by Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
These events took place on the last day of the old year. Poor little girl, dressed in old worn-out clothes roamed the streets of a big town. Her parents were very poor and her father lost his job, so she was earning her bread selling matches. It was freezing and heavy snow was falling. People walking by, wrapped in warm furs, were passing her indifferently. Unfortunately, nobody needed matches.
In the evening, tired, the girl hid herself in a corner between two houses and struck a match to warm her cold hands. She closed her eyes for a while and when she opened them again, she saw a huge fireplace with fire burning cheerfully.
“Oh, how beautiful,” she whispered with delight, bringing her little hands closer to the flame. Then, because of a sudden gust, the match went out and the magic was gone. The girl was again on a cold pavement. Next to her was the half-burnt match.
“Poor girl!” someone stopped for a while but soon was on his way again.
The wind was raging around so the little street vendor took out the second match. Soon the faint flame illuminated the wall of the nearby house which suddenly became transparent. The girl could see a cozy room with a table full of food.
“I must be dreaming,” the girl thought. But when she held out her hand for a piece of cake, the match went out and everything disappeared.
“Happy New Year!” the people passing by were greeting each other. Nobody paid any attention to a tiny shape at the wall. Slowly it was getting dark and the lights were shining from every window. The girl looked around and sighed. She tightly wrapped herself in a patched shawl and took out another match.
This time the flame brought out of the dark a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, glowing with burning tapers. And although Christmas was already gone, there were beautifully wrapped presents under the Christmas tree. The girl knew they were for her. Her cold cheeks blushed with joy. The Christmas tree was buzzing amicably. When the child wanted to touch the nicely smelling twigs though, the third match went out and the Christmas tree disappeared in the darkness.
The streets became deserted. New Year was coming. The girl looked up to the starlit skies.
“Oh if only my grandmother could be here with me!” she thought with sadness. And at the same time she heard a familiar voice next to her, “I am here, darling. Come with me and you will never know hunger nor cold again.”
The girl embraced her grandmother tightly and they both flew upwards, far above the earth, to the land of eternal happiness.
The next morning people walking by found the dead girl leaning against the wall. She looked as if she was smiling in her sleep.