“The Ugly Duckling” (Danish: Den grimme ælling) is a Danish literary fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875). It was first published on 11 November 1843 in New Fairy Tales. First Volume. First Collection, with three other tales by Andersen in Copenhagen, Denmark to great critical acclaim. The tale has been adapted to various media including opera, musical, and animated film. The tale is an original story by Andersen.
Once upon a time, there was a mother duck that lived in a beautiful pond. This mother duck had no children but she had a few unhatched eggs.
She patiently waited long days and nights for her babies to hatch. She knew soon her eggs will hatch. So, she was very happy. One day, as she was sitting on her nest of eggs the mother duck felt something move beneath her.
CRACK!! CRACK!! CRACK!! CRACK!!
Filled with happiness, the mother duck watched as, one by one, her eggs hatched. Four beautiful yellow ducklings came out. She waited a long time for her eggs to hatch, so she can take her newborn children to the pond and teach them the ways of being a good duck. Unfortunately, one egg still did not hatch. This egg was larger and browner than the rest. She and her little ducks impatiently waited for two more days and nights.
Filled with happiness, the mother duck watched as, one by one, her eggs hatched. Four beautiful yellow babies came out. She waited long time for her eggs to hatch, so she can take her newborn children to the pond and teach them the ways of being a good duck. Unfortunately, one egg still did not hatch. This egg was larger and browner than the rest. She and her little ducks impatiently waited for two more days and nights.
Little ducks grew impatient because they wanted to leave and swim but mother duck made them all wait, for she promised herself that she would love all her children the same.
At the crack of dawn on the third day of waiting, the large brown egg began to vibrate. It shook and shook as all of the ducks watched in awe.
Then suddenly: CRAAAAACK!!!
Out from the large brown egg popped a large, strange-looking head of a bird that didn’t look much like a duck. This baby’s beak was a little too long, his feathers were a little too scruffy, and his face was a little too ugly! But again she promised herself, she will treat every child same.
She led her children into the nearby pond and began to teach each duckling how to be a proper duck.
She taught them how to quack. Each duckling quacked.
QUACK!! QUACK!! QUACK!! QUACK!!
Then the ugly duckling quacked.
All of the ducks in the pond stared at the ugly ducking and began to laugh. The mother duckling sadly took her little ducklings over to a different part of the pond. The other ducklings were giggling and making fun of the ugly one. Two nearby ducks swam by and pecked at the ugly duckling’s feathers.
“This one looks nothing like your others!” one jested.
“This one is ugly!” the other scoffed.
The ugly duckling hung his head in shame. The mother duckling became very embarrassed of her ugly duckling and made him stay in the corner of the pond while the others practiced swimming, diving, quacking, and splashing.
One evening, as all of the ducks in the pond, had gone to sleep, the ugly duckling decided that it was time for him to leave. He knew he was causing his mother distress and he did not want to live in a place where he felt unwanted.
So the little ugly duckling ran away.
He waddled far away from the pond where he was born and he waddled over bundles of sticks and piles of dung. All this waddling made him dirtier than ever.
He approached a new pond that was filled with a family of different ducks. These ducks were happily swimming and quacking. He advanced one of the ducklings who looked to be just a bit larger and older than the ugly duckling.
“Hello there!” beamed the ugly duckling to the other duckling. With this, the new family of ducks turned and stared at the ugly duckling.
“And who are you?” asked the mother duck.
“What are you?” asked the father duck.
“You sure are ugly!” all the ducklings chimed in.
As this family of ducks began to quack and laugh at the ugly duckling, he waddled off again in search of a nicer family to call his own.
He was growing larger; his feathers were coming in and the ugly duckling was able to fly off the ground. However, the ugly duckling had become very weak and hungry; he did not have enough strength to fly.
Instead, he waddled his way to a small house where he took shelter during the night.
In the morning, the ugly duckling awoke to the sounds of human chatter.
“What is it?” an old woman asked.
“A duck, perhaps?” her husband replied.
“Just what we’ve needed!” the woman exclaimed.
With that, the farmer and his wife allowed the ugly duckling to live with them in the hopes that the duck would lay eggs for them to eat.
They waited and waited… and waited. But nothing happened. The ugly duckling never laid eggs; he did, however, grow larger and harder to take care of.
Though the farmer and his wife had grown fond of the ugly duckling, they had no more room for him in their house.
And so, they shooed him out.
“Go find yourself a family that will love you!” shouted the farmer, sadly, as he shut the door.
The ugly duckling hung his dead and waddled far away from the farmer’s house. He waddled through now frozen marsh plants and large frozen river reeds. He waddled over frozen bundles of sticks and frozen piles of dung. All this waddling made him colder than ever.
Miraculously, it had survived the cold winter. With spring, all of the frozen ponds melted and the frost evaporated from the marsh plants and river reeds. The ugly duckling was still sad, however.
He approached a crystal clear pond and saw a family of the most beautiful birds he had ever seen – swans.
As he sat by the water’s edge, he didn’t even dare to ask these birds if he could join, for he knew if he was too ugly to live with ducks and humans, he was surely too ugly to live with a gorgeous bevy of swans.
Suddenly, a swan gracefully glided through the water over to where the ugly duckling was sitting.
“My, my! Your feathers are the whitest I have ever seen. How they gleam in the sun!” the swan exclaimed to the ugly duckling.
Confused, the ugly duckling wandered to the water and peered at his reflection. Much to his surprise, he was not an ugly duckling, for he was not a duck at all! He was a beautiful white swan with a long and elegant neck.
He entered the water and joined his new family. For the rest of his days, the swan lived happily with his new swan family.
Sasindu Jayasri is an Engineering student from Sri Lanka and he studies mechanical engineering at the department of mechanical engineering at the University of Moratuwa. He is passionate about writing and giving inspiration to the world. Follow him in LinkedIn for updates and you can contact him directly.