The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen


IT was terribly cold and nearly dark on the last evening of the old

year, and the snow was falling fast. In the cold and the darkness, a

poor little girl, with bare head and naked feet, roamed through the

streets. It is true she had on a pair of slippers when she left home,

but they were not of much use. They were very large, so large,

indeed, that they had belonged to her mother, and the poor little

creature had lost them in running across the street to avoid two

carriages that were rolling along at a terrible rate. One of the

slippers she could not find, and a boy seized upon the other and

ran away with it, saying that he could use it as a cradle, when he

had children of his own. So the little girl went on 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 had a bundle of them

in her hands. No one had bought anything of her the whole day,

nor had any one given here even a penny. Shivering with cold and

hunger, she crept along; poor little child, she looked the picture of

misery. The snowflakes fell on her long, fair hair, which hung in

curls on her shoulders, but she regarded them not.

Lights were shining from every window, and there was a savory

smell of roast goose, for it was New-year's eve- yes, she

remembered that. In a corner, between two houses, one of which

projected beyond the other, she sank down and huddled herself

together. She had drawn her little feet under her, but she could not

keep off the cold; and she dared not go home, for she had sold no

matches, and could not take home even a penny of money. Her

father would certainly beat her; besides, it was almost as cold at

home as here, for they had only the roof to cover them, through

which the wind howled, although the largest holes had been

stopped up with straw and rags. Her little hands were almost

frozen with the cold.

Ah! perhaps a burning match might be some good, if she could

draw it from the bundle and strike it against the wall, just to warm

her fingers. She drew one outscratch!” how it sputtered as it

burnt! It gave a warm, bright light, like a little candle, as she held

her hand over it. It was really a wonderful light. It seemed to the

little girl that she was sitting by a large iron stove, with polished

brass feet and a brass ornament. How the fire burned! and seemed

so beautifully warm that the child stretched out her feet as if to

warm them, when, lo! the flame of the match went out, the stove

vanished, and she had only the remains of the halfburnt match in

her hand.

She rubbed another match on the wall. It burst into a flame, and

where its light fell upon the wall it became as transparent as a veil,

and she could see into the room. The table was covered with a

snowy white table-cloth, on which stood a splendid dinner service,

and a steaming roast goose, stuffed with apples and dried plums.

And what was still more wonderful, the goose jumped down from

the dish and waddled across the floor, with a knife and fork in its

breast, to the little girl. Then the match went out, and there

remained nothing but the thick, damp, cold wall before her.

She lighted another match, and then she found herself sitting

under a beautiful Christmas-tree. It was larger and more

beautifully decorated than the one which she had seen through the

glass door at the rich merchant's. Thousands of tapers were

burning upon the green branches, and colored pictures, like those

she had seen in the show-windows, looked down upon it all. The

little one stretched out her hand towards them, and the match went


The Christmas lights rose higher and higher, till they looked to her

like the stars in the sky. Then she saw a star fall, leaving behind it a

bright streak of fire.

Some one is dying,” thought the little girl, for her old

grandmother, the only one who had ever loved her, and who was

now dead, had told her that when a star falls, a soul was going up

to God.

She again rubbed a match on the wall, and the light shone round

her; in the brightness stood her old grandmother, clear and

shining, yet mild and loving in her appearance. “Grandmother,”

cried the little one, “O take me with you; I know you will go away

when the match burns out; you will vanish like the warm stove, the

roast goose, and the large, glorious Christmas-tree.” And she made

haste to light the whole bundle of matches, for she wished to keep

her grandmother there.

And the matches glowed with a light that was brighter than the

noon-day, and her grandmother had never appeared so large or so

beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and they both flew

upwards in brightness and joy far above the earth, where there was

neither cold nor hunger nor pain, for they were with God.

In the dawn of morning there lay the poor little one, with pale

cheeks and smiling mouth, leaning against the wall; she had been

frozen to death on the last evening of the year; and the New-year's

sun rose and shone upon a little corpse! The child still sat, in the

stiffness of death, holding the matches in her hand, one bundle of

which was burnt. “She tried to warm herself,” said some. No one

imagined what beautiful things she had seen, nor into what glory

she had entered with her grandmother, on New-year's day.