Comfort Reads: The Little Match Girl

By Silje Tunes

MA Student Silje Tunes shares her comfort read; a tragic short story by the Danish author H. C. Andersen.

The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen is a gut-wrenching and heart-breaking story that is extremely popular in Scandinavia. It was published in 1845 and has been adapted into a live-action movie, musicals and even a video game. Disney bought the rights to make an animated short film in 2006.

One of my favourite things as a child was when our primary school teacher would read to us (which only happened once a year). We were never allowed to choose the story, as we were twenty-four children with little to no clue about literature. But the story the teacher read captured my interest regardless of my taste of books.

She would stalk into the classroom with a small book in hand every December before the holiday began, and we all knew which story she was about to read. Silence followed, despite a little snickering at the beginning. It was a story about a girl selling matchsticks; barefooted in the snow. We listened intently about how the girl would look in through the windows at New Year’s Eve, wishing she could be a part of the many families celebrating the new year, and not be afraid of returning home, scared to be beaten by her father for the small number of matchsticks sold.

One might argue that such a story is not entirely suitable for a seven-year old, but truth be told, it taught every single one of us to value what we have. The teacher would close her book and ask us what we thought, and despite some laughter and restless bodies, we discussed the importance of family and love.

The Little Match Girl is a story about a girl who, in her last moments while huddling out in the snow, sees her dead grandmother in the light of the matches, the only person who ever treated her with love. As the last match dies, the girl dies with it, and she is brought to Heaven by her grandmother. The people who find her are saddened by her death, but have no idea of the pure joy she felt in her last moments.

It is a story that comes back to me every now and then, especially during the Christmas Holiday, which is why I have always considered it a comfort read. I am again reminded of how we should all cherish what we have, treat each other with respect, and be welcoming to those who might not have been dealt the best hand in life.

You can buy The Little Match Girl from World of Books and Ebay.