The Little Match Girl: Moral, Themes & Analysis

The Little Match Girl: Moral, Themes & Analysis
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  • 0:04 ''The Little Match Girl''
  • 0:44 Be Charitable
  • 1:25 Keep Dreaming
  • 2:22 The Afterlife
  • 3:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will discuss the themes and morals from 'The Little Match Girl' by Hans Christian Andersen. This is a fairy tale about a poor girl who has visions as she freezes to death on a cold New Year's Eve.

The Little Match Girl

Imagine sending your child out into the cold to beg in the hopes that he or she can bring in enough money to support the family. The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen is a fairy tale about a young girl who is sent out on a snowy night without a hat or shoes to sell matches to earn money for her family. Although she is freezing, she's afraid to go home because her father will beat her for not bringing back any money. So, she sits between a couple of houses and lights some matches to keep warm. As she lights each match, she has visions. Let's examine the themes, or main topics, and morals, or lessons, of this story.

Be Charitable

How do you respond when you see people begging on the street? Do they tug at your heartstrings? Or do you view their way of asking for money with disapproval? When Hans Christian Andersen wrote this story, it was illegal to beg on the streets, so families got around these laws by selling matches.

It is likely that the many people who saw this little beggar disapproved of her without understanding her circumstances. The little match girl is unloved, abused, and shoeless. It doesn't get any more pathetic than a hungry, cold, lonely, little girl who's afraid to go home. Yet, no one helps her. This story makes the reader think twice about passing someone in need without offering help.

Keep Dreaming

As this pathetic child freezes, she lights a match for warmth. She envisions herself 'sitting before a large iron stove, with burnished brass feet and a brass ornament at top. The fire burned with such blessed influence; it warmed so delightfully.' It doesn't take much to make the little match girl happy as she's able to imagine something so much greater than her reality. If she can be grateful for the warmth of a match, what do most of us have to complain about?

The little match girl's next vision is of a beautiful stuffed goose dinner. Strangely, 'the goose hopped down from the dish, reeled about on the floor with knife and fork in its breast, till it came up to the poor little girl.' When the match goes out, the goose disappears. While a potentially scary hallucination, the little match girl may have found it silly. Either way, it shows that she is beginning to separate from the reality of her life on Earth.

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