Happy New Year! this is Sea Gabriel with Mythic Deviant and today I’m going to do a New Year’s Story: the match stick girl.
The Matchstick Girl is more Fairy Tale than myth, but is still both foundational and illuminating.
She’s actually called the Little Matchstick Girl. Pay attention to things have little in the title. When it’s not ironic, it generally indicates that they will never be big.
I’ll just leap into the story.
Once upon a time there was a little girl who was sent out on New Year’s Eve to sell matchsticks. She tried to sell them, but no one was buying.
She was walking barefoot through the snow, having lost her mother’s shoes, which she had been wearing. One fell off when she ran across the road to get out of the way of traffic. And one was stolen by a boy who wanted to use it as a prop.
She was afraid to go home without having made any sales. Her father would beat her for having failed. Besides, she thought, it was almost as cold there.
Her hands were becoming numb from the cold. And she did have two bundles of matchsticks. So she light a match, warming her hands over the flame. And when she did she imagine that she was in front of a big, warm, stove. But when the match went out the stove vanished.
So she lit another. And then she could see clearly into the warm room, and smell the New Year’s dinner that was roasting in the oven. She was about to take a bite of the delicious food on the table when the match went out and it vanished.
So she lit another and a beautiful scene of warmth and candles appeared in the room with the feast and stove. The light from the candles rose higher and higher until they were stars and one of them turned into a shooting star.
“Someone is dying,” she thought, remembering the first time she’d seen one, when her Grandmother, who loved her more than anyone, told her that it was a soul going to heaven.
So she struck another match, and there was her Grandmother, holding out her arms and full of love, so she light match after match igniting the sky until her Grandmother gathered her in her arms and flew off with her.
And the sun rose on New Year’s morning over her frozen corpse, smiling, huddled between two houses.
The Little Matchstick Girl is trying to reach into the past to find the comfort she once had: the comfort she lost.
Right now, the majority of people in the US, at least, are trying to reach into the past to find the comfort we once had: the comfort we lost. Some are reaching back 50 years, and some are reaching back five months. But most of us are reaching back.
And it’s true that Grandma was awesome. But it’s also true that Grandma is dead. And the only place she can lead us now is into a grave.
Going home to be beaten isn’t the solution. Nor is deluding ourselves with lies about how we can bring the dead back to life.
But there are a thousand doors we didn’t try. Or we can face the fact that we’d rather freeze to death in the street admit we’ve left ourselves in the cold.
Some of those houses have warmth, fun, and really great food. It may be time to start knocking . . . because freezing to death between two houses is kind of a stupid way to die.