"The Little Match Seller"

This is the full text of Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale, "The Little Match Seller." Enjoy this sad short story in your winter reading class, especially around the December holidays.

The Little Match Seller

by Hans Christian Andersen (1846)

It was terribly cold and nearly dark on the last evening of theold year, and the snow was falling fast. In the cold and the darkness,a poor little girl, with bare head and naked feet, roamed throughthe streets. It is true she had on a pair of slippers when she lefthome, but they were not of much use. They were very large, so large,indeed, that they had belonged to her mother, and the poor littlecreature had lost them in running across the street to avoid twocarriages that were rolling along at a terrible rate. One of theslippers she could not find, and a boy seized upon the other and ranaway with it, saying that he could use it as a cradle, when he hadchildren of his own. So the little girl went on with her littlenaked feet, which were quite red and blue with the cold. In an oldapron she carried a number of matches, and had a bundle of them in herhands. No one had bought anything off her the whole day, nor had anyone given here even a penny. Shivering with cold and hunger, she creptalong; poor little child, she looked the picture of misery. Thesnowflakes fell on her long, fair hair, which hung in curls on hershoulders, but she regarded them not.

Lights were shining from every window, and there was a savorysmell of roast goose, for it was New Year's Eve — yes, she rememberedthat. In a corner, between two houses, one of which projected beyondthe other, she sank down and huddled herself together. She had drawnher little feet under her, but she could not keep off the cold; andshe dared not go home, for she had sold no matches, and could not takehome even a penny of money. Her father would certainly beat her;besides, it was almost as cold at home as here, for they had onlythe roof to cover them, through which the wind howled, although thelargest holes had been stopped up with straw and rags. Her littlehands were almost frozen with the cold. Ah! perhaps a burning matchmight be some good, if she could draw it from the bundle and strike itagainst the wall, just to warm her fingers. She drew oneout — “scratch!” how it sputtered as it burnt! It gave a warm, brightlight, like a little candle, as she held her hand over it. It wasreally a wonderful light. It seemed to the little girl that she wassitting by a large iron stove, with polished brass feet and a brassornament. How the fire burned! and seemed so beautifully warm that thechild stretched out her feet as if to warm them, when, lo! the flameof the match went out, the stove vanished, and she had only theremains of the half-burnt match in her hand.

She rubbed another match on the wall. It burst into a flame, andwhere its light fell upon the wall it became as transparent as a veil,and she could see into the room. The table was covered with a snowywhite table-cloth, on which stood a splendid dinner service, and asteaming roast goose, stuffed with apples and dried plums. And whatwas still more wonderful, the goose jumped down from the dish andwaddled across the floor, with a knife and fork in its breast, tothe little girl. Then the match went out, and there remained nothingbut the thick, damp, cold wall before her.

She lighted another match, and then she found herself sittingunder a beautiful Christmas tree. It was larger and more beautifullydecorated than the one which she had seen through the glass door atthe rich merchant's. Thousands of tapers were burning upon the greenbranches, and colored pictures, like those she had seen in theshow-windows, looked down upon it all. The little one stretched outher hand towards them, and the match went out.

The Christmas lights rose higher and higher, till they looked toher like the stars in the sky. Then she saw a star fall, leavingbehind it a bright streak of fire. “Some one is dying,” thought thelittle girl, for her old grandmother, the only one who had everloved her, and who was now dead, had told her that when a starfalls, a soul was going up to God.

She again rubbed a match on the wall, and the light shone roundher; in the brightness stood her old grandmother, clear and shining,yet mild and loving in her appearance. “Grandmother,” cried the littleone, “O take me with you; I know you will go away when the match burnsout; you will vanish like the warm stove, the roast goose, and thelarge, glorious Christmas tree.” And she made haste to light the wholebundle of matches, for she wished to keep her grandmother there. Andthe matches glowed with a light that was brighter than the noon-day,and her grandmother had never appeared so large or so beautiful. Shetook the little girl in her arms, and they both flew upwards inbrightness and joy far above the earth, where there was neither coldnor hunger nor pain, for they were with God.

In the dawn of morning there lay the poor little one, with palecheeks and smiling mouth, leaning against the wall; she had beenfrozen to death on the last evening of the year; and the New Year'ssun rose and shone upon a little corpse! The child still sat, in thestiffness of death, holding the matches in her hand, one bundle ofwhich was burnt. “She tried to warm herself,” said some. No oneimagined what beautiful things she had seen, nor into what glory shehad entered with her grandmother, on New Year's day.

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