When I was in first grade, a well-meaning teacher read The Little Match Girl to my class the week before Christmas.
Apparently someone decided that, since it had a Christmas tree in it, it must be a Christmas story. I'm sure this person immediately regretted their decision.
I don't remember being terribly affected by it myself. In fact, my thoughts on the story at the time ran more like this: "Geez, Mr. Andersen, you're really laying it on thick, aren't you? I mean, the girl's dead grandma was there to carry her up to heaven, where everything was warm and bright and cheery and she got a roast goose and a pudding and a giant Christmas tree with pretty candles on it? You want a nice frothy schmaltz beer float to go with your glurge sundae?"
Mind you, this was coming from a kid who had ridiculously easy-to-manipulate emotions. I cried at the end of that stupid live-action Casper the Friendly Ghost movie, for cripes sake. It was not at all difficult to tug at my little heartstrings, but Andersen's match girl failed. Spectacularly.
I pretty much put the story out of my mind until college, when I was forced to confront it--along with several others by the same author--during a course on reading and interpreting fairy tales. Yes, my college had such a class. I love my college. Anyway, once I actually went back and read them with an adult eye, I was amazed to discover I had missed something that seemed glaringly obvious in retrospect.
Namely, the fact that Hans Christian Andersen often comes across like a vicious, cold-blooded sadist with a raging hate-on for children, especially when those children happen to be girls.
Think I'm exaggerating?
Then join me as I read through a few of Andersen's classic tales and detail what bothers me about them. I'll do one a week, for the entire month of December. Think of it as my early, twisted Christmas present to you, dear readers. I'll even try to go easy and not pound your warm childhood memories too far into the ground, because I'm just that friggin' full of the holiday spirit.
First on the chopping block: The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf.