The Little Match Girl
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
1 of 5 stars
A poor child uses up all of the matches that she was supposed to sell in order to try to stay warm and bring some comfort to herself on a cold New Year’s Eve.
She lit another match. This time she was sitting under a lovely Christmas tree. It was much bigger and more beautifully decorated than the one she had seen when she peeped through the glass doors at the rich merchant’s house this very Christmas.
I was initially going to classify this as one of my “Books for Bitties” but after reading it to my three-year-old, I don’t think I could recommend it to children — at least not small ones. I don’t know that I can fully explain my horror at this story without giving away what happens, so be warned, there are SPOILERS ahead.
So what bothered me so much about this picture book I found in the children’s section? Sure, she is cold and hungry and poor (things which God’s grace has allowed my own children never to experience), but there was a hopefulness implied that kept me reading this aloud to my preschooler.
Then, she sits down in a corner because “her father would beat her” if she returns home penniless. Yikes. (I caught that line before reading it out loud and opted to skip it over; I’d prefer to shelter my kids from those kind of harsh realities until they’re older.)
After lighting some matches and dreaming of wonderful Christmas festivities, pretending she is a part of them — though the part about the Christmas goose “with the carving knife sticking in its back” waddling over to her kind of freaked me out — but then we come to a part where she sees a shooting star (oh, how nice, I think, what a wonderful sign of hope) to which the girl comments “Someone is dying.” (Oh. Okay. Nevermind.)
At the end, the little girl sees her grandmother (who had died), uses up the last of her matches, and DIES. Seriously. The last page is all about how the townspeople found her frozen body in the morning. Needless to say, reading this will not be becoming a Christmas tradition in our house. Yikes.
Overall: The emotionally traumatic aspects of this story might go over a preschooler’s head, but you’d still risk traumatizing them (or yourself) with this rather unexpectedly tragic read.