Friday, August 4, 2017

The Little Matchsitck Girl Theme

Remember the story of the little matchstick girl? The cheery tail of a child peering into the windows of the houses she's sold matches to - all of them golden, warm and inviting - and then (SPOILER!) she freezes to death. If you were like me, you grew up wondering why the hell an adult would read that damned story to you.

Then you started middle school or junior high. Awkward preteen that you were, aching to find where you belonged - and possibly secretly hoping you could make yourself into one of the cool, popular kids - did you came to comprehend the story? Did you stand on the outside looking in they way most of us did? Maybe everyone does that at some point in their lives.

Was it that sports team you desperately wanted to make but didn't? Or the prom you so badly wanted to attend but no one asked or those you asked said no, so you pretended you didn't really want to go anyway? It could have been being skipped over for promotion, a longing to end up on a best seller list, or maybe (mission accomplished for Jeffe!) a golden statuette of your very own.

Why am I reminding you of the ache that accompanies wanting but not yet having? Because that pain point is where my stories happen. Every single one is, on some level, about wanting, not having, and either coming to terms with that, or becoming the person who is worthy of winning the wanted thing. Whatever it may be. Of course, I'm perverse enough that getting what you wanted is never, ever the end of the story. It usually comes just prior to the black moment, because I'm a terrible human being that way.

In any case, my characters start a story suffer various types and stages of alienation. They're all of them searching for a place to belong. A few require a bit of redemption before they're fit to belong anywhere. But without fail, they all start out as that little matchstick girl, nose pressed against the frosty glass while killing cold and isolation gnaw at their hearts.

Did your family read The Little Match Girl when you were a kid? Do you remember how you reacted? Is it healthy for a kid's story to haunt someone into adulthood? Asking for a friend.