Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

The Ugly Duckling

The Ugly DucklingThe Ugly Duckling

There was a mother duck who sat upon her eggs. She had sat on them a good long time. Finally, some of them started to hatch. Little ducks hatched out of each one, but one large egg remained. Other birds offered their advice. One suggested that it was a turkey egg and the mother duck was better off not hatching it. The mother duck decided that sitting on the egg a few days more wouldn’t hurt her at all. She continued to sit. A few days later the egg did hatch.

What hatched out of the egg didn’t exactly look like a duckling, but the mother duck was determined to make it as duck-like as possible. She ushered all of her children into the water and found that the strange-looking one was just wonderful in the water. He was no turkey. She took him around to the farm-yard with all the other animals. They made fun of her ugly duckling. The mother duck didn’t care that he was ugly. She said he was wonderful in the water and she cared for him just the same.

The ugly duckling was aware that other animals were making fun of him, so he ran away. He narrowly escaped being hunted. He then found shelter in a house where a cat and a rooster told him he was ugly enough. He knew he could not stay in the house. He wandered out again into the world knowing he was ugly. He lived on his own all winter, but managed to survive.

In the spring he came out to some water. He saw some beautiful birds on the water. They had long graceful necks. They were white. They glided effortlessly in the water. The ugly duckling felt a great desire to be with these birds. He called out to them and swam to meet them. When he looked at his own reflection in the water, he saw not an ugly duckling, but a beautiful swan.

Children had come to feed the swans and saw that a new swan was with the group of swans. They said he was the most beautiful yet. The ugly duckling turned out not be a duckling at all, but a swan.

The End

baby swanObservations

I don’t know a lot about swans. I looked up pictures of baby swans and they’re not that ugly. They’re actually pretty cute. They’re not yellow balls of fluff like baby ducks, but they’re cute. I suppose compared to a baby duck, a baby swan would look a bit strange.

Birds are pretty ugly when they first hatch out. domesticated birds such as chickens, ducks, geese, and so forth, look a little better when they hatch than wild birds do. Wild birds look terrifying when they hatch out. They’re these gross little pink things with big bulging eyes and from the looks of them they might as well be some strange insect or other creature. They look better as they grow their features, but baby birds are pretty gross looking.

Birds do occasionally lay their eggs in another bird’s nest. Some birds are notorious for this, the cuckoo bird being one of those. It basically saves the real parents from the trouble of raising baby birds. Who wants to spend all that time eating worms and then regurgitating them for your young? I do not believe swans lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, but that isn’t to say that it couldn’t have happened.

Birds do something called imprinting, not the werewolf thing from Twilight. Birds will think whatever they see is their mother for a certain period of time after they are hatched. If a cat happens to be around when a bunch of chicks hatch, you can call Mr. Meow a new mom. This is why zoos and wildlife rescue places that rescue endangered birds will use gloves and puppets that look like other birds to feed the baby birds. They don’t want these little eagle babies thinking that humans are their parents.

The ugly duckling considered this duck his mom. This duck was his mom even if she didn’t lay the egg. She took care of him. She encouraged him. She stood up for him. This is something that makes this story especially sad because this duckling was so harassed and felt so bad about himself that he ran away from his mother who did love him.

mormonad outward appearanceThemes

This story has such a powerful message. We are not always what other people say we are. People’s words have power. That old rhyme about sticks and stones breaking your bones, but words not hurting you, is a load of crap. Words are very hurtful. If you tell someone enough times that they’re nothing, they will believe you. This poor little duck, who was actually a swan, believed all the terrible things other animals said about him. This was despite the fact that his mother loved him anyway.

These animals were mean to this duckling purely because of his appearance. They didn’t get to know him. They didn’t praise the fact that he swam on the water extremely well. They didn’t like the way he looked so they wrote him off. They teased him mercilessly. They pushed him away. What jerks. We look at this story and we think these animals are so heartless and cruel, but yet, we do the same exact thing to people in our lives. How many times have you dismissed someone because they were overweight, or they wore glasses, or they had freckles, or they had a physical disability, or they were short, or because of the color of their skin, or because they had tattoos? We’ve all been guilty of this at one point or another. We take a look at a person and think their appearance determines their worth. It doesn’t. What a person looks like is not a barometer of who that person is. Sure, outward appearance can be an expression of what a person likes or what their hobbies are, but it’s a small part of who that person is.

This story tells us that we can flower. We may be awkward as children and teenagers, but we may bloom into this amazing person. This may happen physically. It may happen mentally. It may happen any number of ways. There are multiple ways in which you can bloom into something amazing, even if you were a strange-looking kid.


Wonderful story. I wonder if Hans knew he was creating a story that would last forever when he wrote this?

Weigh In

Do you think that Hans might have felt he was an ugly duckling?

Do you feel that you were an ugly duckling?


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