Showing posts from January, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Little Ellie, By Caroline Yu

1-14-16: It's cold outside today, but this terrific poem was originally published in May of 2012.

Editor's note: It's warm outside, but Caroline Yu's winning poem for May evokes all the snowy beauty and sadness of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Match Girl."

Oh my little one, I see you’re drenched in rags.
Your bare feet stagger through the snow,
Frosting each street
This last day of the year.
The matches wrapped in
Your hand turned damp.

I watch you wander, searching for
Somewhere that isn’t home,
Searching for me.

Cold cannot touch me here.
Even so, you warm me with your
Cheeks, glowing redder than
Summer sunsets.
My heart bubbles like
A boiling stew pot.
I ache to reach down,
And wrap you close.

Your hair still hangs golden,
Glinting with snowflakes
That won’t melt in the cold.
With a smile you lift your head,
Searching these stars,
A poor girl’s diamonds,
Searching for me.
You are closer.

My moonlight beckons you to a house corner.
Your shivers whisper to strike a matc…

'The Little Match Girl' Happy New Year

Did you ever think about the fact that "The Little Match Girl" is a not-very-happy new year story? It's also my least-favorite Hans Christian Andersen tale. Such a bring down. His penchant for torturing his beautiful, young heroines has been well noted by scholars for some time, yet Andersen was unlucky in love and said he identified most with another suffering beauty, "The Little Mermaid." Who can ever say what motivates a writer? His own story? His anger at the pretty people (and unpretty ones) who rejected him?

Andersen was also a religious man, if not always dogmatic. Many, if not most of his fairy tales contain religious or moral messages. "The Little Match Girl" is no different. His ending clearly calls people out for ignoring the poor and homeless, and an explicitly Christian heaven is invoked in this story. By showing the suffering of "The Little Match Girl," is he merely strengthening his message about the importance of charity?