The Little Match Girl

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For the 1928 French film, see The Little Match Girl (1928 film). For the 2006 Disney animated short film, see The Little Matchgirl (2006 film).
"Match Girl" redirects here. For the short story by Anne Bishop, see Match Girl (short story).
"The Little Match Girl"
The Little Match Girl - Bayes 1889.jpg
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 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]

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[which?] more modern versions have changed the ending, in that a kind family rescues the girl from the cold, and gives her good food, warm clothing and a soft bed.[citation needed]


"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.)[4]


Live-action film[edit]



  • In 1994, Frederik Magle released the album "The song is a Fairytale" with songs based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairytales with Thomas Eje and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen amongst others. The Little Match Girl is one of the songs.[5]
  • In 1988–96, the German avant-garde composer Helmut Lachenmann wrote an opera based on the story called Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern, also including a text by Red Army Faction founder Gudrun Ensslin.
  • In 1995, German singer Meret Becker included the song "Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern" in her album Noctambule.
  • In 2001, guitarist Loren Mazzacane Connors released the album The Little Match Girl based on the story.
  • In 2001 the Hungarian band Tormentor wrote the song "The Little Match Girl," with lyrics based on the story.
  • In 2002 GrooveLily released Striking 12, a musical based on "The Little Match Girl". The story was also used as a basis for the band GrooveLily's 2004 off-Broadway musical Striking 12.
  • In 2005, Erasure made a music video of their song "Breathe", based on a modern adaptation of the story.
  • In 2006, the English band The Tiger Lillies and a string trio released the album "The Little Match Girl" based on the story.
  • American composer David Lang completed his own rendition of the original story in 2007. The Little Match Girl Passion is scored for four solo voices, soprano, alto, tenor and bass, with percussion, and was written for Paul Hillier and his ensemble Theater of Voices. The work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in music in 2008. It presents Hans Christian Andersen's tale in Lang's characteristic post-minimalist style with thematic influence from Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. John and St. Matthew Passions.
  • 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.

16mm short subject[edit]

  • 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.


  • 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" 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.[6][7]
  • 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 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 2003, "The Little Match Girl" was adapted into a short story manga by Hans Tseng and was featured in the first volume of Tokyopop's Rising Stars of Manga.
  • 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".
  • Match Girl, a short story by Anne Bishop, published in Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears in 1995.
  • In 1992 Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés page 319 The Little Match Girl, as told to the author by her aunt, is followed by a lucid analysis.
  • Novelist Gregory Maguire read a short story based on "The Little Match Girl" over the air on NPR. In 2009 he expanded the short story into a novel, published as Matchless: A Christmas Story.[8]
  • The Little Match Girl is retold in a poem by William McGonagall (1825–1902)[9]
  • In Anne Ursu's 2011 novel "Breadcrumbs", the main character Hazel meets a character based on the Little Match Girl in the woods.


The Little Match Girl in the Fairy Tale Forest, Efteling, Netherlands
  • "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.
  • 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.
  • "Resurrection of the Little Match Girl" is a 2003 Korean movie.
  • In the Japanese anime Gakuen Alice, the main character, Mikan Sakura puts on a play about The Little Match Girl to earn money.
  • The Colombian movie La Vendedora De Rosas (Little Rose Selling Girl) is a 1998 film about homeless children victims of solvent abuse, loosely based in The Little Match Girl.
  • In France, director Jean Benoît-Lévy's film version, La Jeune Fille aux Allumettes (1952) included a brief dance sequence with ballet star Janine Charrat.
  • The Fairy Tale Forest (Sprookjesbos in Dutch) of the amusement park Efteling in the Netherlands has a three-dimensional attraction showing the story of the Little Match Girl, called Het Meisje met de Zwavelstokjes.[10] In this attraction, use is made of the pepper's ghost technique.

See also[edit]


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

External links[edit]