Structured Questions Answers from The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen 

QUESTION AND ANSWERS from The Little Match Girl

Read the extract and answer the following questions: 

1. She had been wearing slippers, it is true, when she left home, but what good were they? They had been her mother's, so you can imagine how big they were. The little girl had lost them as she ran across the street to escape from two carriages that were being driven terribly fast. One slipper could not be  found, and a boy had run off with the other, saying that it would come in very handy as a cradle some day when he had children of his own. 

1. What type of weather has been described in this extract?


The weather was extremely cold and it was completely dark. As it was the last evening of the year, the snow was falling heavily and everything seemed to be freezing. The sky was covered with dark clouds. There was a chill in the atmosphere and shivering cold had restricted people to move out of their homes. Only a few people were seen on the roads. It was a gloomy and fearful atmosphere.

2. In what condition was the little child moving in the streets?


The little child was moving in the streets through the biting wind and driving snow. The snowfall of the last day of the year was excessively heavy and as the evening approached, it became almost dark as compared to the other evenings. From her appearance, it seemed as if she belonged to a very poor family otherwise no one would have dared to come out of their house in such harsh weather.

3. How could you make out that the girl belonged to a poor family?


The little girl was out of her house without enough warm clothes to protect her from chilly winter evening. She had nothing to cover her head or her feet. She had lost her slippers also and so she had to walk on her naked feet which ultimately became red and blue with cold.

4. Why was the poor child walking barefoot and bareheaded in the streets in such harsh weather?


The little girl was among the few people who were seen on the roads in the biting cold weather. There must be some genuine reason for which she was out in the streets and it was clear from seeing her tattered clothes. She was wearing an old apron in which she carried several packages of matches. She held a box of them in her hand for selling but no one had bought any box from her since morning. As she did not get a single cent, she did not dare to go back home.

5. What has happened to her slippers? Why were they of no use for her?


The poor little girl was walking in the streets barefoot. It was obvious that when she had left her house in the morning, she might be wearing them but they were not too much of use for her as they were her mother's and too big for her. Also, she had lost one while crossing the road where two carriages had rattled by speedily. She had not been able to find the slipper and other was taken away by one boy who told that he would use it as a cradle in future for his children. And so she walked on her naked feet.

2. Lights were shining in every window, and there was a glorious smell of roast goose in the street, for this was New Year's Eve, and she could not think of anything else. She huddled down in a heap in a corner formed by two houses, one of which projected further out into the street than the other, but though she tucked her little legs up under her she felt colder and colder. She did not dare to go home, for she had sold no matches and earned not a single penny.

1. How has the atmosphere been set up in the given passage?


The passage presents the picture of the miserable child. She is walking very slowly on the road due to extreme cold and hunger. She had beautiful long hair which hung in pretty curls over her neck and was covered with snowflakes. It was getting dark so the houses were lit up. In all the windows of the houses, the light was shining and wonderful smell of roast goose was coming out as it was New Year's Eve. The poor little creature was perishing with cold and in the picture of misery.

2. Why did the writer say that 'she did not think of her appearance now'?


The little girl crept along the streets, shivering and hungry with a hope of selling at least a few packs of matchsticks. But nobody had bought any from her. She was presented as the picture of misery. She kept on trying despite the extremely cold weather. The snowflakes fell on her long golden hair which curled so prettily about her neck but she did not think of her appearance now. The only thing that captured her mind was to sell the matchboxes anyhow.

3. What did the little girl do to keep herself warm? Did it help her?


On the New Year's Eve, a few days after Christmas when everyone was in a festive mood and cuddled in their houses, the miserable child was on the streets. When she could not stand the cold any more, she found a place in a corner formed by two houses, one of which projected further out into the street than the other. She tucked her little legs up under her to feel warm but it did no good and still, she felt colder and colder.

4. Why could the little girl not go home in spite of extremely bad weather?


The little poor child was out in the streets barefoot and bareheaded to sell the matchboxes which she carried in her old apron. She had been trying to sell those boxes since morning but didn't succeed till evening. In spite of the harsh weather, she could not go home because of the fear of her father's beating. She knew that as she had not sold a single matchbox as a result of which she had not earned a single cent, her father would surely scold and beat her. So she found a corner formed by two houses and sat down there drawing up her little feet under her.

