Time Capsule: “Perlufestin” Tjörninn - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Time Capsule: “Perlufestin” Tjörninn

Time Capsule: “Perlufestin” Tjörninn

Published August 18, 2017

Hannah Jane Cohen
Photo by
Art Bicnick

On the east bank of Tjörnin, the lake in the middle of downtown Reykjavík, lies a delicate mermaid statue: “Perlufestin” by Nína Sæmundsson. Poised and smooth, the siren looks as if she turned to stone only moments before. But has she?

In reality, the first iteration of Nína’s work was placed in the pond in 1966. Only months later, an unfortunate explosion on New Year’s Eve destroyed it. While not verified, this violence was thought to be a result of the statue’s resemblance to Edvard Eriksen’s iconic mermaid statue in Copenhagen. At the time, Icelanders were not too fond of their former rulers.

Almost 40 years later, the Smáralind shopping mall commissioned a new version, and gave it to the city in 2014. As his last official duty as Mayor of Reykjavík, Jón Gnarr unveiled it, and she has sat there, sensually and stoically, ever since.  

So, men beware: if you hear a seductive song in the lake, don’t as Odysseus did and let yourself be taken. “Perlufestin” is beautiful, for sure, but you don’t want to end up in her briny embrace.

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