In the dark, a little girl in a cotton shawl
struck a match to keep warm.
It illumined the stone structure
of the Peace Tower she leaned against,
the gargoyles against the night sky.
reaching almost to heaven
stretched its lacy fingers,
blotting the stars with its handkerchief—
its rhetorical icons
simmering prayers in the shadows.
There was a patchwork quilt
of nations, that had grown faded
with the rain and snow,
of the many colours of skin
that made up the face of a country,
of the many films from the National Film Board.
A match box was ten cents;
a passerby gave her a dime
as she stood in the gutter,
and she collected them in her apron.
Emily Isaacson, Hallmark
The Little Match Girl is a fairy tale by Danish poet Hans Christian Andersen and was published in 1845. The story, with themes of poverty and scarcity, touches on a dying child’s hopes and dreams.
The fairy tale is symbolic and uses imagery to convey a message. Her visions in her poverty are compelling and almost violent, including, “the goose jumped down from the dish and waddled along the floor with a knife and fork in its breast, right over to the little girl.”
You can read the actual story in its entirety, translated by Jean Hersholt here: https://andersen.sdu.dk/vaerk/hersholt/TheLittleMatchGirl_e.html
This story serves a powerful message. It also describes an archetypal figure, but to what extent? We see a lot more on the Match Girl theme in the book Women Who Run With the Wolves, a powerful best-seller that goes into detail on archetypes affecting women.
Some of the insights they have regarding this fable:
Being with real people who warm us, who endorse and exult our creativity, is essential to the flow of creative life. Otherwise we freeze. (The little wild child is freezing, all that is left of her is a person who goes about in a trance.) Nurture is a chorus of voices both from within and without that notices the state of a woman’s being, takes care to encourage it, and if necessary gives comfort as well. I’m not sure how many friends one needs, but definitely one or two who think your gift, whatever it may be is pan de cielo, the bread of heaven. . .
When women are out in the cold, they tend to live on fantasies instead of action. Fantasy of this sort is the great anesthetizer of women. I know women who have been gifted with beautiful voices. I know women who are natural storytellers; almost everything out of their mouths is freshly formed and finely wrought. But they are isolated, or feel disenfranchised in some way. They are shy, which is often the cover for a starving animus. They have difficulty gaining a sense that they are supported from within, or by friends, family, community.
To avoid being the Little Match Girl, there is one major action you must take. Anyone who does not support your art, your life, is not worth your time. Harsh but true. Otherwise one walks right in and dresses in the rags of the Match Girl and is compelled to live a quarterlife that freezes all thought, hope, gifts, writings, playings, designing and dancing.
Warmth should be the major pursuit of the Little Match Girl. But in the story it is not. Instead she tries to sell off the matches, her sources of warmth. Doing so leaves the feminine no warmer, no richer, no wiser, and with no further development. . .
The Match Girl is not in an environment where she can thrive. There is no warmth, no kindling, no firewood. If we were in her place what would we do?
More on this and the response tomorrow . . .