~The Little Matchgirl~

The Little Match Girl
A classic tale by Hans Christian Anderson [1845]

photo from internet

So terribly cold it was, and nearly dark on the last evening of the old year. The snow was falling fast. In the cold and the darkness, a poor little girl roamed through the streets. It is true she had on a pair of slippers when she left home, but they were not of much use. They were very large, so large, indeed, that they had belonged to her mother, and the poor little creature had lost them in running across the street to avoid two carriages that were rolling along at a terrible rate. She could not find one of the slippers, 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 from 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 savory smell of roast goose, for it was New Year’s Eve. In a corner, between two houses, one of which projected beyond the other, she sank down and huddled herself together. She had drawn her little feet under her, but she could not keep off the cold; and she dared not go home, for she had sold no matches, and could not take home even a penny of money. Her father would certainly beat her; besides, it was almost as cold at home as here, for they had only the roof to cover them, through which the wind howled, although the largest holes had been stopped up 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, just 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 really 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 wonderful, 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 lit 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 rich merchant’s. Thousands of tapers were burning upon the green branches, and colored pictures, like those she had seen in the show windows, looked down upon it all. The little girl 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, clear and shining, yet mild and loving in her appearance. “Grandmother,” cried the little one, “O take me with you; I know you will go away when the match burns out; you will vanish like the warm stove, the roast goose, and the large, glorious 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 girl, with pale cheeks and smiling mouth, leaning against the wall: she had been frozen to death on the last evening of the year. 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.

This was one of my mother's favourite Christmas stories, remembered from her childhood.
She first told me this story when I was about 9. I thought it was so sad, but it made me feel grateful to have a warm home and a loving family. I was a very spoiled child, and perhaps it was told to me for that reason. I'm sure today's children wouldn't be told stories like this. But we accepted Fairy Tales for what they were in those days, and there was no political correctness to protect our little minds..!

Have a great Christmas everyone and A Happy New Year.


  1. I too was told this story by my mother when I was small and I cried buckets for that little girl! I have also seen it acted on TV and cried even more buckets!

    In the early 50's I remember children at our school not able to attend because they had no shoes, some wore plimsoles in the harshest of weather because that was all they had. I was cross because my mother make me wear 'Super Dukes' which were boys lace-up shoes and I got laughed at. She made me wear them though and gave me a lecture as well.

    Merry Christmas, dear Sheila and thank you so much for the lovely card. Hugs, Lynda xxxx

  2. It's a lovely story, the ending is either sad or happy depending on how you look at it. Many of these fairy tales had a lesson for us to learn. Merry Christmas Sheila!

  3. I remember reading this story a long time ago and shedding tears for the little match girl! It truly does make you realize how thankful we should be to have what we have.

    Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, dear Sheila and may all your dreams come true during this magical season! xoxo

  4. dear Sheila ~ wishing you a truly blessed & peaceful yuletide season ~ look forward to catching up in 2010...

    (thanks so much for your continued friendship over the years and the Little Match Girl was a favourite of mine too xo)

  5. Sheila, my wishes are that you and your hubby have a wonderful Christmas surrounded by friends and family and that 2010 brings health and happiness to you both.
    Poor Little Match Girl, so sad. It makes me appreciate how much I have to be thankful for.

  6. Dearest Sheila,
    I hope that you are enjoying a warm
    & bright holiday season. Thinking of you and toasting us all for a wonderful new year and new decade...as time goes by.
    With love to you all.

  7. http://thedreamingpress.typepad.com

    I've moved too, Mum! xoxo

  8. I've always loved this story, since I was little too.
    It should be told, to all the spoiled children. They need to know!! lol


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