The Little Match Girl Summary

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  • 0:03 Memories
  • 1:05 Summarizing 'The…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

'The Little Match Girl' is a beautiful story of comfort and memories and a tragic tale of a poor and forsaken child. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the story behind one little match girl.


Think about a time when you were really happy. What do you see? Is it a memory of a particular moment? A certain place that brings you joy? A gift you received? A beloved family member?

Memories provide comfort or a happy place that we can refer back to in our minds. Your happiest memory may be of a holiday, with all of your family sitting around a dinner table. It could be that time that you met your significant other, or a special vacation. Whatever it is, good memories of times past make us happy, contented, and grateful.

The concept of memories is a central theme in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, The Little Match Girl. Fairy tales usually include some type of fantastical or magical elements and are written for children, though plenty of adults certainly enjoy them, too. This particular fairy tale is beautiful because of the memories it creates, but it's also sad because of its tragic circumstances.

Let's take a look at the magical story behind this particular little girl.

Summarizing The Little Match Girl

It's New Year's Eve, and like most New Year's Eves, it is cold, the wind swirling, and the snow is coming down. Most people are scurrying home to enjoy the evening with family or headed out to lavish celebrations. Walking amongst them is a lovely young girl with curls in her hair. This child is different, however. She has nothing warm on her head, and the shoes she was sent out in, the shoes that belonged to her mother and were too big, have already been lost. In the cold of a late December evening, this child is barefoot on the street.

In an attempt to find a spot of warmth, the girl huddles in a corner between two houses. Why doesn't she just return home, you might ask? Unfortunately, her home does not bring her comfort. She has a father who is abusive, and returning home without selling any of the matches she's been carrying will surely mean a beating. She hasn't earned a single farthing, which would've represented one-quarter of one penny years ago.

Instead, the girl sits outside in the corner between the two houses when, suddenly, she has an idea. She can burn one of the matches and get a little warmth. She strikes a single match and in the glow of the flame, she envisions a large stove, big enough to warm herself in front of. But, just as quickly as the image appears, it disappears when the match burns out.

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