Born in the year 1805, Hans Christian Andersen was a children stories writer from Odense, Denmark. He was an extremely talented writer and some of his best known works include, The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid. The author has gained worldwide recognition for his innovative writing and his collection of fairy tales are some of the best in this literary category. In fact his stories have achieved the title of classics in English Literature. The writer died at the age of 70 in Copenhagen.
In his younger days, Andersen received good education at a highly privileged boarding school despite his family not being too wealthy. He was a prolific writer who published plays, poetry and travelogues as well, apart from stories for children. From his writings it can be deciphered that he had a great love for children. He worried about child poverty existing in the world and he always endeavoured to make the world a brighter place for less than fortunate children through his imaginative and influential stories.
The Little Match Girl Plot & Setting
The popular fairy tale is based on a snowy landscape with very low temperature. It is the festive period between Christmas and New Year when most people remain at home surrounded by their friends and loved ones. The plot of the story mentions very few characters and the tale is entirely based on a young little girl and her magical fantasies just before she dies freezing outside in the cold. Since the author is from Denmark, the story was originally written and published in the Danish language, titled Den Lille Pige med Svovlstikkerne.
The Little Match Girl Summary
The narrative begins on a brutally cold winter evening which also incidentally happens to be the New Year’s Eve. A little girl is walking over snow with bare feet and uncovered head trying to sell matches to people. Since it’s the evening before New Year, there are not many people outside in the cold as they are all busy celebrating the occasion in the warmth of their houses with their families. This poor lonely girl roamed around in the snow in the hopes of selling a bundle of matches before she returned home.The reason why she was without slippers she left her house wearing her mother’s slippers which were too huge for her small sized feet. While she was crossing an icy path she came in front of two carriages which hurried past her and left her dazed. She lost one of her slippers in this process and then came along a mischievous little boy who stole her slipper thinking he can put it to use someday in the future as a cradle for his offspring.
The miserable little girl couldn’t even go back to her house which was her only shelter because she was afraid of her father who would beat her if she didn’t procure any money. The house she lived in was in anyways a broken run-down little cottage which was kept unkempt. The wind whistled through the gaps in the roof and it was never warm inside so she decided to stay outside for as long as she could. Although she carried some match boxes in her pocket, she didn’t dare light them because they were given to her for the purpose of selling. But there were hardly any people about and the lanes were all deserted.
After having roamed around for a while and when her tiny hands and feet turned blue with cold, she came across a corner in the middle of two houses. The girl sat herself down there and decided to light a few matchsticks to warm her numb fingers. The light flared bright as soon as the match was lit and it seemed to the poor innocent child that she was holding a candle in her hand. In the light she visualizes a warm iron stove with a flaring flame inside and she dreams that she is getting cosy in the warmth it let out. Then the match burns out and her vision disappears. She decides to burn another matchstick because in the purity of her child-like mind she believes that if she keeps burning the matches her fantasies will come alive. So the little girl starts to play this game to keep herself sustained in thelone and dark of the icy cold night.
Her excitement rose to a new level when she strikes another match and the sight of a deliciously cooked Christmas dinner floats in front of her eyes. The meal included cooked goose with baked plums and fruits that made her drool with hunger. Surprised and perplexed she continues to strike more matches and then she sees a beautifully decorated tall Christmas Tree with dazzling lights and her dead grandmother whom she dearly loved and missed. The visions showed her everything she ever desired in her young neglected life and she took her momentary pleasure, even though it was not real. In the distant night sky, she suddenly sees a star falling down and remembered what her grandmother had once told her. According to the lore, a falling star is said to be the sign of someone dying and going to heaven. The little girl becomes sad upon seeing the star as she feels the intuition that someone is about to die.
Her premonition comes true when in a desperate attempt to make her grandmother reappear she lights a big bundle of matches together to create a larger flare. In the brilliant light she sees the apparition of her grandmother and runs into her arms. The grandmother happily picks her up and they are at last unitedin a warm embrace. They both then together leave the terrestrial plane of hunger and poverty to a place where such anxieties do not haunt the poor. They went up to God.
The next morning, at the still cold hour of dawn, a crowd of people gather around the corpse of the little girl lying on the snowy corner. Her red cheeks and smiling mouth never betrayed the pain she went through. But the burnt out matches that lay strewn around her, told her sad story. The people in sympathy, looked at the matches and said with a sigh that the poor girl only wanted to warm herself. None of the onlookers could guess the brilliant sights she witnessed before she died or how happy she was to fly away with the spirit of her grandmother into a New Year.