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Most terribly cold it was; it snowed, and was nearly quite dark, and evening--
the last evening of the year. In this cold and darkness there went along the
street a poor little girl, bareheaded, and with naked feet. When she left home
she had slippers on, it is true; but what was the good of that? They were very
large slippers, which her mother had hitherto worn; so large were they; and
the poor little thing lost them as she scuffled away across the street,
because of two carriages that rolled by dreadfully fast.

One slipper was nowhere to be found; the other had been laid hold of by an
urchin, and off he ran with it; he thought it would do capitally for a cradle
when he some day or other should have children himself. So the little maiden
walked on with her tiny naked feet, that were quite red and blue from cold.
She carried a quantity of matches in an old apron, and she held a bundle of
them in her hand. Nobody had bought anything of her the whole livelong day; no
one had given her a single farthing.

She crept along trembling with cold and hunger--a very picture of sorrow, the
poor little thing!

The flakes of snow covered her long fair hair, which fell in beautiful curls
around her neck; but of that, of course, she never once now thought. From all
the windows the candles were gleaming, and it smelt so deliciously of roast
goose, for you know it was New Year's Eve; yes, of that she thought.

In a corner formed by two houses, of which one advanced more than the other,
she seated herself down and cowered together. Her little feet she had drawn
close up to her, but she grew colder and colder, and to go home she did not
venture, for she had not sold any matches and could not bring a farthing of
money: from her father she would certainly get blows, and at home it was cold
too, for above her she had only the roof, through which the wind whistled,
even though the largest cracks were stopped up with straw and rags.

Her little hands were almost numbed with cold. Oh! a match might afford her a
world of comfort, if she only dared take a single one out of the bundle, draw
it against the wall, and warm her fingers by it. She drew one out. "Rischt!"
how it blazed, how it burnt! It was a warm, bright flame, like a candle, as
she held her hands over it: it was a wonderful light. It seemed really to the
little maiden as though she were sitting before a large iron stove, with
burnished brass feet and a brass ornament at top. The fire burned with such
blessed influence; it warmed so delightfully. The little girl had already
stretched out her feet to warm them too; but--the small flame went out, the
stove vanished: she had only the remains of the burnt-out match in her hand.

She rubbed another against the wall: it burned brightly, and where the light
fell on the wall, there the wall became transparent like a veil, so that she
could see into the room. On the table was spread a snow-white tablecloth; upon
it was a splendid porcelain service, and the roast goose was steaming famously
with its stuffing of apple and dried plums. And what was still more capital to
behold was, the goose hopped down from the dish, reeled about on the floor
with knife and fork in its breast, till it came up to the poor little girl;
when--the match went out and nothing but the thick, cold, damp wall was left
behind. She lighted another match. Now there she was sitting under the most
magnificent Christmas tree: it was still larger, and more decorated than the
one which she had seen through the glass door in the rich merchant's house.

Thousands of lights were burning on the green branches, and gaily-colored
pictures, such as she had seen in the shop-windows, looked down upon her.
The little maiden stretched out her hands towards them when--the match went
out. The lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher, she saw them now
as stars in heaven; one fell down and formed a long trail of fire.

"Someone is just dead!" said the little girl; for her old grandmother, the
only person who had loved her, and who was now no more, had told her, that
when a star falls, a soul ascends to God.

She drew another match against the wall: it was again light, and in the lustre
there stood the old grandmother, so bright and radiant, so mild, and with such
an expression of love.

"Grandmother!" cried the little one. "Oh, take me with you! You go away when
the match burns out; you vanish like the warm stove, like the delicious roast
goose, and like the magnificent Christmas tree!" And she rubbed the whole
bundle of matches quickly against the wall, for she wanted to be quite sure of
keeping her grandmother near her. And the matches gave such a brilliant light
that it was brighter than at noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been
so beautiful and so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm, and both
flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was
neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety--they were with God.

But in the corner, at the cold hour of dawn, sat the poor girl, with rosy
cheeks and with a smiling mouth, leaning against the wall--frozen to death on
the last evening of the old year. Stiff and stark sat the child there with her
matches, of which one bundle had been burnt. "She wanted to warm herself,"
people said. No one had the slightest suspicion of what beautiful things she
had seen; no one even dreamed of the splendor in which, with her grandmother
she had entered on the joys of a new year.

