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The Little Match Girl

"The Little Match Girl"
A. J. Bayes illustration, 1889
Author Hans Christian Andersen
Original title "Den Lille Pige med Svovlstikkerne"
Country Denmark
Language Danish
Genre(s) Short story
Published in Dansk Folkekalender for 1846
Publication date December 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, about a dying child's dreams and hope, was first published in 1845. It has been adapted to various media, including animated film and a television musical.


  • Plot summary 1
  • Publication 2
  • Adaptations 3
    • Amusement park attractions 3.1
    • Anime and manga 3.2
    • Comics 3.3
    • Films 3.4
      • 16mm short subject films 3.4.1
      • Animated films 3.4.2
      • Live-action films 3.4.3
    • Games 3.5
    • Literature 3.6
    • Music 3.7
    • Television 3.8
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Plot summary

On a cold New Year's Eve, a young, poor girl (name unconfirmed) tries to sell matches in the street. She is already shivering from cold and early hypothermia.[1] Still she is afraid to go home, because her father will beat her for not selling any matches. She shelters in a nook and sits down.[2]

The girl 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; she then 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.

After 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 feel pity for her, although they had not shown kindness to her before her death.[3] Andersen intended this to be a happy ending, as the girl is happy in Heaven with her grandmother and God, never to suffer in poverty again. Some more modern versions have changed the ending, so that a kind family rescues the girl from the cold and gives her good food, warm clothing, and a soft bed.


"The Little Match Girl" was first published December 1845, in Dansk Folkekalender for 1846. The work was re-published as a part of New Fairy Tales (4 March 1848), Second Volume, Second Collection (Nye Eventyr (1848), Andet Bind, Anden Samling), and again 18 December 1849 as a part of Fairy Tales (1850; Eventyr). The work was also published 30 March 1863 as a part of Fairy Tales and Stories (1863), Second Volume (Eventyr og Historier (1863), Andet Bind).[4]


Amusement park attractions

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

Anime and manga

  • Chapter 18 of the manga series Binbou Shimai Monogatari (2004) replays the tale of "The Little Match Girl", featuring the protagonists Asu and Kyou with a happy ending twist.
  • In the Japanese anime Gakuen Alice, the main character, Mikan Sakura puts on a play about The Little Match Girl to earn money.
  • "Girl Who Doesn't Sell Matches But is Misfortunate Anyway" is the final episode of the 2010 anime series Ōkami-san, which draws inspiration from various fairy tales. The episode features a character called Machiko Himura, who is based on the little match girl.
  • "The Little Key Frames Girl", episode 11 of the anime Shirobako (2014), episode 11 of the anime, humorously replays the whole match girl story from a more modern and lower stakes point of view.


  • In issue #112 of Bill Willingham's Fables (a comic book series about living embodiments of storybook characters), The Little Match Girl is introduced to Rose Red as one of the paladins of the embodiment of Hope, ostensibly on the night that the girl is doomed to die (Christmas Eve, in this telling). The child identifies herself as "the caretaker of hope deferred", braving the deadly cold and saving the meager pennies she earns towards the promise of a better life in the future, and stubbornly denying that her death is close at hand.


16mm short subject films

  • In 1954, Castle Films released a 16 mm English language version of a 1952 black and white 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.

Animated films

Live-action films


  • 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.




  • In 1974, a contemporarized version set in Cincinnati on Christmas Eve was aired on WLWT. This Christmas special was placed in syndication and last aired on the Family Channel in December 1982.
  • In 1987, HTV released The Little Match Girl as a musical based on the original story. The cast included Twiggy and Roger Daltrey. It included the song "Mistletoe and Wine", which became a Christmas hit a year later for Cliff Richard.[10][11]
  • In 1987, a modernized version, The Little Match Girl, was shown on American television. The cast included Keshia Knight Pulliam, Rue McLanahan, and William Daniels.
  • 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.
  • In 2015, a short parody version featured in the first episode of season 8 of Adult Swim's Robot Chicken. In this sketch version the girl learns the power of fire with the matches and burns her father to death for his abuse.

See also


  1. ^ [4]
  2. ^ [5]
  3. ^ Tatar, Maria (2008). The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen. W.W. Norton.  
  4. ^ "Hans Christian Andersen: The Little Match Girl". Hans Christian Andersen Center. 
  5. ^ Efteling – 'The Little Match Girl' in Fairy tale forest (Het meisje met de zwavelstokjes) (video)
  6. ^ Doty, Meriah (June 4, 2015). Frozen Fever' (and Easter Eggs!) Coming Soon on Disney Shorts Blu-ray (Exclusive)"'". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved October 8, 2015. 
  7. ^ VanderWerff, Todd (19 November 2009). "Matchless: A Christmas Story".  
  8. ^ McGonagall, William. "The Little Match Girl." Poetry Foundation.2010. Web. 26 February 2010.
  9. ^ "The Song is a Fairytale". Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  10. ^ Nick Smurthwaite (21 March 2005). "Million pound notes – Keith Strachan". The Stage. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  11. ^ "INTERVIEW: West End director Keith Strachan takes Dancing In The Streets on tour". This is London. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 

External links

  • "The Little Match Girl" Jean Hersholt's English translation
  • [6] "The Little Match Girl" in the New Normal Reader
  • Den Lille Pige med Svovlstikkerne Original Danish text
  • Surlalune: The Annotated Little Match Girl
  • "The Little Matchgirl" Creative Commons audiobook
  • "The Little Match Girl 1902 Adaptation (downloadable)" at the British Film Institute
  • Shedding Light on the Little Matchgirl traces the path director Roger Allers and the Disney Studio took in adapting the Hans Christian Andersen story to animation.
  • David Lang's passion
  • English translation (full text) from "Andersen's Fairy Tales"
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