5. Apart from her father's wrath, she did not want to go home. Why?
What was the other reason for which she did not want to go home?


The poor child was out from her house since very morning to sell out the matchboxes. Although evening had approached and it became dark early due to chilling weather and snowfall, she did not dare to go home because she was not able to sell even a single matchbox. She feared her father's wrath so found it better to spend time there in the street. So she sought shelter in a corner formed by two houses, one of which was projected farther out into the street than the other. But there was other reason too for which she didn't want to go home as it was not comfortable there. In the name of the house, they had a roof through which the wind passes and the cracks had been stuffed with straw and rags.

3. She pulled one out-scr-r-ratch!-how it spluttered and burnt! It had a warm, bright flame like a tiny candle when she held her hand over it-but what a strange light! It seemed to the little girl as if she were sitting in front of a great iron stove with polished brass knobs and brass ornaments. The fire burnt so beautifully and gave out such a lovely warmth. Oh, how wonderful that was! 

1. What did the poor child do to warm herself up?


The extraordinary chill had created numbness in the hands of the little girl. Although she had the whole bundle of matchboxes in her hand, still she thought how much warmth she could get from them. She then thought of lighting a single match by rubbing it against the wall she was sitting near, to warm up her hands. She drew one matchstick from the box and burnt it. It gave a strange and wonderful light. For her, it was like as if a drowning man has caught hold of a straw. It seemed to her that she was sitting in front of an iron stove and felt comfortable.

2. Was the method used by the child to keep her warm successful?


The girl was literally shivering with cold. Her feet had turned blue and red due to chill and above all, she had nothing to wear in her feet. Her head was also not covered. Her clothes were old and not warm. In such situation, she even found a corner formed by two houses comfier. the idea struck her mind that if she lights a match she would get warmth. As soon as she rubbed it against the wall, a bright flame shone with a spluttered sound, it had a warm and bright flame like a tiny candle when she held her hand over it. It was so comfortable that she stretched out her feet to warm them too. Though it did not give her as warmth as was required in that weather still she had peace in her mind or one can say a kind of illusion that she was getting warmer.

3. What do you think she was lighting only one matchstick from the box?


The girl belonged to a poor family. She had nothing to wear and she was dying from cold and hunger. She had been sent out of the house in the morning only to sell the matchboxes so that she could earn some money for her father. She dared not to disobey her father due to his rude and cruel nature. She knew that if she would return home without earning a cent he would beat her. So she decided to spend time in the street only but because it was too cold and unbearable for the little girl, she thought of getting warmth by lighting matchsticks. On the other hand, she knew her father's nature so she took out only one matchstick out of the box and lit it knowing how much one little match might warm her.

4. What was the first vision which she saw after lighting the matchstick?


When the girl struck one small match from the packet, it spluttered and burnt. And it was so amazing that she felt like sitting in front of a great iron stove with shining brass knobs and a brass cover. The fire burnt so beautifully and gave out lovely warmth. It appeared wonderful to the child. But soon the flame went out, the stove vanished and she was left with only the remains of the burnt match in her hand.

5. What is the symbolism in the passage?

AnswerThere are lots of instances where symbolism has been used in the story. They are used to impart more than the literal meaning of the word. Here in this passage too, the iron stove is the symbol of the little girl's longing for warmth as she was dying with cold, she was expecting warmth from somewhere. She found a place in the corner between the two houses and hid her feet under it but it was of no use. So she lit up a match and in the light of the flame and then she visualizes a stove. It is also the symbol of warm feelings of love and care which her grandmother used to give her.

4. She struck another match on the wall. Once more there was light, and in the glow stood her old grandmother, oh, so bright and shining, and looking so gentle, kind and loving. "Granny!" cried the little girl. "Oh, take me with you! I know you will disappear when the match is burnt out; you will vanish like the warm stove, the lovely roast goose and the great glorious Christmas tree!" 

