by Hans Christian Andersen (1846)
“The Little Match Girl” is a short story by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen. The story, about a dying child’s dreams and hope, was first published in 1845. It has been adapted to various media, including animated and live-action films, television musicals, and video games.
“The Little Match Girl” was first published December 1845, in Dansk Folkekalender for 1846. The work was re-published as a part of New Fairy Tales (4 March 1848), Second Volume, Second Collection (Nye Eventyr (1848), Andet Bind, Anden Samling), and again 18 December 1849 as a part of Fairy Tales (1850; Eventyr).
The Little Match Girl
It was terribly cold and nearly dark on the last evening of the old year, and the snow was falling fast. In the cold and the darkness, a poor little girl, with bare head and naked feet, roamed through the streets. She indeed had on a pair of slippers when she left home, but they were not of much use. They were huge, so large, indeed, that they had belonged to her mother, and the poor little creature had lost them in the running across the street to avoid two carriages that were rolling along at a terrible rate. One of the slippers she could not ﬁnd, and a boy seized upon the other and ran away with it, saying that he could use it as a cradle when he had children of his own.
So the little girl went on with her little naked feet, which were quite red and blue with the cold. In an old apron, she carried a number of matches and had a bundle of them in her hands. No one had bought anything of her the whole day, nor had anyone given her even a penny. Shivering with cold and hunger, she crept along; poor little child, she looked the picture of misery. The snowﬂakes fell on her long, fair hair, which hung in curls on her shoulders, but she regarded them not.
Lights were shining from every window, and there was a savoury smell of roast goose, for it was New-year’s eve—yes, she remembered that. In a corner, between two houses, one of which projected beyond the other, she sank and huddled herself together.
She was getting colder and colder but did not dare to go home, for she had sold no matches, nor earned a single cent, and her father would surely beat her. Besides, it was cold at home, for they had nothing over them but a roof through which the wind whistled even though the most significant cracks had been stuffed with straw and rags.
Her little hands were almost frozen with the cold. Ah! Perhaps a burning match might be some good, if she could draw it from the bundle and strike it against the wall, to warm her ﬁngers. She drew one out—“scratch!” how it sputtered as it burnt! It gave a warm, bright light, like a little candle, as she held her hand over it. It was a wonderful light. It seemed to the little girl that she was sitting by a large iron stove, with polished brass feet and a brass ornament how the ﬁre burned! And seemed so beautifully warm that the child stretched out her feet as if to warm them, when, lo! The ﬂame of the match went out, the stove vanished, and she had only the remains of the half-burnt match in her hand.
She rubbed another match on the wall. It burst into a ﬂame, and where its light fell upon the wall, it became as transparent as a veil, and she could see into the room. The table was covered with a snowy white table-cloth, on which stood a splendid dinner service, and a steaming roast goose, stuffed with apples and dried plums. And what was still more beautiful, the goose jumped down from the dish and waddled across the ﬂoor, with a knife and fork in its breast, to the little girl. Then the match went out, and there remained nothing but the thick, damp, cold wall before her.
She lighted another match, and then she found herself sitting under a beautiful Christmas-tree. It was larger and more beautifully decorated than the one which she had seen through the glass door at the wealthy merchant’s. Thousands of tapers were burning upon the green branches, and coloured pictures, like those she had seen in the show-windows, looked down upon it all. The little one stretched out her hand towards them, and the match went out.
The Christmas lights rose higher and higher, till they looked to her like the stars in the sky. Then she saw a star fall, leaving behind it a bright streak of ﬁre. “Someone is dying,” thought the little girl, for her old grandmother, the only one who had ever loved her, and who was now dead, had told her that when a star falls, a soul was going up to God.
She again rubbed a match on the wall, and the light shone round her; in the brightness stood her old grandmother, bright and shining, yet mild and loving in her appearance.
“Grandmother!” cried the child. “Oh, take me with you! I know you will disappear when the match is burned out. You will vanish like the warm stove, the wonderful roast goose and the beautiful big Christmas tree!”
And she made haste to light the whole bundle of matches, for she wished to keep her grandmother there. And the matches glowed with a light that was brighter than the noon-day, and her grandmother had never appeared so large or so beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and they both ﬂew upwards in brightness and joy far above the earth, where there was neither cold nor hunger nor pain, for they were with God.
In the dawn of morning there lay the poor little one, with pale cheeks and smiling mouth, leaning against the wall; she had been frozen to death on the last evening of the year, and the New-year’s sun rose and shone upon a little corpse!
The child still sat, in the stiffness of death, holding the matches in her hand, one bundle of which was burnt. “She tried to warm herself,” said some. No one imagined what beautiful things she had seen, nor into what glory she had entered with her grandmother, on New-year’s day.
A Summary and Analysis of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Little Match Girl’ by Interesting Literature
‘The Little Match Girl’ is one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most famous fairy tales for children. It is also one of his shortest, running to just a few pages. In any case, below we’ve offered a summary the little match girl………………………... Read More
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Sasindu Jayasri is an Engineering student at Faculty of Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka.