The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen

Christmas Pachelbel- Trans Siberian Orchestra

little match girl

….and a winter’s tale

by Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen (1805- 1875)

We think of Andersen as a children’s writer but he wrote many of his tales in the “Grimm” style; adult fairy tales that reflect cultural mores. His stories include The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen ( upon which Disney’s Frozen was based), The Emperor’s New Clothes, and many more.

The Little Match Girl is a Christmas story about poverty and a little girl’s transcendent visions. It is believed to be based on Andersen’s own mother’s experience of being forced as a child to go out and beg on a cold night, and staying out underneath a bridge till morning.

Andersen’s poignant tale  is  a call for compassion. By giving the little girl a voice we hear her intimate thoughts and we are drawn into her plight and want to save her.  We have so much for which to be grateful.   So as we enter the Christmas madness and bustle, and with hearts of hope and good will, we can learn from the story of a little child.

The Little Match Girl

( my  shortened version)

sparkling-balls2

“…Most terribly cold it was; it snowed, and was nearly quite dark, and evening– the last evening of the year….”

The little match girl had been out for hours trying to earn a few farthings and not one person had bought a box of matches this night. People were in a hurry to get home where it was warm and they could sit down for supper. She was cold and hungry and so very tired that she sought shelter in a doorway of a closed shop.  She had lost her shoes which had been too big for her little feet and her poor coat was tattered and did not keep out the cold at all. To warm her tiny frozen hands she began to light the matches she had been sent out to sell.   As she lit the matches one by one she began to see the most beautiful visions in the flame and she felt happy. She saw lights and Christmas trees and even a warm stove and a roast goose set out for supper.

She looked up into the sky, and at that moment a star fell through the night. “Someone has died,” she thought, remembering her grandmother who had loved her and told her that just as a star falls, a soul rises to heaven.falling-star

The visions became more beautiful and at last in one of them she saw her beloved grandmother. “Grandmother, please take me with you.” she cried. She didn’t want to lose her so she decided to strike all the remaining matches together and as the light blazed she saw her grandmother as a beautiful angel who lovingly took her hand.

angelparis

Together they flew in joy and brightness far above the city, and above the hunger, the cold and the suffering, for they were with God.

matchgirl contrast

When the little match girl was found the next day huddled frozen in the doorway there was a beautiful smile on her face……” Poor thing!” “She wanted to warm herself,” people said. No one had the slightest suspicion of what beautiful things she had seen; no one even dreamed of the Splendor in which, with her grandmother she had entered joyfully on the eve of the new year.”- Hans Christian Anderson.

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Read the full story here

Andersen himself, thought this was a happy ending though most people of course thought it much too sad and often retold the story with a more favourable earthly outcome. Like Oscar Wilde who followed similar themes in later years (1854-1900), Andersen wrote of class structure, God, art and life, using metaphors. He wanted people to remember the poverty and suffering of the poor and especially of children.

There are still people on street corners, sleeping under bridges and in doorways too.  It’s so easy to walk by and pretend not to see them or even to blame them for their own misfortune. Some  are trying to escape a painful past and some are suffering from mental illnesses or addictions, which an overburdened health care system cannot accommodate, but all have a story to tell and all were once children. And so we are reminded that there are many children and families who are still hungry and in need at this time of year (and all year),

(I used porcelain doll faces in the illustrations)

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In 2018 I had a wonderful exhibit at the SL Gallery of Paris Metro called Tales of a Winter Sun – this is a tribute of images from the gallery show to that beautiful time of the sacred and magical

Tales of a Winter Sun (Dec 2018)

The little Match Girl video (2019)

72 Comments Add yours

  1. So beautiful…I love the porcelain doll faces and the music too.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love those creative photos.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. many thanks Merry!! All the best of the season!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My aunts in Denmark made sure I had a complete set of Hans Christian Andersen when I was little – I cried every time I read that story; also the unDisneyized version of the Little Mermaid. What a beautiful retelling of the story with such wonderful illustrations!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. oh I’m happy it brought back memories and yes many tears reading that poignant tale. Thank you so much for the lovely compliment!! Happy New Year!!

