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The Story of the Little Match Girl

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Hans Tegner, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Spotlight tells the story of the Little Match Girl. This Hans Christian Andersen story is very famous. Many people tell it at Christmastime. But what is the meaning of this story? Is it happy or sad?

Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Colin Lowther. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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A small girl walks through the streets. She is cold and hungry. Where can she find help on a cold winter’s day?

Voice 2

“Matches! Light your fires with my matches! Would you like to buy some matches sir? What about you madam? They are the best kind! Strike them against any wall! They will burn! Someone must want some matches – anyone?”

Voice 1

The Little Match Girl is a popular story. Hans Christian Anderson wrote this story. He wrote many children’s stories in the 1800s. People like to tell the story of the Little Match Girl during the Christmas season. Both adults and children enjoy it. But is it a sad story or a happy story? Liz Waid tells the story of the Little Match Girl.

Voice 3

A cold wind blows across the town. People hurry along, holding their warm coats close to their bodies. It is a cold winter! They will be happy to get home to their warm fires and nice food. Street sellers count their money at the end of the day. But for the little match girl, there is no money to count. No one wants to buy her matches. So, she is afraid to go home. Her father will beat her for sure.

Scan of illustration in Fairy tales and stories (1900). Andersen, H. C. (Hans Christian), 1805-1875; Tegner, Hans, b. 1853, ill; Brækstad, H. L. (Hans Lien), 1845-1915
Hans Tegner, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The little girl walks across the street. The snow falls on her long hair. She looks up at the tall, beautiful houses as she passes. She can hear people laughing inside. The smell of food cooking rises in the air. The people are preparing their last meal before the New Year. The little match girl walks to a quiet street corner. She sits down, holding her knees. She tries to pull her feet under her body. They are so cold. She has no shoes or coat. Her feet are blue from walking on the cold ground. Maybe she should go home? But even her home is not warm. Her family has no money.

The little girl puts her head in her hands. A tear wets the side of her face. If only she could be warm – for just a minute. Then, she has an idea – matches! She has her matches!

Her father would be angry if she wasted any matches. But she only wants one, just one. Maybe it will warm her freezing fingers. The little girl gets a match. She strikes it against the wall – fire! The warm orange light shines in the darkness. The little girl looks hard at the small dancing fire. She imagines that she is sitting by a warm cooking oven. It seems so real! She can see the oven. She can feel its heat. She stretches her legs and warms her feet. How the fire burns! Then, the fire from the match goes out. The oven disappears. The little girl is once again in the cold darkness. Only the half-burnt match remains in her hand.

The little girl is so sad. Her happiness had come and gone so quickly. Maybe she could burn one more match? She takes another. And she strikes it against the wall. Fire lights up her sad face. She smiles. This time, she sees the wall become thin. It is almost like paper. She can see through it! Behind it, she sees a room. Such beauty! There is a huge table with hot food on it! She can almost taste the hot food. She reaches out for a little to feed her hungry stomach. But suddenly the fire from the match goes out. Once more, everything disappears. Only the grey wall remains before her.

So, the little girl strikes another match. The golden fire burns again. This time, she is under a huge Christmas tree! Beautiful bells and flowers hang from the tree. Lights shine from its green branches. It is the most beautiful tree she has ever seen! She reaches her hands toward the lights. Then, the match goes out. But the Christmas lights begin to change into stars in the sky. One of the stars falls back to earth.

The little girl thinks to herself,

Voice 2

“Someone must be dying”.

Voice 3

The little girl starts to think of her dead grandmother. Her grandmother told her that when a star falls from the sky, a soul goes up to God. She misses her grandmother so much. The little girl lights another match.

This time, standing in the light, she sees her grandmother! Her grandmother was the only person who ever showed her love. She looks beautiful. The little girl cries:

Voice 2

‘Grandmother! Take me with you! I know when the fire goes out you will disappear! Please take me with you!’

Hinko Smrekar, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Voice 3

The little girl takes all the matches. One by one she strikes them against the wall. She burns them quickly, so the picture does not disappear. The light shines brighter and brighter. It is as bright as day. She sees her grandmother more clearly. Her grandmother has never been so beautiful. The little girl reaches out to her grandmother. Her grandmother stretches out her arms to receive the little girl.

The grandmother takes the little girl in her arms. They fly together in joy high above the earth. There is no cold, hunger or fear. They are with God.

In the corner on the street, the little girl is leaning against the wall. She has red cheeks and a smiling mouth. But she is frozen. The New Year’s sun rises on the sad figure. The child sits there still and cold. She is holding a bundle of half-burned matches.

