The story of the Little Match Girl has been a story that has touched us for over a hundred years. The original story was penned by Hans Christian Andersen, which we’re exploring this year on One-elevenbooks. Matchless is Gregory Maguire’s version of the story.
A little boy lives with his mother in very cold rooms. They don’t have a proper house. They only have one match left. The little boy makes a village out of spare bits of this and that in his loft bedroom. His mother is a tailor. She sews for the queen.
One day the little boy goes out to find a boat for his make-believe people to sail in. He finds a slipper instead. He thinks it will be the perfect boat for his people. Little does he know that the slipper belongs to a little girl who sells matches to help her family make ends meet. Her mother is dead. It’s just her father and her two younger siblings.
On one particularly cold evening she loses her slippers. She doesn’t want to go home without any money. She strikes a couple of the matches and sees beautiful things in their brief light. The small amount of warmth does her no good and she succumbs to the elements before dawn breaks across the sky.
In the slipper the little boy found an address. The address is the little girl’s address. He and his mother go the address only to find a state of mourning. The young girl is dead and her father is devastated, but he has two younger children to take care of. The little boy’s mother sees nothing to do but to help him and so she does. The small group eventually becomes a family out of tragedy.
What I liked
The story of the matchgirl is very sad. It really makes a person just want to sit down and cry. This poor little girl’s family is so poor that she has to wander the street in rags trying to sell matches. Do you know how much a match costs? Less than a penny. Even if she sold an entire box of matches, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of money in her pocket. It’s a sad little story, but I do love that this version of the story isn’t quite so sad. The little girl still dies, but some good does come out of the misfortune.
What I didn’t like
This poor girl still dies. In more first-world countries we have largely eliminated situations like this little girl and this little boy lived in. I say largely because we still have people living very much like this little girl and little boy lived. They fall through the cracks of our society and live in shadows. We don’t pay any attention to them, even though we probably should. In countries that are not first-world, people live like this more often than they do in our first-world countries.
Trying to sell little bits of this and that to buy a little rice or a little wheat or a little bread is a way of life for many people in the world. Even in the United States there are people who wander the side of the road picking up aluminum beer cans that drunk people throw out of their car windows in order to make a few cents to buy something to survive on. It’s really sad. You would think we could get rid of this. You would think we could solve this problem, but we haven’t. As smart as we have become and as much knowledge as we now possess, we still cannot remedy the problem of families and individuals that are so poor they make the poverty line look like a million dollars.
I think I like this better than the original, but I haven’t reviewed it yet on this site, so we’ll see.
Do you think that if the Match Girl lived during our time that she would have fared better?
Considering that lighters would soon replace matches for most people in most situations, what do you think would have happened to the match girl and her family?