Skip to main content

The Submerged Storyteller

In Odense Harbor, the city's great fairy-tale writer H.C. Andersen’s head emerges from the water. He has a hook sticking out from the top of his head, and if you're lucky, he might suddenly spin around in the water as if alive.
He looks a bit odd - placed right next to the harbor bath, almost as if he took a wrong turn.

The story of the sculpture's placement here in the harbor dates back to 2005, during H.C. Andersen's 200th birthday celebration. The intention was to create various monuments dedicated to the poet. Local artist Jens Galschiøt had just created an H.C. Andersen sculpture for the Radisson hotel in Odense, where the poet is depicted sitting on a bench with a large cloak around him and surrounded by columns featuring motifs from his fairy tales. Galschiøt then proposed a new sculpture focusing on Andersen's entire storytelling universe, which would depict the poet surrounded by all his stories, like in a kaleidoscope, showcasing his immense narrative talent. The new sculpture was to be called "The Storyteller’s Well."
A substantial amount of money was raised for the sculpture, and a large H.C. Andersen sculpture was erected at Flakhaven as a sort of advertisement for the project. However, according to Galschiøt, everything then stalled. A central location in the city center could not be agreed upon between the artist and the municipality. Then the financial crisis hit, and suddenly the funds disappeared along with the project.
Against this backdrop, Galschiøt decided to stage a happening. He placed a sign on the H.C. Andersen sculpture at Flakhaven stating, “Come to H.C. Andersen's funeral.” It remained there for several weeks, and people laid flowers at the sculpture.
Galschiøt then invited the city's residents to a massive demonstration. It featured a trombone orchestra and six black Friesian horses pulling the sculpture on a wagon through the city, and a crane lifting it 20 meters into the air before slowly lowering it into the “grave.” Actor Vigga Bro and Galschiøt himself were dressed as undertakers. Vigga Bro read a play written for the occasion while the sculpture was lowered from 20 meters high down into the harbor, where, in the artist’s words, it ended up “in crap up to its neck.” An H.C. Andersen-themed funeral beer, also brewed for the occasion, was then consumed, marking the end of the ceremony. The event drew 4,000-5,000 people to the sculpture's funeral and received massive press coverage, including from BBC World.

The sculpture then remained alone at the bottom of the harbor. TV2 used it as a water gauge - then frost came and severely damaged the sculpture, compressing it completely.
It was raised again on April 2, for H.C. Andersen's birthday, amid great festivities with samba and music, and transported in a convertible. A large Easter egg made of chocolate, shaped like H.C. Andersen, was eaten by citizens and children while the sculpture, which had been hoisted up, stood by, smelling of harbor water. Later, the sculpture toured around Denmark before being sold to a golf club, where it still stands.

Subsequently, Galschiøt created a floating H.C. Andersen for an exhibition in Kerteminde, which he then placed at the same spot in Odense Harbor as the first one. Unlike the first, this current sculpture in the harbor bath is mounted on a sort of buoy with an anchor at the bottom, making it movable and better protected against frost.

Jens Galschiøt
Jens Galschiøt trained as a metalworker at Lindø Shipyard and is a self-taught artist and silversmith. Since 1985, he has operated "Gallery Galschiøt" in Odense, which includes a bronze foundry, workshop, gallery, and sculpture park.
Galschiøt often works in a naturalistic and organic style, inspired by figures such as Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. He works in various sizes and styles in his sculptures and is known for his "clothing sculptures," which, with a strong visual expression, draw attention to global inequality and poverty. He has also staged numerous happenings worldwide, often with a clear humanitarian message.


Location of #6 "The Submerged Storyteller"

Last Updated 29.05.2024