Role in the film
The short begins with the young girl trying to sell matches on the snowy streets of Russia. Unfortunately, no one will buy them from her, not even a policeman who helps her down from a lamp post. After a day without success, the young girl curls up in a corner with her box of matches in her lap. As the cold winds becomes stronger, she is forced to use one of her matches to keep warm.
As she removes one match from her box and lights it, she begins to imagine that the small flame is a large stove by which she can warm her fingers. However, it is not long until the match goes out and finds herself back in the frozen alley. Undaunted, she removes another match and lights it, but this time she envisions a candle sitting atop a food-filled table. Just as she reaches out to claim a tasty morsel, the flame is extinguished, causing her belly to rumble. Once more, the match girl lights a match, this time a sleigh drawn by horses comes to her, which takes her to the home of her beloved grandmother. As the match goes out, the match girl uses her remaining matches to continue the heartwarming thought.
In her final vision, she sees a Christmas tree in the other room, decorated with presents, ornaments, and candles. Her grandmother picks her up, and she gets to light every candle with her matchstick. As the match goes out, the scene goes black, as the girl had died during the cold night. However, the spirit of her grandmother appears to the match girl, whose spirit is joyous to see her. The grandmother picks up the match girl's spirit as she carries her into the afterlife.