      Like

  4. milliethom says:

    A very lovely and thought-provoking post for the season, Cybele. I’ve loved this story, since I was a child myself, and confess, I always considered the ending to be extremely sad. Yet after reading your post I realise the ending can be viewed as a happy, joyous one for the little match girl. Thank you for the reminder of the many homeless and under privileged people out there who won’t be having a happy Christmas this year. 😃

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Millie! and I wish you a peaceful and blessed Christmas!! Sorry for such a late reply. It’s been a busy year!!

      Like

  5. I love Hans CA story, children ad my grandchildren too. Beautiful photos dear Cybele. Wishing a Merry Christmas 2016 and Happy new year 2017 for you and your children and family. God bless you always ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thanks so much Della!! All the best of the season to you and yours!!

      Like

  6. Spell binding post. I always liked the original ending. Living in libraries as a child I adored all the old versions of old fairy tales and folk tales from around the world. They were so real – universal. I used to look and compare versions of the same tale from different eras and versions for different countries. So much to be seen and learned in those classic stories that are still relevant today. Shame they aren’t “trendy”‘
    Hopefully your beautiful post will introduce more readers to the wonder,

    Liked by 2 people

    1. oh you are very kind and eloquent dear mouse. I love the old tales too!! Blessings and more of the season and God bless us everyone! ( what is Christmas without Dickens too). Sorry I’m a bit behind with blogging. Will catch up in New Year!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. landacrystal says:

    Beautiful Images and a touching and truthful message. Happy Holidays dear Dune!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. many thanks Landa and to you also!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It is a very sad but beautiful tale about the Match Girl. I remember reading it when I was eight and bursting into tears D:

    Liked by 2 people

    1. oh yes, as did I when I first read it!! Thanks Sarah!!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Adrian Lewis says:

    Beautiful tale – and certainly many unfortunates on the street here. I hope you are settled into your new home, Cybele – and that Christmas and New Year will be good for you. Adrian

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thanks for your good wishes Adrian and a lovely comment as always! All the best and joy to you as well!!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. pattimoed says:

    Beautiful post, Cybele, and so true. We should remember this. I think people forget that these “children’s tales” were once for adults as well. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. thanks Patti, and true! Many of these tales have very serious lessons and morals in them. Actually some of the Grimm’s tales were very grim! But yes the sweetness and purity of the little match girl always touched me.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. pattimoed says:

        Yes, it’s true. I love the messages “hidden” in the tales.

        Like

      2. :)!! Blessings!!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. macalder02 says:

    Ahora ya se mucho más de Andersen. Gracias por lograrlo magníficamente.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. muchas gracias Macalder!!

      Like

  12. Beautiful illustrations to go with a lovely version of the story Cybele – I love these darker fairytales.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thanks so much Andrea!! With all the busyness of the season I am slow in responding!!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. wildalchemi says:

    Seriously Fabulous, Wishing you a Cool Yule ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. and to you my dear!! Thanks so much!

      Like

  14. Christy B says:

    Thanks for telling me more about Andersen as I really did think he was solely a children’s author! Happy holidays, my friend xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. and to you Christy!

      Like

  15. Pieter Navis says:

    Both images are amazing Cybele.. what an incredible atmosphere 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Peter Nena says:

    It is very poignant. When children suffer the whole world suffers. For the future belongs to them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. what can we do Peter!! I ask myself all the time!! Many blessings friend. These are challenging and disturbing times! I hope all is well with you!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. disperser says:

    Well, liked the photos . . . less so the tale.

    Happy Holidays, and wishes for everyone’s lot to be at least marginally better for the holidays and beyond.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. hopefully it’s a reminder for us to have compassion toward others. Many of us have been lost children at one time or another. It’s the fact that so many are still hungry and neglected today!

