Chapter 3 The Little Match Girl

The story titled ‘The Little Match Girl’ by Hans Christian Andersen is a story about a poor young girl who dies due to cold on a New Year’s eve. All you need to know and learn about this chapter is given below.

Meet the Author

  • Hans Christian Andersen is a Danish author who has written over 156 fairy tales.
  • Born: 2 April 1805
  • Place of Birth: Denmark
  • Died: 4 August 1875
  • Major Works: ‘The Little Mermaid’ & ‘The Snow Queen’.
  • Best Known for: Andersen is known not only for his relatable short stories but also for travelogs, novels and plays. Most of his stories depict the sad and poor life of the people around him.
Hans Christian Andersen Statue at Denmark

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Summary of the Chapter

The author starts off the story by describing the cold weather on a new year’s eve. He introduces the nameless girl in the second paragraph to be walking ‘bareheaded’ and ‘barefoot’ through the street on a ‘cold’ and ‘gloom’ day. Through these descriptions the author is setting the tone of the story.

The girl was earlier wearing her mother’s slippers which she lost in an attempt to save herself from two carriages. On the way one guy took one of the slippers stating that it would come in use as a cradle when he has a baby. Therefore, now the little poor girl was walking barefoot on the cold street. This incident shows that she is not the only poor person in the town. It is in fact a reference to the poor people existing in the city; indicating the class divide.

So the little girl walked about the streets on her naked feet, which were red and blue with the cold.

Her feet had turned red and blue due to the frost bite. She carried a lot of matchsticks in her old apron. She was not able to make a sale that day. She had to walk around hungry and shivering in the cold weather. Author calls her to be the ‘picture of misery’.

The snowflakes fell on her beautiful golden curly hair. She is a pretty looking little girl who finally decided to use the matchsticks to keep her warm. Soon, the author goes on to narrate the other sector of the society; the rich! There were lights coming out of every window. She could smell the ambrosial fragrance of roasted goose that was prepared to celebrate the arrival of the new year.

She soon huddled around a corner next to a merchant’s house. She was afraid to go home as she did not have an abusive father. Her father would beat her up if she returned empty handed. Her home was also cold as it barely had a roof that would move in a strong wind. They had to be stuck in straws and rages in the holes on the wall to keep them warm. Hence, going home was not a viable decision for her so she decided to rest in one corner of the street.

Poor girl covered with thin blanket
Poor girl covered with thin blanket

She then dared to pull out a matchstick and tried to burn it. In each attempt the author goes on to describe various images that come before her. She pulled out the first matchstick and when she burned it she felt as if she was sitting in front of a ‘great iron stove’ which provided her with a beautiful race of fire that kept her warm. She loved that feeling and she stretched her legs to warm them. Once the matchstick is extinguished she loses sight of this particular vision.

Then she struck another one and burnt it completely. Soon the brick wall near her became opaque giving her a detailed view of the house and its interiors. She saw a room that had a white cloth spread on the dining table. The dining table was filled with roasted goose stuffed with prunes and apples. What interested her was that the roasted goose jumped to the floor with a knife and fork on its back towards the poor girl. Then suddenly the matchstick went off and she lost that vision.

She could see right into the room, where a shining white cloth was spread on the table. It was covered with china and in the center of it stood a roast goose, stuffed with prunes, and apples, steaming deliciously.

Through these visions the author is showing us her dreams to have a warm home and her desire to have tasty food on her table. These images are depicting the stark contracts that occur in our societies. The poor tend to remain poor forever while the rich celebrate the festivities in their mansions. The poor girl outside a merchant's fancy house is also a strong imagery for the class difference and how it affects the lives of the people.

She then struck another match and she was suddenly sitting under a well decorated christmas tree. It seems to be much bigger than last year’s decoration in the merchant’s house. There were a thousand candles that were lit up on the green branches and colorful balls hung on that tree. She then noticed that one of the stars on top of the tree fell, creating a streak of light in the sky.

She then remembered her grandmother’s words. Grandmother had told her that a falling star is an indication of a soul going up to God. She realized that one person had died.

She struck another match and she saw her old grandmother who had passed away in front of her. Granny was glowing in light in her sight. She begs her grandmother to take her as she is aware that her grandmother might also vanish just like the other visions she had.

Oh, take me with you! I know you will disappear when the match is burnt out; you will vanish like the warm stove, the lovely roast goose and the great glorious Christmas tree!

Then she quickly struck all the rest of the matches from the pack to keep her grandmother with her. As the matches flared up her granny shines in the glow. Granny then took the little girl in her arms and flew with her high up to the sky like the star. Then the little girl did not experience cold or hunger. They soon united with God!

Burning matchstick
Burning matchstick

In the cold dawn of the new year the people of the town saw the frozen body of a poor girl who had a bundle of burnt matchsticks. They understood that she died in an attempt to keep herself warm.

The dawn of the new year rose on the huddled figure of the girl. She was still holding the matches, and half a packet had been burnt.

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Symbolisms

Symbols are the crucial words that communicate more than their literal meaning.

Matches

The girl was on the street on a cold new year’s eve to sell matches. It stands as a symbol of hope. By selling them she expects to make a living and thereby feed her family. The matchsticks help her see the visions that comfort her during her slow death. They provide some temporary warmth to her. It can also be a symbol for God, who sheds light on our souls.

Iron Stove

The warm iron stove is a reflection of her desire to have a warm place to keep her tired cold body. It is a temporary safe space that she finds in that moment.

Falling Star

It is a symbol of the soul moving towards heaven. As per the Creole superstition a falling star is the movement of a soul from purgatory to the heavens and once you witness it you can make a wish three times before it disappears.

Cold

The cold weather is a symbol for hardships and hopelessness in the story. The small girl is walking barefoot on the streets on a cold winter evening. She dies in an attempt to keep herself warm from the excruciating cold.

Christmas Tree

Christmas tree is usually a symbol of happiness and hope. Whereas, in this it is to indicate the class divide in the society. The well decorated tree stands as an indication of a wealthy home that she cannot even dream of.

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The Little Match Girl Questions and Answers

Below are a few questions that you can look out for your examinations and class tests. Stand out with perfectly written answers with help of Aneetta Class.

The girl was out in the cold barefoot trying to sell matchsticks to feed her family. If she dared to go home without making any sale her father would beat her up. Her house could also not protect her from the extreme climate. It barely had a roof and the walls had a lot of crevices where they had to stuff things to keep themself protected. Thus, it was pointless to go home for the small girl.

The story draws light upon the difference in among the poor and the rich. The story occurs on the new year’s eve. During this time the poor girl walks barefoot on the street trying to sell matchsticks. She does not have a home to go back to her. Her legs are cold and blue. She finally dies in an effort to keep herself warm. At the same time the rich are decorating their home with tall Christmas trees and stuffed and roasted geese. She dies next to the mansion of a merchant. This is a clear indication by the author to describe the class divide in the society.

She saw a warm stove that helps her to keep her warm. Then she saw a tall and fully decorated Christmas tree that she could never afford. Later she sees a falling star which is an indication of her death and journey to God. She then goes ahead to see her granny. She dies seeing her granny take her to God in heaven.