1. What different images did the poor child see on the wall?


The little girl was almost dying with cold and hunger. Therefore she burnt a matchstick to get rid of that chill but it soon went out. Thus she struck another match against the wall and when the light fell upon it, it became thin like a veil. Through it she could see into a room. She saw a table covered with a snow-white cloth and on it there was a shining dinner service. The roast goose stuffed with prunes and apples was steaming. Then only the matchstick went out. She lighted another matchstick and found herself sitting under the most beautiful Christmas tree with thousands of candles burning on its branches. By this time again the match went out. But the Christmas lights were still there which mounted higher and higher.

2. Were the images real or merely her imagination?


The girl was so innocent that she was unaware of the clever worldly ways. It was her age of playing with the toys but she was being forced to engage in household chores. The only thing that she knew was her father's rude nature and so she thought of sitting on the road only. Besides, her house was not so cosy so she thought of remaining out. As her hands were almost dead with cold in the biting chill, the poor child burnt a matchstick to keep herself warm, which soon went out. Again she lighted a matchstick and when the light fell upon the wall, she saw various beautiful images. As we know that there was nothing actually, it's clear that all those images were her mind's creativity. Whatever she used to imagine, came alive in those images. In fact, they were illusions.

3. Which was the last picture that she saw on the wall and which she did not want to vanish?


When the little girl lit a matchstick against the wall, she saw beautiful images formed on the wall which were her mind's productivity only. The final image which she saw was someone dying. And that was her grandmother, the only person who had loved her and was now dead. She got immense affection from her that she did not want to lose her again. She wanted her company forever as she found solace in her grandmother's lap. That is why she did not want her grandmother's picture to vanish from her eyesight.

4. Can you guess the reason why she wanted to keep the picture alive?


Grandmother was the only person in a poor child's life who loved her a lot. Her father was an ill-natured person who scolded and beaten her for petty things. And from the story, we can guess that there was no other member in her family except these two. The grandmother who used to love her more than anyone was now dead. And when she saw her image, she became so relaxed and felt joy that she did not want to part with her again. Because she knew that as soon as the match went out, the picture would also vanish. So she kept on lighting the matchsticks.

5. What kind of relationship did the little girl share with her grandmother?


From the above passage, it is clear that the little girl was all alone in the vast world. She only had one person in her life who gave her immense love and that too was not alive. It was none other than her grandmother. She was dead but the child remembered her fondly. She recalled all her views and stories told by her. The memory of her grandmother and her affection gave her warmth for some time and enabled her to bear all the suffering.

5.  But in the cold dawn, in the corner formed by the two houses, sat the little girl with rosy cheeks and smiling lips, dead-frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. The dawn of the new year rose on the huddled figure of the girl. She was still holding the matches, and half a packet had been 
burnt. "She was evidently trying to warm herself", people said. 

1. What is the theme of this passage?


The theme of this passage projects the happiness of the child which she experienced throughout the series of troubles. The world in which she lived had lost touch with humanity. No one had shown sympathy towards the child who had been out in the bitter weather for selling matches. But when she saw the image or rather illusion of her grandmother, she became enormously happy and in order to keep her alive, burnt the whole bundle of matches, forgetting the fear of her father.

2. Where did the grandmother take the child along with her?


When the child saw her grandmother, she pleaded to take her away. She struck the whole bundle of matches to keep her grandmother with her forever; the bright glow of the matches reflected the image of the grandmother clearly and more effectively. The light was brighter than the daylight. She had never seen such beauty and grandeur of her grandmother. The grandmother took the little girl in her arms and both of them flew in brightness and joy above the earth.

3. What has happened finally?


The child was so fed up of her life that when she saw her grandmother in her illusions, she asked her to take along so that she could also lead a peaceful life. The child of her age didn't know that death was the ultimate truth. As she was told by her grandmother that when a star fell down, a soul went up to God, she also wanted to join her in heaven. Finally, the grandmother took the little girl into her arms and both of them flew in brightness and joy above the earth, very, very high and up there was neither cold, nor hunger, nor fear. They were now safe in the hands of God.

