Room 313

adventures in teaching creative writing

Little Match Girl

To review fiction literary terms in Pre-AP English II this week, I challenged my students to identify them in Disney’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl.”

My sophomores are familiar with many literary terms already, but I did introduce foil to them. We also clarified whether a disease (like West Nile virus) is an external or internal conflict (it’s external), discussed how many viewpoints it takes for a third person narrator to become omniscient (2), and how to define climax without using the word exciting (when the big conflict of the story is finally resolved).

What I like about “The Little Match Girl” movie is that there is no dialogue. Students have to pay careful attention to the actions of the characters. The strings provided excellent background music, and could be revisited when we review tone and mood later on this year.

Most of my students had never heard of “The Little Match Girl” before, although they were familiar with Andersen’s more famous stories “The Little Mermaid” and “The Ugly Duckling.” Spoiler alert, for those of you who haven’t read/watched “LMG” either: My students were very upset by the ending of the movie, one of them even jokingly threatening to sue for making him feel so bad. I heard audible gasps as the LMG’s soul walked off into eternity with her grandmother. After school in the halls, I heard two girls discussing the film, saying they almost cried at the end.

I explained to some of my classes that “LMG” sets the tone for the depressing literature we will read this semester in Pre-AP English II:

  • Night by Elie Wiesel, a memoir by a Holocaust survivor
  • Antigone by Sophocles, a Greek tragedy filled with death
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a classic American novel about racism in the South in the 20th century

My grandpa introduced me to “LMG.” He sent me a copy of the story along with an audio tape of his reading the story aloud when I was around six or seven. Thinking back, I’m realizing the other side of the tape was his singing the equally depressing song “Oh My Darling, Clementine.” I guess Bop wanted to introduce me to the harsh realities of the world. He grew up in abject poverty, but never talked about it. He also was a paratrooper during WW2, but he didn’t talk about that either.

Anyway, on the second day of “LMG,” we worked through potential themes of the story, then moved on to using Kylene Beer‘s strategy of Somebody Wanted But So to summarize the story in three sentences or less.

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4 thoughts on “Little Match Girl

  1. I think Disney did a beautiful job of illustrating this story. Kudos to you for sharing it.

  2. Danielle on said:

    Did you give them a handout with particular terms to look for, or did you let them show you what they know? I love this idea and am ready to try it.

  3. Carson on said:

    I think disney did a poor job of interpreting this classic story. First off, in the original story, TLMG had fair, curly hair. In the disney version she has dark straight hair. The original was set in Denmark while (judging by the Orthodox church towers and cyrillic alphabet combined with the cold weather) i’d wager this is set in Russia

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