Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vintage Wednesday: The Little Match Girl


In our house, Gustaf Tenggren's The Little Match Girl is displayed on the coffee table in the den, a place of honor. I'm surprised because The Writer doesn't really like Tenggren that much. Like most kids from the 50s, she grew up on Golden Books, including the famous The Poky Little Puppy andThe Shy Little Kitten. She liked the stories, but not the illustrations.

The mole, particularly its feet, in The Shy Little Kitten bothered her. And she didn't like the wrinkled back of the puppy in The Poky Little Puppy. She also had one of the fairy tale books by Tenggren and she was quite disturbed by the big sausage feet of the giants.

Oh, The Writer is quite disturbed all right.

Well . . . you know. Anyway, she loves The Little Match Girl. It was published by Grosset in 1944 and has a softer look than Tenggren's early work. After Tenggren went to work for Disney, his style changed. He worked on "Snow White," "Bambi," and "Pinocchio" and the Golden Books.

There are two ways to end The Little Match Girl--the original Andersen ending with the girl dying, or a weasely ending in which she lives. In Tenggren's version she is rescued and taken to a nice home . . . possibly. The ending is a bit ambiguous. The dusky blues, maroons, and golden browns in Tenggren's palette keeps the story from being too sweet. But The Writer is still a little freaked by the feet of the headless goose "with a fork stuck in it," as it appears to walk off the plate.

She skips that page, right?

Right.

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