The Little Match Girl
Hans Christian Andersen - Stories and Tales
It was very, very cold. It snowed
and it grew
dark. It was the last evening of the year, New Year's Eve. In the cold and dark a poor little
girl, with bare head and bare feet, was walking
through the streets. When she left her own house
she certainly had had slippers on, but what could
they do? They were very big slippers, and her
mother had used them till then, so big were they.
The little maid lost them as she slipped across the
road, where two carriages were rattling by terribly
fast. One slipper was not to be found again, and
a boy ran away with the other. He said he could
use it for a cradle when he had children of his own.
So now the little girl went with her
little naked feet, which were quite red and blue with the
cold. In an old apron she carried a number of matches,
and a bundle of them in her hand. No one had
bought anything of her all day - no one had given
her a copper. Hungry and cold she went, and
drew herself together, poor little thing! The
snowflakes fell on her long yellow hair, which
curled prettily over her neck - but she did not
think of that now. In all the windows lights were
shining, and there was a glorious smell of roast
goose out there in the street - it was no doubt New Year's Eve. Yes, she thought of that!
In a corner formed by two houses, one
of which was a little farther from the street than the
other, she sat down and crept close. She had drawn up
her little feet, but she was still colder, and she did
not dare to go home, for she had sold no matches,
and she had not a single cent. Her father would
beat her, and besides, it was cold at home, for
they had nothing over the them but a roof through
which the wind whistled, though straw and rags
stopped the largest holes.
Her small hands were quite numb with
the cold. Ah! a little match might do her good if she
only dared draw one from the bundle, and strike it
against the wall, and warm her fingers at it. She
drew one out. R-r-atch! how it spluttered and
burned! It was a warm bright flame, like a little
candle, when she held her hands over it; it was a
wonderful little light! It really seemed to the
little girl as if she sat before a great polished
stove, with bright brass feet and a brass cover.
The fire burned so nicely. It warmed her so well, the
little girl was just putting out her feet to warm these,
too, when out went the flame. The stove was gone - she
sat with only the end of the burned match in her hand.
She struck another. It burned. It
gave a light - and where it shone on the wall, the wall
became thin like a veil, and she could see through it into
the room where a table stood, spread with a white
cloth, and with china on it, and the roast goose
smoked gloriously, stuffed with apples and dried
plums. And what was still more splendid to behold,
the goose hopped down from the dish, and
waddled along the floor, with a knife and fork in
its breast - straight to the little girl he came. Then
the match went out, and only the thick, damp,
cold wall was before her.
She lighted another. Then she was sitting
under a beautiful Christmas tree. It was greater and
finer than the one she had seen through the glass
door at the rich merchant's. Thousands of candles
burned upon the green branches, and colored pictures
like those in the shop windows looked down
upon them. The little girl stretched forth both
hands toward them - then the match went out.
The Christmas lights went higher and higher.
She saw that now they were stars in the sky - one
of them fell and made a long line of fire.
"Now some one is dying,'' said the
little girl, for her old grandmother, the only person who
had been good to her, but who was now dead, had said, "When
a star falls a soul mounts up to God.''
She rubbed another match against the
wall. It became bright again, and in the light there stood
the old grandmother clear and shining, mild and
"Grandmother!'' cried the child. "Oh, take
me with you! I know you will go when the match
is burned out. You will go away like the warm
stove, the nice roast goose, and the great glorious
And she hastily rubbed the whole bundle
of matches, for she wished to hold her grandmother
fast. And the matches burned with such a glow
that it became brighter than in the middle of the
day. Grandmother had never been so large or so
beautiful. She took the little girl up in her arms,
and both flew in the light and the joy so high, so
high! and up there was no cold, nor hunger, nor
care - they were with God.
But in the corner by the house sat the little
girl, with red cheeks and smiling mouth, frozen to
death on the last evening of the Old Year. The
New Year sun rose upon the little body, that sat
there with the matches, of which one bundle was
burned. She wanted to warm herself, the people
said. No one knew what fine things she had seen,
and in what glory she had gone in with her
grandmother to the New Year Day.