“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” These famous words are from Charles Dickens’ classic story A Christmas Carol. They demonstrate Ebeneezer Scrooge’s appalling lack of empathy for the poor and downtrodden in society. For one so blessed with wealth, he sees those beneath him as unworthy of any concern.
Thankfully, he has a complete change of heart by the end of the book. In fact, he winds up taking care of the poor, starting with the crippled son of his employee Bob Cratchit. His Christmas story has a proper happy ending. But there’s another Christmas story that takes Scrooge’s words literally, leading to one of the saddest films I have ever seen.
The Little Matchgirl
In case you have never heard of it, I would like to introduce you to the 2006 short film The Little Matchgirl. It’s based on a short story by Hans Christian Andersen. The film is set to the most beautiful music, Alexander Borodin’s “String Quartet No. 2 in D Major: Third Movement: Notturno (Andante).” You can listen to it here to get a nice flavor of this melancholy affair.
Good Luck Trying Not to Cry During This
On a cold December afternoon in Old Russia, a poor homeless girl desperately tries to sell matchsticks to uncaring passersby. No one pays any attention to her, except a policeman who gently plucks her off a lamppost where she had tried to rise above the crowd and draw their attention.
That evening, she sits in a lonely alley, hungry and cold. Wrapped in threadbare rags, she has no hope to stay warm other than her meager matchsticks. So she lights them one by one. Each time, she sees joyous visions of a great fire, a feast, and a loving grandmother. But before she can enjoy any of them, each time the matchstick burns out.
So she makes one last feeble attempt to stay within the vision of happiness by lighting all the remaining matchsticks at once. And this time she does get to feel the warm embrace of her grandmother and light the candles on a giant Christmas tree.
Alas, the last time we see her, she is slumped over in the snow. Her matchsticks are depleted, and fresh snow is falling on her unresisting face and body. The grandmother appears and wakes her from her slumber.
This little girl, who no one else paid any attention to, finally gets to feel the warmth of human kindness as the grandmother picks her up and carries her away from that forsaken alley. But as she does so, we see the little girl’s dead body remain behind, still slumped over in the snow. She froze to death after a short, cruel life devoid of love.
Thankfully, she is now home in heaven where she will never feel unloved, hungry, or cold ever again. This story isn’t about redemption or having someone come to the rescue in an earthly fashion. The Little Matchgirl takes us to the depths of despair and reminds us that not every wrong is righted in this life.
Relating this to Christmas, we can interpret this as a story of hope. The reason Jesus Christ was born, lived, suffered, and died was to wipe away every tear like those shed by this dear girl. She wasn’t unloved after all. Because none of God’s children can ever be separated from His love. He will make sure we get what we deserve after this life.
Apologies and Acknowledgements
This bonus Christmas article is a little late, but I hope you don’t mind. I recently rewatched The Little Matchgirl, and I felt impelled to write about it. It practically called out to me. And I couldn’t ignore the feeling that I had to talk about this particular film.
I’d like to apologize to my wife. She reads every article I write before I publish it on here, so she unfortunately had to suffer this time. You see, this film makes her cry when she watches it. It makes me cry, too.
I hope my children don’t read this anytime soon because this film really saddened them when they watched it. Perhaps one day they will be able to understand that not everyone is born into as happy circumstances as they are. Then they will see the bittersweet message of hope this film offers the poor who suffer and die short, sad lives.
May we all be blessings to those in our power to help so that they won’t have to wait until death for comfort. I’d rather be a post-spirits Scrooge than a pre-spirits Scrooge, if you know what I mean.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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A sad but true reminder. The story makes me cry, too.
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Thank you. You are wonderful.
I haven’t sent this version of the story, but there was a cartoony version of it that I saw as a child. It affected me deeply then, and remains a bittersweet memory. Another beautiful tale along these lines is The Last Leaf by O. Henry, with Art Carney starring. Very inspiring as a lifesaving masterpiece is created.
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I believe I found the version you were talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjUALWwy7uQ
It’s a truly sad story, no matter how it’s done. Wow. Sometimes I love a good tragedy when it’s tinged with a bit of hope.
I am far more “late” in reading here than you are in writing it.
Actually, I have seen the little movie you tell of, and I watched it with my little foster children. (Funny, I had forgotten it until I read your post.) Now that I am recalling it, I also recall how it impacted my little children (4 and 5 years old). They took comfort in the ending too until they realized her body remained lifeless, and that then deeply troubled them.
We, of course, talked about it. And at the high council of the dirty diapers, we decided the world needs more love.
Thanx for posting.
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Oh, that’s so sweet. Thank you for sharing. It’s such a heartbreaking ending, but I appreciate when movies like this don’t give easy answers. That kind of forces parents to have deep conversations with our children. I hope you have a wonderful day 🙂
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