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ALISON STEWART, host:

The antagonist of "The Wizard of Oz" is the protagonist in Gregory Maguire's bestselling novel "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West".

(Soundbite of movie "The Wizard of Oz")

Ms. MARGARET HAMILTON: (As the Wicked Witch of the West) You cursed rat. Look what you've done. I'm melting, melting.

STEWART: The world already knew Dorothy's side of the story, but what about the POV of Elphaba, the witch. When her story was made into a musical in 2003, "Wicked" opened on Broadway and has been an international hit. On Christmas Day, the teller of that tale, Gregory Maguire, will read another original story written especially for NPR. It's called "Matchless," and it's based on Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Match Girl," the story about a poor girl who dies while selling matches on a cold New Year's Eve. Gregory Maguire joins us from member station WGBH in Boston to tell us more. Hi, Gregory.

Mr. GREGORY MAGUIRE (Author): Good morning.

STEWART: So, I have to ask. Given its somewhat grim ending, why did you choose to adapt Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Match Girl" for your Christmas story?

Mr. MAGUIRE: Well, I chose the "The Little Match Girl" partly because of that grim ending. I decided what I would try to do is take Anderson's tale, keep what was intended as consolation in the ending, but re-say it in a way that the consolation could be heard by 21st century listeners.

STEWART: Would you read a little bit for us.

Mr. MAGUIRE: Yes, I will.

(Soundbite of story "Matchless")

Mr. MAGUIRE: (Reading) Frederik hurried to light the kitchen fire. Money was scarce, and this was the last match until his mother could afford to buy more, so he struck it carefully.

"My useful child," said the widow Pedersen. "Tea on a cold morning: a reason to live. But this" — she grimaced — "pfaah! It's thin as rainwater. Have you made one scoop of leaves do for a whole pot?"

"The canister is nearly empty."

"It's Christmas Eve. I'm paid today. I'll buy some more."

"We need matches, too."

As Dame Pedersen and Frederik folded the bedding, their breath wisped in the chilly room. "Look, it's a pair of ghosts."

"Unless you succeed today," said Dame Pedersen. "That's all that'll be left of us, a pair of ghosts."

STEWART: Gregory Maguire joins us from WGBH in Boston. You can hear him read "Matchless" in its entirety on Thursday, Christmas Day, on All Things Considered. That was quite an excellent teaser, Gregory. Thank you so much.

Mr. MAGUIRE: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you.

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