Only a few people walk on the quiet streets. They stop at the street corner. They see a small body on the ground. The people comment, “Poor thing. She was trying to keep warm,”

Scan of illustration in Fairy tales and stories (1900). Andersen, H. C. (Hans Christian), 1805-1875; Tegner, Hans, b. 1853, ill; Brækstad, H. L. (Hans Lien), 1845-1915
Hans Tegner, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

But no one knew the beautiful things she had seen. They did not know how happy she was to be with her grandmother. She had gone happily into the New Year.

Voice 1

The Little Match Girl is a popular story at Christmas time. It is an imaginary story. But people see many messages in it. Some people say the little match girl makes them think about people who have less than them. They think about people who may be poor or lonely at Christmas or the holidays. The story encourages them to help people in need.

Other people see a message behind the pictures in the story. Each vision made the little match girl feel happy. But the picture she wanted to stay with her was the one of her grandmother. This was the only one that offered a different kind of happiness – love.

Unconditional love is another message some people see in the story. The grandmother represents a love that does not die. This love carries the little girl to a place without pain or suffering. This makes some people think about God’s love and heaven – especially at Christmastime. And they think of his love that will carry them to a better place one day — heaven.

Have you heard this story before? Do you think this story was a sad story or a happy story? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at contact@spotlightenglish.com. You can also find us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The writer of this program was Marina Santee. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.spotlightenglish.com. This program is called ‘The Story of the Little Match Girl.’

Visit our website to download our free official App for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. From all of us at Spotlight, Merry Christmas!

Question:

Have you heard this story before? Do you think it was a happy ending or a sad ending? Why?

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23 comments
  • Thank you for this story. I heard it many time before but this is the first time i have got it under English version with the beautiful voice by Spotlight.
    Merry Christmas!
    Best regards.

  • Yes , I heard this story before it is sad story but I have learned many messages from spot light for helping and unconditional love.
    Merry Christmas

  • Thanks to Marina Santee for writing and to Liz Waid for reading the best Spotlight program ever. I did not know the story of the Little Match Girl, even though I had heard of the title. The story is both sad and happy but also moving and beautiful. The final reflections on the moral meaning of the fairy tale are very interesting and useful. Merry Christmas to all.

  • this is the first time I’ve heard the story ,I think it’s sad and happy in the same time
    In the beginning it was very beautiful but at the end I had a bad feeling

  • It’s Christmas day. I apologize if I return to the subject of the little match girl to clarify what is written above. If we consider the story from the point of view of us readers, the story is sad, because we are abandoned by a beautiful soul and we feel more alone in the face of hatred and wickedness. But if we accept the child’s point of view, we see her joy in going to meet the grandmother who loves her and whom she loves most of all. In fact, in the morning she is found with a smiling face, she means that her journey does not scare her and she leaves happy. It is a beautiful image for everyone. In conclusion, the story is sad for us, it is happy for the little girl. The happy ending seems prevalent to me, after all at Christmas it could not be otherwise.
    P.S. To write I used the translator and I am ashamed as a thief, but I could not do otherwise, because without it with my English I would not be understandable.

  • Hi,
    It’s a beautiful story. A little sad actually.
    I had heard this at school when I was a child. But, I appreciated it a lot. Thanks.

  • I have not heard it before, but I liked the story for me it was sad because it reminds me of many people who need help and that sometimes we ignore, also I think I felt a little nostalgic because I remembered when I was a child.

  • Yes l know this story when l chilled, but every time when l listen this story l feel sad because how people don’t care about poor families, we can help him with simple things

  • Yes, I heard it before when I was child, I remember I cried first time I watched story. And I didn’t like it because the end of the story was so sad. And I remember the end of story there was sad song

  • I happened to reflect once again on this fable, which I liked very much, and I saw the contrast between matter and spirit. Matter as darkness, suffering. The spirit as light, happiness. The little girl in the light of the match, beyond her grandmother, sees the beauty and superiority of the spirit. Our life is also matter and spirit and matter is not always pleasant. My grandmother used to say that darker than midnight is not possible, but if you light a match at midnight, you see the light, a spot of light.

  • I heard this story when i was a kid. I think it was a happy ending because the little girl will not pain, hungry and sadness.

  • Hello, spotlight thank you so much on this a partty story, and thank you for all your quality stories.In fact this story is so sad for me, I heard this story when I was young boy, alwas I was crying when I was hearing this story when I was young boy. This story so influence me but, for us it is sad story but, for little much girl it is happy story for her. And this story gives us many massage one of the these massage is: don’t let a needy person without helping hem. You must help them. Thank you a lot.

  • Yeah,I heard this story more,I thing this story sad and also happy.the ended of the story it’s happy for me because she want go with his grandma.I like this story very much, I heard this story when i was kid

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