Every New Year’s Eve I reread “The Little Match-girl” by Hans Christian Anderson. If you haven’t read this remarkable folk tale I encourage you to do so. The Little Match girl
Or you can see a lovely film version here.
I must was very young when I first read it. The ending made me cry so hard I literally bawled. It remains one of the saddest and moving stories I have ever read. As a boy I was flabbergasted by its injustice. I believed good should be rewarded and bad should be punished. Why was a child forced to work? Why would her parents treat her so? Why did no one take pity and help her? It was incomprehensible to me – how could this happen?
I visited it every new year’s eve hoping I had somehow misread it. Alas, the story never varied; the outcome was always the same.
As I grew older I began to understand and appreciate the ending. She receives happiness – not in this world but elsewhere. I was just beginning to experience the hurts and injustices of Life and I saw little if any hope in it. Mr. Anderson’s story doesn’t make Life better, but it adds a coda of comfort.
So why do I reread “The Little Match Girl” every New Year’s Eve? I do so partially out of the nostalgia. I am visiting an old friend whom I see only once a year. Unlike me, she is unaltered and never grows old. Mostly I return to revisit Hope; there is more to Life than misery and indifference.
I still shed a tears when I read it, but they are tears of joy rather than sorrow. Another old year dies along with the Match girl. But in the joyful New Year there is something new and with Love.