My Danish father, Hans Pederson, came to Seattle as an immigrant at the age of 20. In my upcoming book, I refer to a story by Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark’s illustrious author, that invariably brought tears to my eyes during my childhood.
The Little Match Girl tells the sad tale of a child sent out to sell matches on New Year’s Eve. To keep warm, she huddles in a corner and lights her matches one by one. As she strikes, each match brings forth memories of a warm home with her grandmother, now deceased, the joy of holiday revelers who are ignoring her, and the aroma of delicious food.
Once the last match burns out, the merriment and laughter fade away as the little match girl slowly freezes to death.
This story, adapted into a Disney movie, was apparently written by Andersen to emphasize the plight of abused and abandoned children. The tale, which I read it every Christmas, remains etched in my memory.