Sunday, December 21, 2003

The Little Match Girl

21 Dec 03 Little Match Girl

Little Match Girl
in multiple languages illus written in 1846

McGonagall :Little Match Girl verse

Andersen leaves fantasy behind as he opens the story. Familiar with the Christmas bustle and expectations of snow, we envision clearly the girl walking along the street with her head uncovered. Andersen wastes not a word.

Little Match Girl illus by Rachel Isadora

She had been wearing slippers, but thery were too big. Why? the answer is immediate—they were her mother's. As little kids we donned our parent's shoes and hobbled about in them, doubling over in giggles by the very immensity of them, our miniature feet lost in the cavernous depths.

Relating something commonplace to the external world, Andersen opens the door for us to enter into a different world of poverty. We are not the onlookers peering in through the windows with Scrooge at his nephew's celebrations; but involved directly. We feel the cold, hear the mumbled words of the boy and feel numbness overtaking our minds as the snow falls in flurries about the child in the thin clothes.

Andersen increases the tension by contrasting the season of generosity with that of utter poverty. She hadn't sold a match all day. The repetition of the thought identifies the child's despair and fear of returning home, the utter hopelessness of her life. The fear of being beaten is softened by the repetition of the unsold matches. The lines dull the pain as she loses consciousness. Reality and hallucination mix as her mind wanders into a different world where food is readily available. Only the very hungry dream of apples and roast goose in technicolor.

We understand and see the misery and beauty surrounding the child as she leaves this world. Her vision gives us hope for the next and peace in this as we return back into the bothersome, bustling season of Christmas when greedy shoppers trample each other in the stores, trying to nab the last bargain of the day.

The portrait haunts us a day later as we pass the beggars on the streets or avoid the homeless people in the metros and train stations, but Andersen had the courage to look within the soul and see that underneath the poverty and hunger, they were people, too, needing as much love and attention as you or I.

Match Seller illus by Naszra Ksiegarnia 1950

Instead of calculating your Christmas presents or Christmas budget to spend on friends; make a commitment of tiem to care about those whose lives are hard. Dedicate a portion of your time to a community project or involve yourself in establishing a new one. It doesn't have to be a major investment, but only a matter of a few hours per month—visiting the ill or shut-in in the local nursing-home or collecting old magazines to create a magazine exchange in the hospital or library for those who cannot afford to pay subscriptions. America is the great wasteland of wealth. So many things could be recycled, but are not. So much can be given directly to those in need. Volunteer at a local youth group; work on a crisis line; help develop resources for a website; organize kids to clean trash off the streets—there's a million things possible. Read stories to kids—do something to make this world a better place. Think how different Malvo's life could have been had someone cared for him and showed him the meaning of love. Inside, he's human, too; but he grew up in a brutal world shaped by blind indifference. What can be expected when kids are taught from very young age to play computer games with the major objective is ultimate destruction and televisions are saturated with violence? Save a life by reaching out to someone in need. Carry an apple in the pocket to give to someone in need of food. It's not the biggest sacrifice you'll make in life, but it might warm someone's heart and offer hope to live.

Letter and Story of Little Match Girl
in German with a sketch by Andersen from the Gazette Archive
background of the story

Odense City Archive: Little Match Girl
Archive: manuscripts of HCA

University of Southern Denmark: Andersen Project
biographical website with several essays regarding works and life

Tale of Christmas Eve 1850

Christmas Goose
obviously influence Dickens' Scrooge


14th Dec 03 Fir Tree by HCA

23 Nov 03 Humperdink's Children Hansel u Gretel Making Gingerbread B

23 Nov 03 Humperdinck's Children making Gingerbread A

16 Nov 03 Nutcracker

7 Dec 03 Snow Queen

5 Dec 2004 Kidnapped Santa

1 December 2004 Winter Festival Event

Sunday, December 14, 2003

The Fir Tree

14th Dec 03 Fir Tree by HCA

The Story of the Christmas Tree
Oh Christmas Tree

The Fairytales of HCA : The Fir Tree nr 26
translated by H P Paull, illus by Pedersen

In the city square stands the Christmas Market arrayed in stalls with great Christmas trees standing guard all around it, dressed in glittery finery. Small children visit the little stall covered with hay to talk to the llama, sheep and goats and toddlers hang onto the noble ponies that amble in a crowded circle. Tourists gawk at Christmas wares, thinking about their credit accounts. In the corner, children skate in the ovoid rink across from the Tyn Church. Young couples gossip together, warming their hands on hot mulled wine while others admire the horses standing in the fiaker line. Everywhere, Christmas lights dazzle, blinking against the wintry sky and the drab walls of Prague.

