Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Little Match Girl: Not Suitable for Little Children

I read The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen to my niece not too long ago, and it is the saddest Christmas story ever. It is about a little girl who is sent out into the cold by her abusive father to sell matches. He beats her if she doesn't sell enough, so she is too afraid to go home one night having made no sales. She is left out in the freezing cold with just her matches. She lights them to warm up. Each time she lights a match, a vision appears like a Christmas tree or a Christmas feast--wonderful things that are out of her grasp. Each vision dies with the match. Then finally she lights her last match, and her dead grandmother appears before her to take her away. In the morning, she is found frozen to death in an alley. What the heck kind of children's story is that?

When I was reading this book to my niece, I tried to cover up the abusive father part. But she still questioned me about it--why can't she go home? Then when I got to the part where her dead grandmother comes to take her away, I had to make up an entirely different ending. My niece is very particular and would force you to finish books whether you want to or not. So in order to not traumatize her, I ad-libbed my own ending. Basically, it goes like this: Her grandmother finds her and takes her home out of the cold. And she lives happily ever after, warm in her house. The End. The stupid book forced me to lie to my niece!

Who in their right mind would read this to their child? Can't a person live blissfully unaware of the cruelty of the world for just a little while?


Anonymous said...

Children need to know that the world is harsh. It's reality.

Tara said...

Mister, you are just a meanie.

TiSento said...

Anonymous is right. And she's gonna have to face that cold fact one way or another. How else will she be able to deal with similar "inconvenient" cases in the near future, if she's learned to escape from the reality as soon as it contradicts her own romantic conception of reality?

And besides, in what way is it such a traumatizing ending that the grandmother comes and takes the girl away even if it means it was just an imagination? In any way the girl died happy considering her last vision before death.