Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tenggren's Little Match Girl

What's Christmas without a sentimental tale? In this case, this is at least a two-hanky weeper courtesy of Hans Christian Andersen and the great illustrator, Gustav Tenggren. This adaptation was published in 1944, and is revisionist, changing the death of the little girl into a tale of rescue. Thank goodness for that, because two hankies is all I own.

Merry Christmas to all.


  1. Jesus Christ. When I was in second grade, we watched an animated version of the Little Match Girl with an ending that concentrated more on the match girl's dead body in the alleyway and less on her ascension to Heaven. I was depressed for weeks afterwards, so much so my Mother was giving serious consideration to venting her spleen at the teacher who showed the film.

  2. “She drew another match against the wall: it was again light, and in the lustre there stood the old grandmother, so bright and radiant, so mild, and with such an expression of love.

    “‘Grandmother!’ cried the little one. ‘Oh, take me with you! You go away when the match burns out; you vanish like the warm stove, like the delicious roast goose, and like the magnificent Christmas tree!’ And she rubbed the whole bundle of matches quickly against the wall, for she wanted to be quite sure of keeping her grandmother near her. And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been so beautiful and so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm, and both flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety — they were with God.

    “But in the corner, at the cold hour of dawn, sat the poor girl, with rosy cheeks and with a smiling mouth, leaning against the wall — frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. Stiff and stark sat the child there with her matches, of which one bundle had been burnt. ‘She wanted to warm herself,’ people said. No one had the slightest suspicion of what beautiful things she had seen; no one even dreamed of the splendor in which, with her grandmother she had entered on the joys of a new year.”

  3. That Hans Christian Andersen...I'll bet he was the life of the party!

  4. In Andersen's time the little girl going to heaven might have been considered something of a happy ending. Mortality in children was high, poverty was a fact of life. It could have been a relief to privileged readers of the day to think the little girl "got her reward" in heaven, because it would absolve them of having to do anything to make life any better for poor people on earth.

  5. Needs musical accompaniment. I'm thinking that Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" would be suitably maudlin for this weeper.


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