A curious thing happened recently. Just when I thought this country had it all covered in portraying what a wonderful place it is, something new came along. Denmark has received another boost to its ‘happy country’ persona – something that has the potential to enhance the country’s image even more. Only this time, it is not a happiness study, report, accolade or tangible achievement. It’s a video about a wooden pink pony. It has gone viral and very simply captures and showcases the good-humoured and amiable side of the Danes.
Taped by Thomas Dambo, the video is entitled ‘The Pony Thief – How we deal with thieves in Denmark’ (see it below). Dambo is a Danish artist who creates art from scrap and trash; he is known for his Remake Utopia hotel project and the Happy City Birds project. In the video, Dambo has built a pony – well, it has a horn so maybe we should call it a unicorn – and it gets stolen from a public place where it was on display. He receives a tip-off on Facebook about the possible whereabouts of the pony thief. A small piece of investigation follows and he lands at the doorstep of Michael, the suspected pony thief.
The exchange that follows between Dambo and the thief is funny, fantastic and rather unexpected. While you expect an altercation or at least a couple of harsh words to be exchanged, in reality the conversation (translated from Danish into English) goes like this:
Dambo: “Hi Michael. I’m Thomas. I wanted to ask if I can come up and pick up my pony.”
Michael (evidently taken by surprise, but recovering quickly): “Ehh…okay, you can do that.”
When they meet, Dambo politely and cheerfully asks Michael if he is the pony thief. Michael sheepishly responds that he is in fact the thief and cannot deny the fact.
The conversation doesn’t end here, it just gets better.
As he helps Dambo take the pony (seriously, it’s a unicorn) down from his apartment, Michael explains how after having too many drinks one night, he spotted the pink equine and decided to steal it for his girlfriend, who happens to like ponies (or unicorns, or both – it’s a bit unclear). The idea was to surprise his girlfriend, and the next day she woke up to find a life-sized pony next to her bed. On hearing this, Dambo responds with: “That’s romantic”!
The video ends with Thomas saying: “When you meet a pony thief, you have to teach him a little lesson” and giving Michael a gentle, playful slap on the wrist. What, no police, no fisticuffs? Where’s the display of scorn and anger?
As I write this article, in the three weeks the video has been on YouTube, it has been watched nearly 900,000 times and over 1,400 people have commented on it. While I found the video funny, it’s also strangely feel-good. It put a smile on my face and made we want to hug Dambo for handling this so well and Michael for being a sport about his role in the intoxicated heist and giving in tactfully. In addition to its popularity on the web, the Pony Thief video has also received a mention in some news publications outside Denmark.
An article from United Kingdom’s Metro says: “If only crime reduction in the UK was like this,” while according to a Huffington Post article, “the video is hilarious, weird and adorable. It might also make you want to buy a one-way ticket to Denmark.”
While many will debate the authenticity of the video and whether it sends out the right message about preventing crime, on the whole it portrays Denmark in a good light. So for now, Denmark has a new ace up its sleeve – an unlikely but effective public relations tool that will help the country polish its favourable image further. In addition to its reputation as the happiest country in the world, Denmark could soon be also known as the country that knows how to treat its thieves.
Denmark just got more alluring.