run out of town.
“The Snow Queen” (1844) tells the story of an evil troll that uses a magic mirror to distort everything beautiful to make them look ugly to people. When the mirror breaks, pieces of it fly everywhere and get into people’s eyes, causing everyone to see the worst of everything. It takes two children to save the day, with the moral of the story being that “love conquers all.”
Thumbelina (1835) is the story of a tiny girl and her struggles to get through our full-sized world. Only a tiny swallow (pictured below) can save her and get her to safety.Visit the Little Mermaid & Sculpture Garden in small town Iowa. #iowatravel #thisisiowa Click To Tweet
It’s interesting to me that stories from over 170+ years ago can still have a relevant storyline and theme. Love conquers all, beauty is within, don’t judge a book by its cover. Movies and TV shows depict variations of these stories all the time without us even realizing it. Hans Christian Andersen was a pretty wise man, and an amazing writer. Stop by and see these beautiful sculptures and also take a look at the gorgeous fountain, all hidden in the middle of a tiny Iowa town.