'The Little Match Girl' - Atlas Obscura

'The Little Match Girl'

Greve, Denmark

With a bundle of matches in one hand and a mobile phone in the other, this sculpture is a modern take on Hans Christian Andersen's poignant fairy tale. 


The Little Match Girl by renowned Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) tells the poignant story of a poor girl who sells matches on the streets during a cold New Year’s Eve, ultimately ending in tragedy. The moral of the tale emphasizes compassion and empathy for the less fortunate.

Inaugurated in Greve, Denmark, in 2019, The Little Match Girl is Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt’s contemporary interpretation of the 19th-century fairy tale. Crafted from copper, the sculpture depicts a 10-year-old girl holding a cell phone in one hand and matches in the other. Her eyes are closed as she sits on the ground with her knees drawn up, enveloped in a large cape. Evoking empathy from viewers, the art style could be described as somewhat sentimental.

In Andersen’s original tale and Galschiøt’s modern rendition, poverty, deprivation, and the desire for a better life are depicted. Andersen focuses on tangible poverty and material lacks, while Galschiøt emphasizes the absence of adult companionship and the spiritual void felt by children with busy parents. The matchsticks and the mobile phone represent both narratives, respectively, with the latter also symbolizing materialism and the misguided notion that possessions equate to caring for children.

The prototype for The Little Match Girl was created back in the mid-2000s (which explains why the cell phone appears dated), when 11 copies of the girl figure were temporarily exhibited in various Danish cities as part of a teachers’ union campaign.

Know Before You Go

The sculpture is accessible 24/7. It is located in Gersagerparken, a housing area in Hundige, Greve municipality. It's a 10-minute walk from Hundige S-train station, approximately a 30-minute ride southwest of Copenhagen.

Please note that the easiest walking route from the train stop is through Waves Shopping Center (where parking is available for those driving). When leaving the mall, take the pedestrian tunnel near exit F by Lidl supermarket. The sculpture is located outdoors, close to the tunnel's other end.

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