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 young, poor girl (name unconfirmed) tries to sell matches in the street. She is already shivering from cold and early hypothermia. 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.
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 for her before her death.
"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 2008 Terry Pratchett's Hogfather, Death brings a dead little match girl back to life while in the role of the Hogfather. When his servant says that Death is not supposed to do that, Death replies "The Hogfather can. The Hogfather brings presents. There is no better present than a future."
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 Andersen's original tale.
In the 2005 anime series The Snow Queen, based on another H.C. Andersen story, there is an episode entitled "The Little Match Girl".
In the 2010 anime series Ōkami-san, draws inspiration from various fairy tales, the final episode entitled "Girl Who Doesn't Sell Matches But is Misfortunate Anyway" features a character called Machiko Himura who is based on the little match girl.
In 2010, the Oxford based band Stornoway mentions 'The Story of the Match Stick Girl' in their song 'Here comes the Blackout'.
Appearing in the popular Japanese idol game, The Idolmaster, 'Little Match Girl' first appeared as a reservation privilege DLC only song for The Idolmaster 2.
In 2012 The Crüxshadows recorded the song "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 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. 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. 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.
"Binbou Shimai Monogatari", (2004), in the 18th chapter of the manga replays the tale of "The Little Match Girl" featuring the protagonists Asu and Kyou with a happy ending twist.
"Shirobako" (2014), episode 11 of the anime is titled 'The Little Key Frames Girl' and humorously replays the whole match girl story from a more modern and lower stakes point of view.
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.
"Transformers: Cybertron", (2005), The Little Match Girl is mentioned by Lori, one of the three main human characters in the show, who tells Six-Speed, one of the members of the Recon-Minicon-Team, that the story is a sad story, when she notices him "crying" because of the sadness of the story.
In the Japanese anime Gakuen Alice, the main character, Mikan Sakura puts on a play about The Little Match Girl to earn money.
In the Japanese anime Little Busters!, the Little Match Girl is mentioned by a main character, Komari Kamikita, who takes great interest in fairy tales.