Christmas is for the wealthy to enjoy themselves and the poor to struggle through the coldness of the season. They see too the Christmas Market with its enticing luxury, dreaming of days when their stomachs shall be satisfied with proper food and they can enjoy spending money on useless baubles serving to decorate a room or table. They come to watch the children skating on the rink or the outdoor performances presented on the Christmas center stage. At home, there are no trees or presents. Life is lived from pocket with scarcely enough to survive. They search through the small, inexpensive gifts found within the many craft stalls: a string of rose quartz or amethysts; a puppet or mug to satisfy the demand for giving presents.

Everyone needs acceptance. Everyone wishes to be admired or loved. In the center of the forest lived a small fir tree, beneath the branches of the great. He, too, wanted admiration and acceptance as he viewed the great trees towering over him. How grand it would be to live to old age with birds' nests in the branches.

Mallet's Nurseries: Christmas snow and trees

London Film Festival: Christmas Tree

Andersen transfers the longing for acceptance to an inanimate object, yet we accept it, understanding the agony of exclusion. We 've experienced standing outside to watch the party in process in a brightly lit room, to be excluded from cheerful company. The futile hopes of the fir tree are starkly contrasted against reality. His glory is transient, decked in Christmas baubles a brief time. His value is lost the moment the party is finished.

The longing for acceptance is reflected in many of the Andersen stories, including the Steadfast Tin Soldier, Ugly Duckling, and Match Girl. Although the soldier is neither rich nor poor, he is minus a leg, excluding him from the normal company of soldiers. He sees himself as unworthy. The Ugly Duckling is persecuted until it flees the banyard society and only by glancing into the pond at the end of the story realizes its own beauty; but the Fir Tree suffers belated enlightenment. Cut from the forest, he is dragged into the artifice of affluent society and decked with the superficiality in a transient holiday. Within a short time, he is rejected and put out on the trash heap where the little rodents visit to hear stories. As he knows but few and none within their interests, he is again rejected. Still confused by the ordeals of his arduous life, he believes himself young when spent and ends as kindling.

Deftly, Andersen transfers our sympathy to the tree, the common symbol of Christmas, the season of gaiety and giving, while making us aware of the misfortunes of those suffering from poverty and rejection. Without becoming maudlin or moralizing, Andersen expresses the suffering of society' rejected, forever watching the happy festivities within the lighted room. He does it without Dicken's Ghost of the Christmas Past or Old Scrooge reminiscing on the younger on a merry Christmas Evening. Nor is there any Tiny Tim to bless us at the end. Instead, the reader is put into the center of the story as the silent tree, unable to express its longing. The themes of silence and yearning thread their way through many stories, through the eyes of the Mermaid, the loneliness of the Ugly Duckling and the open arms of the Fir Tree yearning to embrace the nests of birds and hear the twitter of the young among them.

Giving gifts is a risky business, for in giving something, a bit of the giver is also given. Tourists search the Christmas Markets for that special present coming from Prague, hoping never to find a telltale label franked, "Made in China" . We look for the original, the unique. In doing, we overlook the beauty before us, losing value on the more important things. Being accepted often entails sacrifice, submitting to the demands of peers or friends. They dislike favorite clothes or insist on different appearance and behavior. So hard to learn to eat lettuces with knife and fork in a strictly aristocratic European manner, but we suffer the humiliation of rejection if our etiquette doesn't match demands.

The tree symbolizes not only Christmas but symbolizes eternal life in literature. The roots reach into the underworld with the branches reach towards the heavens where God reigns. Another symbol would not make the allegory as powerful-- the tree is not only symbolic of life and spirituality, but also of giving. Under it presents are placed and around it children play games, dominating the holiday season, gracing city and town squares across the Christianized world. What would Rockerfeller Square be without its annual tree?

Christmas Tree in NY
in the midst of the city, stands a Christmas tree
home pages with some funky Christmas pics

The origins are older than Christianity, reaching to into religious and social culture found in ancient Egypt. In classical literature, trees are associated with various dieties. Just as Judaism took ancient rites and transformed them to new meanings, Chritianity converted old symbols into new, endowed with new mythology, ursurping old festivals. Now Saturnalia is limited to one night annually on New Year's Eve with strong prohibitions against imbibing and drinking. The darkness of the pagan festivals is transcended by enilightenment of Christian monotheism and the emphasis of giving, if only once a year. And true, Christmas is commercialized as the Season of Consumer Sales, but beneath all the guadiness and greed, there lurks the tragedy that Andersen so clearly sees: the need to be loved and accepted in a world where affluence buys acceptance based on the superficiality of appearance

Captain Jack's Christmas Tree Farm
history of Christmas trees

Christmas Archives
The History of the Christmas Tree

Christmas Legends

Christmas card
Thomas Kincaid, artist

Georgia Trust: Christmas tree

The National Christmas Tree Association
many various types of Christmas trees to choose...

Sandor's Christmas Picture Album
pictures from NYC

Classic Reader: Brief Bio of HCA

HCA in 123 Languages
a directory of Hans Christian Andersen tales in 123 languages.


