Synopsis of The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen from Treasure Trove

About The Author The Little Match Girl

Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish writer who was best known for writing children stories like 'The Little Mermaid' and 'The Ugly Duckling

He was born in Odens, Denmark on 2nd April 1805. He was famous for writing innovative and influential fairy tales as his family was not so wealthy, young Hans was educated Boarding School for privileged. His childhood was not very happy and therefore his stores reflect the sadness, loss and death. In 1819, Andersen travelled to Copenhagen to work as an actor. He returned to school after a short time. He began writing during this period but was discouraged by his teachers. He gained recognition in 1829 when his first short story A Journey on Foot from Holmen's Canal to the East Point of Amager was published. After this, his play, a book of poetry and a travelogue was published. The promising young author won a grant from the king. He began producing fairy tales in 1835. He continued writing both for children as well as adults. In 1845, translation of Andersen's folktales and stories attracted the foreign audiences. Andersen sustained a serious injury in 1872 after falling from bed in his Copenhagen home. His final publication, a collection of stories appeared the same year. By this time the signs of liver cancer were visible due to which he died on 4th August in 1875 in Copenhagen.

Summary of The Little Match Girl

This is a short story written by Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen which was first published in 1845. He was inspired by the drawing of a Danish artist, Johan Thomas, where a girl was selling matches on the street. The title actually means “The little girl with matchsticks". It is based on the dreams and aspirations of a child who was dying out of cold and poverty as well as hunger.

The story opens with a cold and dark last evening of the year. A poor girl is selling matchsticks in the dark and cold streets. She has lost her slippers and is shivering from cold. To protect herself from chilling cold, she takes shelter in a corner and sits down. She doesn't want to go back home as she has not sold a single matchbox and her father would beat her for that reason. Even there is no use going home as it is not a comfortable place for this particular weather.

To keep herself warm, she lights a matchstick. In the glow, she sees various pictures. Every time she lights a matchstick, she sees a dream and as soon as it blows out, the dream vanishes. She sees shining dinner service, steaming roast goose, beautiful Christmas tree and sometimes a falling star which reminds her of her grandmother, the only person who loved her and is now dead. As she doesn't want her grandmother to vanish, she lights one match after another to keep her vision alive. When all the matches are lit up, the child dies and is taken up to heaven by her grandmother.

Next morning, when the passersby look at her face, it seems frozen with a smile. They make different guesses on seeing the burnt matches beside her. They feel pity for her without knowing the amazing visions she saw before her death. They can't imagine that she is celebrating the New Year joyously with her grandmother in heaven.

Theme of The Little Match Girl

The unfortunate fate of the little girl is portrayed here. Death has been represented in bright images. The theme projected is of hope which is symbolized by the matches and the cold winter is a symbol of hopelessness. There is parallelism between the girl's condition and the weather condition outside. She was miserable and going through many difficulties. She fought to survive till the end. It signifies that one must not lose hope howsoever the adverse conditions are. It is a sad story of a little girl who doesn't lose hope until the last match. In bitterly cold weather, she tried her best to sell the matches. In the end, she got relief from all the troubles when hope and faith came hand in hand to help her and she was out of all miseries. Almost frozen to death, when no one can even dream of a splendid life, she enjoyed the joys of New Year with her grandmother.

There are certain religious beliefs too in the story. The author had a firm belief in religion and God that He would bestow upon us all the things we wish for and therefore an innocent child entered a world where there was no more pain, agony and suffering. The story depicts the value of relations too. The girl had a close connection with her grandmother that even after her death also she used to talk to her as if she was alive. She did not want to lose her for which she lighted the whole bundle of matches. Superstition in the form of the falling star also finds its place in the story. According to the author when a star falls, a soul goes up. Thus one can say that the story is a mixture of many elements.

Character Sketches from The Little Match Girl

Character Sketch of The Young Girl

The little match girl is the main character of the story as the whole story revolves around her. Other characters are in the background. One may guess the age of the girl by the slippers she was wearing as they were of her mother and too big for her, thus she might not be more than nine or ten years. Her hands and feet were tiny. The story projects the girl's life which is miserable and has touched the heart of many readers. She belonged to an extremely poor family which is clear from the description of her house," — it was so cold at home, for they had nothing but the roof above them and the wind whistled through that, even though the largest cracks were stuffed with straw and rags". Moreover, she was not loved by her father otherwise he would not have sent her out in the blistering cold to sell the matches on the eve of the festival when she did not have enough warm clothes. She was so docile that she did not oppose her father and preferred to freeze to death rather than going back home to face the harshness of her father. He did not have any concern for her and used to treat her badly. She portrays the picture of an apathetic, sorrowful child whose age allows her to dream, imagine and fancy but her father restricted her doing so, and she was leading the life of maturity. She was deprived of all the love and affection which she should get from her father. She longed for the love which she used to get from her grandmother who was now dead.

All those dreams came alive in the form of visions when she freezes to death. Her hallucinations when she lit the matchstick showed her desire. At first, she saw herself sitting in front of a great iron stove as she was in need of warmth at that time. Then she saw lavish food laid on the table which showed her need for food. In her third vision, she saw a beautiful Christmas tree depicting her desire for celebration. In the last vision, she saw her grandmother whom she pleaded her to take to heaven as she was left alone after her. It seemed as if her last wish was fulfilled. Then also there was radiance on her face when she met and talked to her grandmother in her subconscious mind.


terribly - unpleasant, shockingly bad;
gloom - semi-darkness, depression;
bareheaded - not wearing anything to cover head;
barefoot - not wearing anything on foot;
carriages - a horse-drawn vehicle;
rattled - short harsh sound;
cradle - a baby's bed;
apron - a protective garment covering the front of clothes;
shivering - trembling with cold or fever;
crept along - move slowly:
snowflakes - ice crystals that fall as snow;
stuffed – filled with;
sputtered - series of soft explosive sounds:
vanished - disappear completely;
veil – something that conceals;
steamed - cook food by heating it in steam from boiling water;
gloriously - splendidly:
prunes - dried plum;
waddled - swaying movement, walk with short steps;
mounted - get up on to;
leaned - in a sloping position;
pathetic - miserable;
stiff - not easily bent, rigid.

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