Friday, May 20, 2005

The Little Tissue Boy

Two weeks ago, as I was seated at a corner of Jalan Alor savouring hokkien mee on a balmy and windless night, my mid-40s lady friend who grew up at Jalan Alor said, "How sad. Look at that boy?"

I turned and about 50ft away, I saw a young chinese boy not much older than 6 years old, clutching a plastic basket filled with tissue papers, going from table to table. Inside, I cried.

The Little Match Girl
by Hans Christian Andersen

One New Year's Eve many years ago, it was almost dark and bitterly cold. Snow had been falling heavily all day. A little girl with bare head and bare feet struggled along the streets through the deep snow. She wore only a ragged dress and a thin black shawl pulled tight round her shoulders. When she left her home that morning she had been wearing shoes, but they belonged to her mother and were far too big for her. As she hurried across the street to get out of the way of a cart, the shoes slipped off. In a moment they were lost under the thick snow in a crowded street, and she never found them again.

The little girl's feet were now blue with cold as she wandered, miserably cold and hungry. She clutched a matchbox in one hand and a bundle of matches in a tattered piece of cloth in the other, but she had not sold a single match all day. By now lighted lamps were appearing in many of the windows, and a delicious smell of roast goose ready for New Year celebrations filled the frosty air. People brushed past the little girl as they hurried to their warm houses with presents and parcels of food, smiling and calling "Happy Christmas" to one another through the snow.

Snowflakes settled on the little girl's hair, and at last, faint with hunger, she sank into a corner between two houses. She grew colder and colder even though she tucked her frozen toes under the hem of her ragged dress and hugged them hard. She was too scared to go home without selling any matches and now her hands were almost frozen too. Dare she light just one match to warm her fingers? She struck one on the house wall. The light sprang up and the little girl held her fingers over the flame, picturing a huge stove with a bright warming flow. She stretched out her feet to warm them. Then the flame went out. The stove vanished and she held only a burned-out match in her hand.

She struck a second match on the wall that became transparent behind the tiny flame. She could see inside the house where there was a table filled with good things to eat. The little girl sniffed the warm cooking smells. Suddenly she could see a roast goose flying towards her complete with a knife and fork. Then the match spluttered and went out, and she found herself staring at the cold gray wall again.

The little girl lit a third match and now she was inside the room, sitting under a beautiful Christmas tree covered with silver balls and bright flowing candles. Her hand reached out to touch them. As it did so, the match went out. The Christmas candles shot up into the sky and turned into stars. Then one of them fell back to earth.

"Someone is dying," the little girl whispered when she saw the star fall. "I remember my dear kind grandmother telling me before she died that a soul goes to heaven whenever a star falls from the sky." She lit another match. In the first bright burst of light, her grandmother appeared, her eyes shining with love and tenderness.

"Oh grandmother," the child cried, "don't disappear like the warm stove, the roast goose and the beautiful Christmas tree! Take me with you. Please take me too."
Quickly she lit every single match in the bundle to keep her grandmother near her. They burned so brightly that night turned into day, as the grandmother held out her loving arms and pulled the little girl to her. Gently they flew up into the air together, higher and higher, to a place where there would be no more hunger or troubles ever again.

The next morning, in a corner of the city between two houses, the little girl was found with her feet still tucked beneath her and a tiny smile on her frozen lips. In her hand she clutched an empty box.

"How sad," the people said. "She tried to warm herself with her matches. Poor little girl."

They did not know that the little girl was smiling because she had seen a beautiful vision as her spirit soared away on that New Year's Eve so long ago.


I still cry whenever I read this story, but alas, the story still rings true to this day.

Belacan says... "to us who have been blessed with many, may you be a blessing to others"


SiaoChaBoa said...

Yah.. i feel sad too.. when i see something like that.. :(

SleekBlackMercedes said...

Sad but life's like that. We learn through hardships. Who knows a hard life in the beginning may make him strong and successful later in life.

Some of us who did well later in life, went through much difficulties early in life.

Fact is, I really dunno what to do when I see these people. I'll give them a couple of dollars if they drop by my table. In a way, it's better to give than receive sometimes...

Be comforted pal... God loves them and will bless them. We just help them in some small way that we can.

It's POETs day bro - Piss Off Early, Tomorrow's Saturday!

Cheers! :)

Cherry said...

The Little Match Girl story always brings tears to my eyes too. Its one of my favourite tales and I will make sure my children read it and understand the whole meaning behind it.

It always pains me to see children walking table to table hawking their wares while they could be at home, doing their homework and enjoying their childhood.

We are very lucky people. And we have to be so thankful to Him for giving us so much.

Although these children may be living with less, but they may be happy? Who knows?

Just wish the government could help them. Just wish poverty is eradicated. Just wish they can have a share in using the nation's first class facility.

Lucia Lai said...

i too always feel sad and touched when come across the little match girl story. a classic touching story of the great hans c. anderson. another one is the ugly duckling.

when i was in KL and at jalan alor for food, i too came across several (not one) young boys and girls selling tissue. some people believe that they are forced to do it by a syndicate.

yeah my heart cry out to them. :(