I was surprised at how true the animators stayed to the source material in this one. If you have never read any original Hans Christian Anderson, you should know it is much more ‘grim’ than the Grimm Fairy Tales. There is often a lesson learned at great expense. Sometimes, like in “The Little Match Girl” death is viewed as a happy ending since the suffering of this world is over. The Disney Animation Studio quite famously changed the ending of “The Little Mermaid” to give it a classic happy ending, but did not make the same decision here. Interestingly, all three of the shorts so far have fallen short of the happy ending we have come to expect from Disney.
“The Little Match Girl” is a beautiful, well-crafted piece of animation. It is stunning and I will probably not watch it again for a very long while. Why? you ask. Because it makes me cry. I have watched it twice and both times I have cried. Not just a polite misting up, but full on, pass the Kleenex tears. Quite simply, the story breaks my heart. Watching a little girl freeze to death as she dreams of a better life, no matter how well crafted the imagery, touches a little too close to home.
As thousands of children and their families flee war-torn Syria, the imagery of “The Little Match Girl” is all too real. Like the story, many people are content to ignore their suffering to preserve their own life. Whether it is a hoarding of resources, a fear of those who are different, or a misguided desire to preserve safety; there are people turning their backs on those in need. No matter what excuses we use, the reality is the same. We don’t care that people are dying. Unlike the story, I don’t believe that this is a happy ending. I don’t believe that ending the suffering of this world in death is the best that any of us can hope for. We can pretend that everything is fine, that people will make it, that there isn’t a mass tragedy occurring with out knowledge and implicit compliance; but it isn’t true. These stories have unhappy endings and they are not fiction.
The Little Match Girl is walking through Europe right now and we have the power to change the ending of her story. We can give these children a real happy ending if we have the courage to listen to a different storyteller.
“Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’
Matthew 25: 37b-40
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