4. What were the people's reactions to seeing the poor child's stiff body?


On the last evening of the year, leaning against the wall, the little girl was sitting in the corner with red cheeks and smiling mouth, frozen to death. The New Year's sun witnessed a pathetic figure. Her body was stiff and cold, she held the matches out of which one bundle was almost burned.
The people, who were unconcerned till now, started making different guesses for the burnt-out matches beside her. They said that she might want to warm herself up. They could never be able to imagine what beautiful things she had seen and how cheerfully she had gone with her grandmother in the New Year.

5. What is the significance of matches in the story?


Matches are minor things but sometimes even minor things can get the biggest happiness of life. To sell the matches and to get money for her father, the child was out in the streets during the festive time in the chilly winter evening. By lighting the matches, she tried to keep herself warm. Then in the light of matches only she was able to visualize different images which were the yield of her mind. Matches are the symbol of faith and hope, warmth and love.

Compound Questions and Answers

1. (a) How does the writer create sympathy for the little girl in the story?


The title invites our attention to the young age of the girl and the fact that she has to suffer so much from her misfortune, evokes unlimited sympathy for her.
Secondly, the writer draws our attention to the bitter cold and darkness of the night and the sight of a delicate and helpless child exposed to its bitterness on the last evening of the year chokes our throat with pain.

Thirdly, how unequipped the girl is, to face the terrible cold is emphasised by describing her pathetic condition. She is walking in the street bareheaded and barefoot. The oversized slippers which she is wearing belonged to her mother, and one of which she loses while escaping from a speeding carriage. The other is taken away by a boy. Such is the callousness with which the world treats a poor, hapless child

Further, we are told that her feet are red and blue due to walking a long distance, trying to sell matchsticks which nobody buys. "She crept along, shivering and hungry, the picture of misery, poor little thing." This very description definitely creates empathy for the lovely little child with golden hair.

(b) What are the four visions seen by the girl and what do they signify?


Huddled in the corner of two houses, the little girl lights a match for warmth. She sees the vision of a great iron stove with polished brass knobs and brass ornaments. She stretches her feet to feel its lovely warmth, but alas ! The warmth vanishes leaving her cold.

Next, the girl strikes another match, and she sees the mouthwatering vision of a dinner table spread with a white cloth, with a steaming roast goose in the centre, stuffed with prunes and apples. Her thunder makes her imagine the goose hopping towards her but this also vanishes.
Thirdly, she sees the vision of a Christmas tree, with a thousand candles lighting up its green branches and gaily coloured balls. When she stretches her hands to touch them, they rise higher and higher to become bright stars.

Finally, she sees the beautiful vision of her grandmother smiling lovingly at her. She implores her granny to take her along with her. Little does she know that she is imploring for her death.
The four visions symbolise the wishes of every child in this world, for warmth, for food, for the cheer of sitting under a Christmas tree decorated with candles and other baubles, and most importantly, for love and kindness. The child does not get these in this world; so she longs to go to the other world.

(c) What are your feelings after reading the story?


In one sentence, if I can summarise my feelings, I will simply say, the story makes me cry. It touches the depth of my heart. In fact, it still haunts me in my lonely hours; before falling asleep or when I see small, sweet children. It makes me angry with myself and the callous world around me that is so insensitive about our fellow creatures.

One New Year eve, when the well-to-do are getting ready for their cosy dinner, a little match girl walks in the cold, dark night trying to sell matches. Nobody buys them, no one notices the hungry, shivering girl, her feet red and blue after walking barefoot. She cannot go back to her house as there also, no love, warmth or food awaits her. She is scared of her father who may beat her for not bringing any money home. So, she sits in the corner made by two houses from which the glow of fire and smell of roast goose tempts her taste buds. Everywhere around her, there is festivity; but not for her. Her simple wishes are manifested each time she lights a matchstick. Her wish for warmth, for food, for beautiful things of life, for love and for protection-she achieves all these, but in dreams. She begs the vision of her grandmother to take her with her and her ultimate wish is fulfilled. She rises in all her glory to the world of God, where no misery will touch her, where no hunger or chill winds will trouble her.

The vision of the frozen child with rosy cheeks and a happy smile, sitting huddled in the corner, never leaves our memory. However, we also feel happy that she leaves this world with a blissful smile after fulfilling her long-cherished wishes, in those last moments just before she is lifted by her grandmother to be near God.

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