The Little Match-Seller

Author: Andersen Hans Christian | Genre: Tale | Year: | Catalogue: Global database Все варианты сказки на сайте

It was terribly cold and nearly dark on the last evening of the old year, and the
snow was falling fast. In the cold and the darkness, a poor little girl, with
bare head and naked feet, roamed through the streets. It is true she had on a
pair of slippers when she left home, but they were not of much use. They were
very large, so large, indeed, that they had belonged to her mother, and the poor
little creature had lost them in running across the street to avoid two carriages
that were rolling along at a terrible rate. One of the slippers she could not
find, and a boy seized upon the other and ran away with it, saying that he could
use it as a cradle, when he had children of his own. So the little girl went on
with her little naked feet, which were quite red and blue with the cold. In an
old apron she carried a number of matches, and had a bundle of them in her hands.
No one had bought anything of her the whole day, nor had anyone given her even
a penny. Shivering with cold and hunger, she crept along; poor little child, she
looked the picture of misery. The snowflakes fell on her long, fair hair, which
hung in curls on her shoulders, but she regarded them not.

Lights were shining from every window, and there was a savory smell of roast
goose, for it was New-year’s eve—yes, she remembered that. In a corner, between
two houses, one of which projected beyond the other, she sank down and huddled
herself together. She had drawn her little feet under her, but she could not
keep off the cold; and she dared not go home, for she had sold no matches, and
could not take home even a penny of money. Her father would certainly beat her;
besides, it was almost as cold at home as here, for they had only the roof to
cover them, through which the wind howled, although the largest holes had been
stopped up with straw and rags. Her little hands were almost frozen with the
cold. Ah! perhaps a burning match might be some good, if she could draw it from
the bundle and strike it against the wall, just to warm her fingers. She drew
one out—“scratch!” how it sputtered as it burnt! It gave a warm, bright light,
like a little candle, as she held her hand over it. It was really a wonderful
light. It seemed to the little girl that she was sitting by a large iron stove,
with polished brass feet and a brass ornament. How the fire burned! and seemed
so beautifully warm that the child stretched out her feet as if to warm them,
when, lo! the flame of the match went out, the stove vanished, and she had only
the remains of the half-burnt match in her hand.

She rubbed another match on the wall. It burst into a flame, and where 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 snowy white table-cloth, on which
stood a splendid dinner service, and a steaming roast goose, stuffed with apples
and dried plums. And what was still more wonderful, the goose jumped down from
the dish and waddled across the floor, with a knife and fork in its breast,
to the little girl. Then the match went out, and there remained nothing but
the thick, damp, cold wall before her.

She lighted another match, and then she found herself sitting under a beautiful
Christmas-tree. It was larger and more beautifully decorated than the one which
she had seen through the glass door at the rich merchant’s. Thousands of tapers
were burning upon the green branches, and colored pictures, like those she had
seen in the show-windows, looked down upon it all. The little one stretched
out her hand towards them, and the match went out.

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

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

  • In the dawn of morning there lay the poor little one, with pale cheeks and
    smiling mouth, leaning against the wall; she had been frozen to death on the
    last evening of the year; and the New-year’s sun rose and shone upon a little
    corpse! The child still sat, in the stiffness of death, holding the matches
    in her hand, one bundle of which was burnt. “She tried to warm herself,” said
    some. No one imagined what beautiful things she had seen, nor into what glory
    she had entered with her grandmother, on New-year’s day.