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From the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil to the Great Buddha of Thailand and the Statue of Liberty in New York, the world’s largest statues are often the ones on every traveler’s bucket list. While these giant monuments have achieved icon status for good reason, bigger isn’t always necessarily better. Statues on the other end of the size spectrum — blink and you might miss them — are often overlooked but can pique our curiosity in much the same way that their larger counterparts do. Check out these six incredibly tiny statues around the world — each with their own fascinating history.
The Magical Mouse (Klaipeda, Lithuania)
On the corner of a quiet cobblestone street in the Old Town of Klaipeda is the 6.7-inch-tall Stebuklingas Peliukas (“Magical Mouse”). This minute bronze sculpture is the work of the artists Svajūnas Jurkus and Sergejus Plotnikovas, and legend says that the mouse possesses miraculous powers and the ability to make dreams come true. Consequently, passersby stop to whisper their wishes into the mouse’s raised ears. Around the base of the sculpture is an inscription that translates to, “Transform your ideas into words — words will become miracles.” The mouse is one of several interesting public artworks in Klaipeda Old Town: A short walk away is the peculiar Senamiesčio Katinas (“Old Town Cat”), which has the body of a cat and the face of a man.
Järnpojke (Stockholm, Sweden)
Järnpojke (“Iron Boy”) is a metalwork sculpture in Sweden’s capital that depicts a boy seated with his arms hugging his legs and his gaze cast up at the moon. Just 5.9 inches high, the Iron Boy sits on a tiny table in the courtyard of a Finnish church located in Stockholm’s Old Town. The city’s smallest statue — and Sweden’s tiniest monument — is the work of local artist Liss Eriksen and has been charming Swedes and tourists alike for over half a century.
Stockholmers claim that rubbing the boy’s head or leaving a coin by his side bestows good fortune. Locals also take pride in dressing him to represent the changing seasons and current events: During the winter months he gets wrapped up in a hand-knitted hat and scarf, while in summertime he is sometimes given flowers, a parasol, or sunglasses.
Kermit the Frog (Budapest, Hungary)
An homage to a protagonist of The Muppet Show is probably one of the last things you’d expect to see in Budapest. Yet, resting against a fence that lines a pathway in Liberty Square is a small bronze statue of Kermit the Frog. Kermit was created by Ukrainian guerrilla artist Mihály Kolodko and commemorates the time when frog legs became a Hungarian delicacy during the late 1800s.
As is the case with Järnpojke in Stockholm, locals love to dress Kermit in a scarf in wintertime. It’s common for people to leave coins for luck, too. Kolodko is responsible for dozens of other mini-sculptures in Budapest that celebrate Hungarian history, popular culture, and folklore. Among them are a Rubik’s Cube, a statue of the Jewish Austrian-Hungarian author Theodor Herzl, and a statue of the composer Franz Liszt.
Chizhik Pyzhik (St. Petersburg, Russia)
The minuscule Chizhik Pyzhik is nestled beneath St. Petersburg’s First Engineer Bridge, on the banks of the Fontanka River. This 4.3-inch-tall bronze sculpture portrays a siskin (chizhik), a species of finch common in Asia and Europe. Created by Georgian artist Rezo Gabriadze, the bird celebrates a legend associated with the city’s former Imperial School of Jurisprudence. Students of this prestigious school wore green and yellow uniforms that resembled the colors of the siskin, and a folk song references the rowdiness of the students with the lines, “Chizhik Pyzhik, where have you been? / On Fontanka, drinking vodka.”
Today, visitors to the statue try to land coins by the bird’s side in hopes of receiving good luck. The fortunes of the bird itself haven’t been quite as lucky, however. Since being installed in 1994, the statue has been stolen on several occasions. The city’s Museum of Urban Sculpture now keeps copies of it in the event of a new theft.
Two Mice Eating Cheese (London, England)
London’s smallest public sculpture adorns an elegant 19th-century spice merchant’s warehouse on Philpot Lane, in the city’s busy financial district. Two Mice Eating Cheese adorns the lower facade of the building and, as the name suggests, portrays two mice gnawing on a piece of cheese. No one knows exactly how long the mice have been there, and their origins are shrouded in mystery. The most commonly accepted story is that the mice memorialize the death of two workmen that helped to build the nearby Monument to the Great Fire of London. Upon noticing that his cheese sandwich had been bitten into, one of the workers accused his colleague of stealing his lunch. The two got into a fight and tragically plunged to their deaths from the scaffolding. It was later discovered that the sandwich thieves were actually mice.
Wroclaw Dwarves (Wroclaw, Poland)
Visitors to the 2016 European Capital of Culture often spend their time looking down at the ground rather than up at Wroclaw’s ancient and eclectic architecture. That’s because scattered around the city’s cobblestone streets and plazas are around 400 miniature bronze gnome statues. Measuring just 8-12 inches in height, the playful Wroclaw dwarves cling to lampposts, peer out of doorways, and hide down alleyways. One is seated on a bench, one is holding gingerbread, and one seems to be riding a pigeon.
Cheeky and mischievous in appearance, the dwarves actually represent the Orange Alternative counterculture. This anti-Soviet movement helped fight against Poland’s oppressive communist regime during the 1980s. Today the gnomes serve a dual purpose: as a reminder of the city’s authoritarian past and an entertaining treasure hunt. A free tourist guide app points out their locations around the charming port city.