21 Dec 03 Little Match Girl

23 Nov 03 Humperdink's Children Hansel u Gretel Making Gingerbread B

23 Nov 03 Humperdinck's Children making Gingerbread A

16 Nov 03 Nutcracker

5 Dec 2004 Kidnapped Santa

1 December 2004 Winter Festival Event

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Snow Queen

7 Dec 03 Snow Queen

Sur la Lune- Snow Queen


Across Europe in the last weeks of November, the elves are outside busy building the Christmas markets that stand in the city squares and central market places. Filled with cheer, they are decorated like miniature villages where throngs of people congregate to search for that special Christmas present among the outdoor shops containing traditional crafts from black-smithery to glass-blowing to fine silver-smiths for handwrought jewelry.

On December 5th, children dress up as angels and devils to accompany Saint Nicholas as he goes from house to house bringing the season's cheer and drinking schnapps. Firecrackers explode in the noisy streets as fireworks burst above in the night sky, welcoming the Christams Season.

In Vienna, the ice-rink by the Stadtpark is filled with whirling skaters, and the duck-pond with the Moore sculpture in front of the Karlskirche is glazed with ice for children to skate on. On the ring by the Rathaus, a miniature village is created among the towering trees with an outdoor rink where annually Freilicht Exhibitions of ice-skating and ice-dancing are performed by the new brood of competitive skaters.

In Prague, the Christmas Market assembles in the Old Town Square with a miniature ice-rink and pony rides to entertain the children. A miniature train whooshes in circles and the tourists congregate to watch the parade of saints on the great Astronomical Clock near the Tyn Church where Catholics and Protestants battled to dominate the religious front. Tourists throng the crowded narrow streets, arriving to enjoy the busy shopping season. It's Christmas. The Ice Castle surrounding the ice-rink is slowly melting, although scarcely a week old.

The story of the Snow Queen is a traditional favorite for the winter season, with the Snow Festivals that are celebrated across Europe. The larges Ice Castle is in Kemi, Finland—in Lapland where Gerda is abducted by the Robber Girl, and finally continues on the last leg of her journey with the reindeer to the icy, frozen north.

Snow Castle in Lapland, Finland

Kemi, Finland with the largest Snow Castle in the world
The largest annual Snow Castle, built in Kemi, Finland. 17 metres high with walls 1100 metres long. Area 13 500 m2. The castle includes restaurants and a chapel attracts over 270 000 visitors. Weddings and parties are conducted in it.

Ulrike Elanor's Snow Church
Helsinki Finland, est 1997

Around the world, the winter festivities begin with winter sports championships. Among the most unforgettable ice-skaters are Toller Cranston and Roselyn Sumners.

Toller Cranston and Witt
film of ice-skating

Ice Princess
Toller Cranston, Katarina Witt and Roselyn Sumners
60 minutes 2000

Andersen draws us into his world, through his remarkable gift of descriptive narration. In Mermaid, we are invited into the unseen world through the comparison of the invisible to the commonplace that we experience in our daily lives:

"far out to sea the water is as blue as the petals on the loveliest cornflower and as clear as purest glass..."

Similarly, he begins the narration of Snow Queen with an incident which we all can relate to through the imagery of a immense mirror being flown into the heavens. The association of words relating a splinter of glass to an eyelash or hair caught in an eye, creates the credibility fo the story. We believe, because we know the ordeal of trying to remove the foreign object from the eye and the hours of swollen eyes, the blurred, painful vision that resulted. We know intimately the sharp pain of dust particles grating against the tender surface of the eye. We suffer with Kay in his blindness and we sympathize with gerda in her long search through the world to recover the precious companionship of her childhood. We know the tingle of numb hands and the screaming pain of swollen frozen fingers. And like children, we are bewitched and entranced by the annual winter sports and festivals, dreaming of racing away in the Snow Queen's sleigh.

Meghans Fairytales
moved 4 December introduction to the pages
The Snow Queen" translated by Naomi Lewis,
Illustrated by Angela Barrett illustration copyright 1988

Part 1 The Mirror

Part 2 Kay and Gerda

Part 3 The Flower Garden and the Woman Who Could Conjure

Part 4 The Prince and The Princess

Part 5 The Little Robber-Girl

Part 6 The Lapland Woman and the Finland Woman

Part 7 The Palace of the Snow Queen and What Happened There at Last

Snow Queen Adrienne Segur illus

Art Passions: Segur
illustrations by Segur
please do not download site
you may link by html page but not by images
You may also send the images as postcards

Suggested Fairytale Classics\
a page with suggested classic fairytale books listed for beautiful gifts


4 Febr 04 Snow Queen: Old Woman's Flower Garden

2 Oct 04 Flower Stories


21 Dec 03 Little Match Girl

14th Dec 03 Fir Tree by HCA

23 Nov 03 Humperdink's Children Hansel u Gretel Making Gingerbread B

23 Nov 03 Humperdinck's Children making Gingerbread A

16 Nov 03 Nutcracker

5 Dec 2004 Kidnapped Santa

1 December 2004 Winter Festival Event