Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Short Story: The Ugly Duckling by Hans Anderson

Most must have read The Ugly Duckling. I re-read it from the Fairy Tales by Hans Anderson. However, you can read it online by clicking on the title.

A duck is happy that her eggs have hatched and she loves watching her duckling frolicking and playing around. But one of the eggs is still there unhatched. She sits on it again and from there emerges a duckling so ugly that no one likes him at all. Poor duckling is pushed, bitten and bullied around even by his siblings. No one comes in his defense, not even his mother, who wishes he was never borne.

The poor duckling was driven about by every one; even his brothers and sisters were unkind to him, and would say, “Ah, you ugly creature, I wish the cat would get you,” and his mother said she wished he had never been born. The ducks pecked him, the chickens beat him, and the girl who fed the poultry kicked him with her feet. So at last he ran away, frightening the little birds in the hedge as he flew over the palings.

He leaves his home and flies into a large moor. Even there he is not treated well. One day he sees a flock of Swans, so beautiful and graceful. Somehow he feels a kinship with them.

He knew not the names of these birds, nor where they had flown, but he felt towards them as he had never felt for any other bird in the world. He was not envious of these beautiful creatures, but wished to be as lovely as they. Poor ugly creature, how gladly he would have lived even with the ducks had they only given him encouragement.

Then one winter unable to swim in the frozen river, he is almost frozen to death when a kind peasant picks him up and takes him home thawing him. And so it went on, he barely surving the winters and longing to be with other birds including the ducks.

It would be very sad, were I to relate all the misery and privations which the poor little duckling endured during the hard winter; but when it had passed, he found himself lying one morning in a moor, amongst the rushes. He felt the warm sun shining, and heard the lark singing, and saw that all around was beautiful spring. Then the young bird felt that his wings were strong, as he flapped them against his sides, and rose high into the air. They bore him onwards, until he found himself in a large garden, before he well knew how it had happened. The apple-trees were in full blossom, and the fragrant elders bent their long green branches down to the stream which wound round a smooth lawn. Everything looked beautiful, in the freshness of early spring. From a thicket close by came three beautiful white swans, rustling their feathers, and swimming lightly over the smooth water. The duckling remembered the lovely birds, and felt more strangely unhappy than ever.

He flew out into the sky and found swans coming towards him. He bent his head asking them to kill him. But what did he see in the water below, a bird so beautiful.

But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To be born in a duck’s nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg. He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome.

The Ugly Duckling had become a beautiful swan, so graceful and so elegant. But pride did not touch him. He was filled with happiness and wonder.

In a world where beauty is given so much importance, ugly has no place. It does not matter that the ugly creature might have a heart of gold. Everyone turns against them and survival becomes a struggle. The Ugly Duckling tells us that it need not be so. One can become a swan, if not in appearance then in deed. And humility still counts.


Teddy Rose said...

Amen to that! Wonderful review.

Anonymous said...

The ugly Duckling has always been my favorite fairy tale. I remember reading it and also watching it on Cartoon Network.

bermudaonion said...

I know this story from TV and movies, but I don't think I've ever read it. Thanks for the link.

John Mutford said...

I'm with BermudaOnion; I'm very familiar with the story but I don't think I've read the original. Nor have I ever seen the author called simply Hans Anderson, I've always seen it as Hans Christian Andersen. I wonder why that is.

JoAnn said...

I, too, fall into the category of being very familiar with the plot, but have never actually read the story. Thank you for posting the link!

ds said...

It is a wonderful story, so touching and beautiful. You treat it well. Hans Christian Andersen was always my child's favorite--even over the Brothers Grimm--for fairy tales. This one especially so. Thanks for the memory.