Nesa Sivagnanam's Reviews > Matchless: A Christmas Story

Matchless by Gregory Maguire
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's review
Aug 22, 2011

it was amazing

Like the little match girl, Frederik must help provide for the household, which consists of himself and his mother, the widow Pedersen. In order to do so, the young boy hangs out by the docks, scaring fish out of the mouths of gulls. He is essentially a scavenger, in the same way the gulls are scavengers. At the same time, Frederik is also a collector of “bits of beautiful trash:” old fishing nets, empty thread spools, acorns, a cracked dish—all the small, discarded things deemed unworthy by others. These things Frederik brings home to use as toys, to incorporate into his fantasy world. Of course, Frederik is one of those unworthy, discarded bits. But in his imagination, he is governor of a whole town.

When his mother is called away to work on Christmas, Frederik decides his town needs a boat, and he disappears into the streets. His path crosses, briefly, with the little match girl, whose end is well-known. “The Little Match Girl” has always been one of Andersen’s darkest tales, with overtones of child abuse and neglect leading to the girl’s death. This version is, necessarily, cleaned up a bit. Gone are the insinuations of abuse on the part of the father, for he now has a part to play in Frederik’s happiness. And, strangely, the little match girl’s final vision is of her mother rather than her grandmother. This change was made, perhaps, to strengthen the connection between the girl and Frederik. For, as she returns to the loving arms of her mother, Frederik eventually discovers a father’s love.

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