The Little Match Seller: Analysis, Theme & Moral

The Little Match Seller: Analysis, Theme & Moral
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  • 0:00 Story Overiew
  • 1:06 Themes
  • 2:23 Moral
  • 2:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

Have you ever felt invisible? Have you ever felt alone on a freezing wintry night? If so, you might sympathize with the main character in ''The Little Match Seller.'' Get a short summary as well as an analysis of the main themes and morals in Hans Christian Andersen's classic 1848 short story.

Story Overview

Hans Christian Andersen's 1848 fairy tale ''The Little Match Seller'' is a story that can teach us a moral and reveal several themes through the short and simple plot. A moral is a lesson that readers can learn about how to live life, while a theme is a big idea or message.

In the story, a nameless little girl tries to sell matches on a freezing cold night on New Year's Eve. People ignore her and she has no money to bring home to her family. She huddles between two houses and desperately lights her matches to warm herself. When she does this, she has visions of warmth and happiness; visions of her enjoying a meal, then celebrating around a Christmas tree, and, finally, seeing her grandmother who had died. The next day, the people who live in the houses nearby find her frozen to death. We, the readers, realize that while she had those pleasant visions she is actually dying and breaking from reality.

What can we learn from this very short story, and what big ideas does Andersen communicate?


One message that this story holds is that we should not underestimate the power of one's mind and imagination. The little girl was physically freezing but was able to transport herself to a hopeful and warm place with the visions in her head. In this story, the mind is a powerful tool to help guard the little girl from the harsh reality of her life.

Another overall idea that this story presents is that people who have a hard life on Earth will be rewarded in the afterlife. The little girl is cold, poor, lonely, and miserable, but seems to be doing her best to help her family. As she is dying, she remembers that her grandmother told her that ''when a star falls, a soul is going up to God.'' This detail shows her belief in an afterlife and that she will be rewarded by seeing her grandmother when she dies.

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