"Do we go in or do we just stand here reenacting The Little Match Girl?" - Rory, "Gilmore Girls"
Before starting this challenge, I never read "The Little Match Girl" by Hans Christian Andersen. I imagined from the title and cover picture it was about a poor little girl selling matches. I did not expect the story I read.
"The Little Match Girl" takes place on New Years Eve. A little girl sells matches throughout the town. She has not sold any matches that day and knows that her father will be very angry with her when she gets home. She is walking through the town, and it is very cold. She loses her shoes, it is snowing, but she does not want to go home and face her father to tell him she did not sell any matches. She curls up beside a building a decides to light just one match to stay warm. She lights it, feels the warmth on her hands, but it burns out before she can warm her feet. She decides to light another and, while feeling the warmth of the flame, imagines a wonderful New Year's Eve dinner. She lights another and imagines herself sitting in front of a beautiful Christmas tree.
She looks up at the sky and sees a shooting star. She remembers her grandmother saying that shooting stars are souls leaving Earth for Heaven. She knows someone will die. She lights more matches and has a vision of her deceased grandmother. She doesn't want this vision to end, so she lights more and more matches. She is asking her grandmother to save her, and the grandmother in her vision picks her up and carries her away to Heaven. The next morning, the little match girl is found smiling frozen to death.
The story is both sad and beautiful at the same time. It's hard to sit here in my house and imagine the poverty, the desperation to sell matches, the fear of going home without selling any and losing one's shoes while walking in snow. While the ending is horribly sad, Andersen shares a beautiful image of the child's grandmother rescuing her and bringing her to Heaven. I was shocked by the turn the book took. I did not expect the little match girl to die, but I was impressed by how big of a story Andersen fit into this short story.
Photo by Jessica Collins