天气冷得可怕。正在下雪,黑暗的夜幕开始垂下来了。这是这年最后的一夜——新年的前夕。在这样的寒冷和黑暗中,有一个光头赤 脚的小女孩正在街上走着。是的,她离开家的时候还穿着一双拖鞋,但那又有什么用呢?那是一双非常大的拖鞋——那么大,最近她妈妈一直在穿着。当她匆忙地越 过街道的时候,两辆马车飞奔着闯过来,弄得小姑娘把鞋跑落了。有一只她怎样也寻不到,另一只又被一个男孩子捡起来,拿着逃走了。男孩子还说,等他将来有孩 子的时候,可以把它当做一个摇篮来使用。


  那儿有两座房子,其中一座房子比另一座更向街心伸出一点,她便在这个墙角里坐下来,缩作一团。她把一双小脚也缩进来,不过她感到更冷。她不敢回 家里去,因为她没有卖掉一根火柴,没有赚到一个铜板。她的父亲一定会打她,而且家里也是很冷的,因为他们头上只有一个可以灌进风来的屋顶,虽然最大的裂口 已经用草和破布堵住了。
  她的一双小手几乎冻僵了。唉!哪怕一根小火柴对她也是有好处的。只要她敢抽出一根来,在墙上擦着了,就可以暖暖手!最 后她抽出一根来了。哧!它燃起来了,冒出火光来了!当她把手覆在上面的时候,它便变成了一朵温暖、光明的火焰,像是一根小小的蜡烛。这是一道美丽的小光! 小姑娘觉得真像坐在一个铁火炉旁边一样:它有光亮的黄铜圆捏手和黄铜炉身,火烧得那么欢,那么暖,那么美!唉,这是怎么一回事儿?当小姑娘刚刚伸出一双 脚,打算暖一暖脚的时候,火焰就忽然熄灭了!火炉也不见了。她坐在那儿,手中只有烧过了的火柴。
  她又擦了一根。它燃起来了,发出光来了。墙上 有亮光照着的那块地方,现在变得透明,像一片薄纱;她可以看到房间里的东西:桌上铺着雪白的台布,上面有精致的碗盘,填满了梅子和苹果的、冒着香气的烤 鹅。更美妙的事情是:这只鹅从盘子里跳出来了,背上插着刀叉,蹒跚地在地上走着,一直向这个穷苦的小姑娘面前走来。这时火柴就熄灭了;她面前只有一堵又厚 又冷的墙。
  她点了另一根火柴。现在她是坐在美丽的圣诞树下面。上次圣诞节时,她透过玻璃门,看到一个富有商人家里的一株圣诞树;可是现在这一 株比那株还要大,还要美。它的绿枝上燃着几千支蜡烛;彩色的图画,跟橱窗里挂着的那些一样美丽,在向她眨眼。这个小姑娘把两只手伸过去。于是火柴就熄灭 了。圣诞节的烛光越升越高。她看到它们现在变成了明亮的星星。这些星星有一颗落下来了,在天上划出一条长长的光线。


   于是她急忙把整束火柴中剩下的火柴都擦亮了,因为她非常想把祖母留住。这些火柴发出强烈的光芒,照得比大白天还要明朗。祖母从来没有像现在这样显得美丽 和高大。她把小姑娘抱起来,搂到怀里。她们两人在光明和快乐中飞走了,越飞越高,飞到既没有寒冷,也没有饥饿,也没有忧愁的那块地方——她们是跟上帝在一 起。

  这篇童话发表在1846年的《丹麦大众历书》上。它的内容一看就清楚:一年一度的新年除夕,是大家欢乐的日子,但有的人却在挨饿。这种饥饿在天 真的孩子身上就特别显得尖锐,特别是当她(或他)看到好吃的东西而弄不到口的时候。卖火柴的小女孩擦亮一根火柴,照出对面楼上有钱人家的餐桌:“桌上铺着 雪白的台布,上面有精致的碗盘,填满了梅子和苹果的、冒着香气的烤鹅。更美妙的事情是:这只鹅从盘子里跳出来了,背上插着刀叉,蹒跚地在地上走着,一直向 这个穷苦的小姑娘面前走来。这时火柴就熄灭了;她面前只有一堵又厚又冷的墙。”最后她“死了——在旧年的除夕冻死了。”在这里安徒生安慰读者,说她和她的 祖母“在光明和快乐中飞走了……飞到既没有寒冷,也没有饥饿,也没有忧愁的那块地方——她们是跟上帝在一起。”但这只是一个希望。真正的“光明和快乐”得 自己去创造。上帝是没有的。小女孩究竟还是死了。
  安徒生在他的手记中写道:“我在去国外旅行的途中在格洛斯登城堡住了几天。《卖火柴的小女 孩》就是在那里写成的。我那时接到出版商佛林奇先生的信,要求我为他的历书写一个故事,以配合其中的三幅画。我选了以一个穷苦小女孩拿着一包火柴为画面的 那张画。”这幅画是丹麦画家龙布(J.T.Lumdbye,1818~1848)的手笔。

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