The Little Match Girl

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"The Little Match Girl"
Original title"Den Lille Pige med Svovlstikkerne"
Genre(s)Short story
Published inDansk Folkekalender for 1846
Media typePrint
Publication dateDecember 1845
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"The Little Match Girl"
Original title"Den Lille Pige med Svovlstikkerne"
Genre(s)Short story
Published inDansk Folkekalender for 1846
Media typePrint
Publication dateDecember 1845

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.

Plot summary[edit]

A. J. Bayes illustration, 1889

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.[1] 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.[2]

Another known inspiration for the story is the well-known fairy tale The Star Money previously recorded by the Brothers Grimm.[citation needed] 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.)[3]


Live-action film[edit]



16mm short subject[edit]




The Little Match Girl in the Fairy Tale Forest, Efteling, Netherlands.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ It is known that hypothermia sometimes causes hallucinations. Hypothermia, University of Maryland Cold Casespage&q=hypothermia%20induced%20hallucinations&f=false hypothermia induced hallucinations
  2. ^ Tatar, Maria (2008). The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen. W.W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-06081-2. 
  3. ^ "Hans Christian Andersen: The Little Match Girl". Hans Christian Andersen Center. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "The Song is a Fairytale". Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  6. ^ "The Little Match Girl Opera". 
  7. ^ "7 En Musique". 
  8. ^ Nick Smurthwaite (21 March 2005). "Million pound notes – Keith Strachan". The Stage. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  9. ^ "INTERVIEW: West End director Keith Strachan takes Dancing In The Streets on tour". This is London. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  10. ^ VanderWerff, Todd (19 November 2009). "Matchless: A Christmas Story". AV Club. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  11. ^ McGonagall, William. "The Little Match Girl." Poetry Foundation.2010. Web. 26 February 2010.
  12. ^ Efteling – 'The Little Match Girl' in Fairy tale forest (Het meisje met de zwavelstokjes) (video)

External links[edit]