A Poor Orphan Girl
This is a story of a poor little girl who is forced to a life of abject poverty and destitution. She does not have a mother and seems to have an abusive father who beats her if she comes home empty-handed.
She sells matchsticks to earn enough money to get food and survive in a world that is not just cruel to her but oblivious to her needs, wishes, and dreams.
New Year’s Eve
The day is New Year’s Eve and every person is enjoying the warmth of their house parties to welcome a joyful year. They are full of hopes and aspirations.
But the day is especially cold for a poor little girl who has to wander the unforgiving weather and hard roads to earn to get her daily meals.
She is not going to have a Christmas party or cakes and delicious pot roast. She trudges the streets barefoot after losing her dead mother’s shoes. She does not even have enough warm clothes to cover her head.
Unable to get enough money, she does not want to return home to a hungry father. She perches on a corner near the street. The biting cold gets even more severe when one is alone and helpless.
So she decides to light one of the matchsticks that were left unsold. To her utter shock and pleasure, she sees an iron stove in the burning flame of the matchstick.
Unusual Things Happen
But it disappears as the matchstick burns out. Excited and bewildered she lights three more matches and sees an image of a delicious Christmas meal with a cooked goose, stuffed apples and plums; a decorated Christmas tree and her loving grandmother.
She sees a falling star in the sky. It is a sign that someone is going to die and go to heaven. That is what her grandmother told her. She was the only person who ever loved the little girl truly and the girl did not want to lose the beautiful image of her grandmother.
In order to keep her image alive and continuous, the little girl lights up all the matches she has. In the delirious light of those matchsticks, she sees her grandmother embracing her and picks her up in her arms.
They both seem to have waited a long time to meet each other. Finally, they both fly off to the heavens to meet God and live an eternal life of bliss, luxury, and love.
When the sun comes up the next day, people find the motionless and frozen body of the little girl on the same spot. All her matches are still in her hands, burnt and consumed.
To their eyes, she must have died overnight due to the cold unable to warm her body with the burning matchsticks. However, they could never imagine and comprehend the spectacular images and heartwarming experience that the little girl enjoyed.
She did not truly die but return to her heavenly home and reunited with her doting grandmother, the person she loved the most.
The story touches on the themes of destitution, deprivation, rejection, happiness, death, and life after death. The little girl of the story does not have a life of luxury or comfort. She loiters the streets to sell matchsticks in order to procure a single meal.
Motherless, she is a victim of domestic abuse and she braves all that suffering, every day. She does not get happy holidays or joyous Christmas or New Year. Eventually, she freezes to death on the very streets she called home, alone and unloved.
However, through the light of matchsticks and fantastical images in that light, she has some respite and comfort. For the World, she died cold and painfully, but for her, she dies in the warm embrace of her grandmother.
Her death brings her sweet release from the pains of a tortuous and cruel life. Maybe she was not dead after all, but a new beginning in the world of the divine.