      Like

  18. Maverick ~ says:

    Wonderful images and a timely tale, well done.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am glad you got the message Maverick!! Blessing of the season!

      Like

  19. Your winter view is magical!

    That story always makes me cry.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thanks Deb! yes waking up to a whole new world of white is magical!! however, it never stays long on the damp west coast. Yes that story was one of my favourites as a child. I always wanted to take her home!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I am a huge fan of Anderson. I have a much loved and thumbed copy of his fairy tales that my mum and dad gave me one Christmas. The match girl is the first story in it. I’ve been to his house in Denmark. Lovely post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. oh that’s wonderful – to have seen his house. I loved Oscar Wilde’s tales too. He was influenced by Andersen’s themes. I was thrilled to see his house in old Dublin and visited his grave in Paris. Yes, we too had a library which included Andersen and the brothers Grimm. I especially loved the Little Match Girl! – and all of his stories. Thanks for visiting Shehanne!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. OMG Oscar Wilde. I adore the Happy Prince. I can’t read it to this day without getting a lump in my throat. I love all his fairy tales, cos they’re not really. I love his plays and poetry too. It was lovely to see the Andersen house. They haad a a wee play int eh garden with folks dressed up him and some of his characters. It was all In Danish but wonderful to see.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Wilde was influenced I believe by Andersen. I too loved and wept over the happy Prince.

        Liked by 2 people

  21. sheldonk2014 says:

    Love your finished work
    it’s what makes your work stand in front

    Liked by 1 person

    1. many thanks Sheldon!

      Like

  22. aidymcglynn says:

    Love the snowy images Cybele – magical.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thanks Aidy!! almost all melted now lol! But we could get more!

      Like

  23. Personally I actually enjoyed this story, I have not thought about it in years, thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh I am so very fond of old fairy tales!! I guess it has influenced me lol! thanks for visiting Julz!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Sherry Felix says:

    Such a sad poignant tale. I read that story as a little girl – it made me cry. The Pachelbel is one of my favorite tunes. It can also be sad depending how it is done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too Sherry! Thanks so much for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  25. paula graham says:

    Yea. I grew up with those stories..very nostalgic.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thank you so much Paula! Christmas is a nostalgic time!

      Like

  26. A beautiful song and a beautiful story and, of course, beautiful pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. so glad you enjoyed Crow! Thank you!

      Like

  27. Nurul Lubis says:

    Beautiful picture, as usual, Cybele. .. Have a great holiday for you 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Many thanks Nurul. I suppose it is sunny where you are!!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Sue says:

    Well written post, Hannah, and great images as ever

    Liked by 1 person

    1. so happy you liked it Sue! Thanks!!

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Amy says:

    A wonderful post, Cybele! I love this first photo, amazingly beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess it’s still warmish where you are! Thanks Amy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Amy says:

        This afternoon was near 70F, but it’ll drop to 40 next Monday!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. get out your toque and mittens! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  30. Alexa says:

    I loved these pictures when I saw them on Flickr, it’s nice to read the story behind them now… though quite sad that in this century we see that sort of thing.. here in America too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for visiting even though the pics were on Flickr lol!! Thanks for reading Alexa and yes it seems so strange over here to see that kind of poverty.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Aquileana says:

    Oh… This was one of my favourite stories as a kid… I had a huge book By Andersen, its cover was yellow, I recall… and had so many gorgeous illustrations…. woefully I lost track of it a long time ago…But I often remember that book!. beautiful choice and, as ever, great feature dear Cybele… Happy Holidays to you and yours. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mine too Aquileana! I lost those wonderfully illustrated books from childhood too. Thanks so much for popping over!! and season’s blessings to you as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Moz Loordes says:

    I enjoyed that, thank you Dune. Hope you have a lovely holiday 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. so pleased you enjoyed it Moz!! thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Like

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