Name That Trauma :: A Very Special Little Matchstick Girl Edition

AUNT JOHN SEZ: Today’s NAME THAT TRAUMA, courtesy of kinderpal Ratsawgod, is unique in that he knows the name of his trauma, he just can’t place the version of it. Please bust out your Kleenex, and leave your guesses in the comments section (or email ’em to us).

Take it away Ratsawgod:

It’s Christmas and, as usual, my mind returns to one of my very first Kindertraumas ever.

It was the mid-1970’s and my parents had just left me in the care of relatives to attended an adults-only Christmas party. I was planted in the game room set up in their attic and, left to fend for myself for a few hours, I innocently turned on the television. Then it happened: I was exposed the story of THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL, by Hans Christian Andersen.

I remember that it was an animated version. I remember there were these narrative bookends used in the telling of the story; a boy is sitting on the steps of a city building (possibly a library) and he begins telling the tale to a lone dog (possibly a stray.) We are then dropped into the story as Hans Christian Andersen wrote it, in all of its heartbreaking humanity and horror. At the end of the cartoon, we cut back to the boy on the steps as he concludes the story. The dog is still there, and now has been joined by many, many other passer-bys, who have stopped their daily activity and are standing there, agog, intently listening to the boy’s story as he speaks the final lines. The camera pulls back as we see the boy, the dog, the mass of people. All listening. All thinking. All feeling. Snow falls, wind blows, and it is quiet. The city is still.

Even as I type this, I cannot help but weep. It was the first time, the first time EVER as a small boy I fully understood that bad things can happen to good people, that children CAN be alone in the world, and are absolutely vulnerable to anything. As small boy I was unspeakably stunned by THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL’s rags and bare feet in the hard winters night, by the ripping harsh wind, by the fact no body would buy her matches, and by the fact the sheer apathy of the city folk caused her to die.

Right then, right there, as a boy of six or so, I was never, ever the same again. I suddenly understood life was ruthless and hard and that scared me down to the very core of my being.

I doubt if I mentioned this experience to my parents when they returned to pick me up that night, but I bet I hugged them a little harder and said a little prayer to be safely back in their arms again.

I’m guessing this aired sometime between 1975 and 1977. It’s a short story, and I think it was also a short cartoon. BUT it may have been a small tale inserted within a larger animated feature. This is all I remember.

Does anyone out there remember this specific version of THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL? I’d love to see it again. It ultimately became such a formative piece of who I am, and even to this very day I still draw upon that early viewing experience. And ponder. And ache. And reflect.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. The mystery of the animated tale has haunted me for decades.

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unkle lancifer
14 years ago


Could this be it? It’s from 1977 and it does feature a puppy…..
(It’s also very depressing.)

14 years ago

I had a similar reaction to this tale as a youngen. Then, Phil Collins went and ruined it all by scoffing the basis of the story for his seasonal depressor, “Another Day in Paradise.”

Changing the little girl to an old woman did NOT throw us off the scent, Phil. Better luck next time.

14 years ago

WOW, thanks for posting this Aunt John.

Unkle Lancifer, I was hopeful for a bit when I was watching your suggested YouTube link, but I’m pretty sure I remember that bookend narrative in the version I saw, so lamentably I don’t think that’s the version.

Pixar did a wonderful take on The Little Matchgirl, and you can see it here:

Thank you guys for all of your help. I very much appreciate it.

14 years ago

I didn’t see that one, but I did see one while I was in either second or third grade that depressed me mightily for many weeks. So much so that Mom was thinking about talking to the teacher and principal.

14 years ago

‘The Matchgirl” cartoon reminds me of  a cartoon called “The Happy Prince” based on a story by Oscar Wilde. It destroyed me when I saw it as a kid. youtube has it- worth a watch.