The Little Match Girl (Danish: Den Lille Pige med Svovlstikkerne, meaning "The little girl with the matchsticks") is a short story by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen. The story is about a dying child's dreams and hope, and was first published in 1845. It has been adapted to various media including animated film, and a television musical.
On a cold New Year's Eve, a poor girl tries to sell matches in the street. She is freezing badly, but she is afraid to go home because her father will beat her for not selling any matches. She takes shelter in a nook and lights the matches to warm herself.
In their glow, she sees several lovely visions including a Christmas tree and a holiday feast. The girl looks skyward and sees a shooting star, then she remembers her dead grandmother saying that such a falling star means someone is dying and is going to Heaven. As she lights the next match, she sees a vision of her grandmother, the only person to have treated her with love and kindness. She strikes one match after another to keep the vision of her grandmother alive for as long as she can.
Running out of matches, the child dies and her grandmother carries her soul to Heaven. The next morning, passers-by find the child dead in the nook and take pity on her. They do not know about the visions she saw, or that she will not be cold or hungry any more in Heaven.
The source for the story was a widely popular woodcut illustration by the Danish artist Johan Thomas Lundbye depicting a poor child selling matches printed in a calendar for 1843; several illustrations had been sent to Andersen by the editor of an almanac requesting him to write a story around one.
Another known inspiration for the story is the well-known fairy tale The Star Money previously recorded by the Brothers Grimm. It is a story of an impoverished young girl who gives away everything that she has to the needy and ends up with nothing but her love for God. Her selflessness is later rewarded by stars falling from the sky towards the earth, proven to be silver coins. The Grimms' variation differs, ending with the girl remaining alive and receiving divine gifts (money that falls from the stars) for her charity.
"The Little Match Girl" was first published December 1845 in Dansk Folkekalender for 1846. The work was re-published 4 March 1848 as a part of New Fairy Tales. Second Volume. Second Collection. 1848. (Nye Eventyr. Andet Bind. Anden Samling. 1848.), and again 18 December 1849 as a part of Fairy Tales. 1850. (Eventyr. 1850.). The work was also published 30 March 1863 as a part of Fairy Tales and Stories. Second Volume. 1863. (Eventyr og Historier. Andet Bind. 1863.)
In 1902 a short silent film called "The Little Match Seller", directed by James Williamson
In 1928, La Petite Marchande d'Allumettes (The Little Match Girl), a forty-minute silent film by Jean Renoir, was released.
In 2013, "Matches," a twelve minute short film based on "The Little Match Girl" was released. The film takes place in a modern day small town and tells the tale of a young red-haired homeless girl named "Matches" who is ignored by the world around her. After a particularly cold night on the street, Matches meets a mysterious figure named "Gabe" who takes her to a house where she encounters a series of events that parallel the visions the little girl experienced in Anderson's original tale.
In 2010, the Oxford based band Stornoway mentions 'The Story of the Match Stick Girl' in their song 'Here comes the Blackout'.
Akuno-P/Mothy created "The Flames of the Yellow Phosphorus", an adaptation of the tale with vocals provided by the vocaloid Rin Kagamine.
Appearing in the popular Japanese idol game, THE iDOLM@STER, 'Little Match Girl' first appeared as a reservation privilege DLC only song for THE iDOLM@STER 2.
In 2012 The Crüxshadows recorded the song "The Matchstick girl" on their album, As The Dark Against My Halo. According to front-man for the band, Rogue, the song "Matchstick Girl" refers to Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Little Match Girl.
In 2013, the Paris world premiere of The Little Match Girl Opera by composer William Byron Webster (words and music 1973–75) and produced by Adrian Harrington Brown was performed in the Salle des Mariages, Mairie du 7 Arrondissement, as part of the 7 En Musique festival. Scored for two voices with Anne-Chantal Carrière (soprano) as the little match girl and Véronique Bauer (mezzo) as the grandmother and accompanied by pianist Gilles Nicolas.
In 2013, the world premiere of The Little Match Girl Opera by composer Claudio Vaira was performed in the Nuovo Teatro delle Commedie in Livorno - Italy. Scored for 3 solo voices, children choir, mixed choir, 2 percussion and piano. Valentina Vitolo, soprano, Arianna Rondina, soprano, Giorgio Marcello, bass, Matteo Lenzi and Fabio Machiavelli, percussion, Angela Panieri, piano.
16mm short subject
In 1954, Castle Films released a 16 mm English language version of a 1952 b&w French short live-action film. Instead of her grandmother, the Virgin Mary, whom the match girl believes is her own long-lost mother, takes the girl to heaven. No mention is made of the father beating the child. Music from The Nutcracker is used in one of the dream sequences.
In the 1970 Mary Tyler Moore' episode "Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid", when Rhoda learns that Mary is working and can't spend Christmas Eve with her, Rhoda makes reference to the story by asking whether she (Rhoda) is supposed to spend the evening alone standing in the snow lighting matches.
In 1974, a contemporarized version set in Cincinnati on Christmas Eve was aired on WLWT. It featured a nine-year-old Sarah Jessica Parker in the role of the title character. This Christmas special was placed in syndication and last aired on the Family Channel in December 1982.
In 2009, a modernized version set to original music and narrated by F. Murray Abraham was presented by HBO Storybook Musicals, in which the girl is the daughter of a homeless New York couple forced to live underground in an abandoned subway station due to the economic collapse of the 1990s.
On the first episode of Gilmore Girls, before going into her grandmother's house, Rory says to Lorelai "So, do we go in or do we just stand here re-enacting The little match girl?"
In 1996, Hogfather, one of Terry Pratchett's popular Discworld series of novels, gave the story a decidedly less morbid ending, thanks to the intervention of Death himself; currently acting as the Hogfather to compensate for the original's absence, he uses his current status to give the little match girl the present of a future.
In Neil Gaiman's 2004 novella, "A Study in Emerald," the main characters view a set of three plays, one of which is a stage adaptation of the "Little Match Girl".
A Spider-Man short story titled "Leah" about a homeless little girl who goes into a coma and is found by Spider-Man, the doctors inform Spider-Man she won't make it, as Spidey kisses Leah on the cheek he wishes her "sweet, sweet dreams"; Leah falls asleep looking at newspaper clippings of Spider-Man mirroring the girl's death while looking into the matches. The story was originally in the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man Annual No. 1.
In the Piers Anthony novel "The Color of Her Panties", chapter 11, the characters reference the story of the Little Match Girl, and the Demoness Metria takes the form of an orphan waif selling matches. As she lights her matches, the heart's desire of the one for whom she lights the match is granted.
In Anne Ursu's 2011 novel "Breadcrumbs", the main character Hazel meets a character based on the Little Match Girl in the woods.
Suikoden III, (2002), a video game for the PlayStation 2, contains a highly-abridged play version of "The Little Match Girl". In the game, the player can cast characters in different roles and have them perform a shortened version of the story.