Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The Ugly Duckling (and a bonus vid)
It was summer in the land of Denmark, and though for most of the year
the country looks flat and ugly, it was beautiful now. The wheat was
yellow, the oats were green, the hay was dry and delicious to roll in,
and from the old ruined house which nobody lived in, down to the edge
of the canal, was a forest of great burdocks, so tall that a whole
family of children might have dwelt in them and never have been found
It was under these burdocks that a duck had built herself a warm nest,
and was not sitting all day on six pretty eggs. Five of them were
white, but the sixth, which was larger than the others, was of an ugly
grey colour. The duck was always puzzled about that egg, and how it
came to be so different from the rest. Other birds might have thought
that when the duck went down in the morning and evening to the water to
stretch her legs in a good swim, some lazy mother might have been on
the watch, and have popped her egg into the nest. But ducks are not
clever at all, and are not quick at counting, so this duck did not
worry herself about the matter, but just took care that the big egg
should be as warm as the rest.
This was the first set of eggs that the duck had ever laid, and, to
begin with, she was very pleased and proud, and laughed at the other
mothers, who were always neglecting their duties to gossip with each
other or to take little extra swims besides the two in the morning and
evening that were necessary for health. But at length she grew tired
of sitting there all day. 'Surely eggs take longer hatching than they
did,' she said to herself; and she pined for a little amusement also.
Still, she knew that if she left her eggs and the ducklings in them to
die none of her friends would ever speak to her again; so there she
stayed, only getting off the eggs several times a day to see if the
shells were cracking--which may have been the very reason why they did
not crack sooner.
She had looked at the eggs at least a hundred and fifty times, when, to
her joy, she saw a tiny crack on two of them, and scrambling back to
the nest she drew the eggs closer the one to the other, and never moved
for the whole of that day. Next morning she was rewarded by noticing
cracks in the whole five eggs, and by midday two little yellow heads
were poking out from the shells. This encouraged her so much that,
after breaking the shells with her bill, so that the little creatures
could get free of them, she sat steadily for a whole night upon the
nest, and before the sun arose the five white eggs were empty, and ten
pairs of eyes were gazing out upon the green world.
Now the duck had been carefully brought up, and did not like dirt, and,
besides, broken shells are not at all comfortable things to sit or walk
upon; so she pushed the rest out over the side, and felt delighted to
have some company to talk to till the big egg hatched. But day after
day went on, and the big egg showed no signs of cracking, and the duck
grew more and more impatient, and began to wish to consult her husband,
who never came.
'I can't think what is the matter with it,' the duck grumbled to her
neighbour who had called in to pay her a visit. 'Why I could have
hatched two broods in the time that this one has taken!'
'Let me look at it,' said the old neighbour. 'Ah, I thought so; it is
a turkey's egg. Once, when I was young, they tricked me to sitting on
a brood of turkey's eggs myself, and when they were hatched the
creatures were so stupid that nothing would make them learn to swim. I
have no patience when I think of it.'
'Well, I will give it another chance,' sighed the duck, 'and if it does
not come out of its shell in another twenty-four hours, I will just
leave it alone and teach the rest of them to swim properly and to find
their own food. I really can't be expected to do two things at once.'
And with a fluff of her feathers she pushed the egg into the middle of
All through the next day she sat on, giving up even her morning bath
for fear that a blast of cold might strike the big egg. In the
evening, when she ventured to peep, she thought she saw a tiny crack in
the upper part of the shell. Filled with hope, she went back to her
duties, though she could hardly sleep all night for excitement. When
she woke with the first steaks of light she felt something stirring
under her. Yes, there it was at last; and as she moved, a big awkward
bird tumbled head foremost on the ground.
There was no denying it was ugly, even the mother was forced to admit
that to herself, though she only said it was 'large' and 'strong.'
'You won't need any teaching when you are once in the water,' she told
him, with a glance of surprise at the dull brown which covered his
back, and at his long naked neck. And indeed he did not, though he was
not half so pretty to look at as the little yellow balls that followed
When they returned they found the old neighbour on the bank waiting for
them to take them into the duckyard. 'No, it is not a young turkey,
certainly,' whispered she in confidence to the mother, 'for though it
is lean and skinny, and has no colour to speak of, yet there is
something rather distinguished about it, and it holds its head up well.'
'It is very kind of you to say so,' answered the mother, who by this
time had some secret doubts of its loveliness. 'Of course, when you
see it by itself it is all right, though it is different, somehow, from
the others. But one cannot expect all one's children to be beautiful!'
By this time they had reached the centre of the yard, where a very old
duck was sitting, who was treated with great respect by all the fowls
'You must go up and bow low before her,' whispered the mother to her
children, nodding her head in the direction of the old lady, 'and keep
your legs well apart, as you see me do. No well-bred duckling turns in
its toes. It is a sign of common parents.'
The little ducks tried hard to make their small fat bodies copy the
movements of their mother, and the old lady was quite pleased with
them; but the rest of the ducks looked on discontentedly, and said to
'Oh, dear me, here are ever so many more! The yard is full already;
and did you ever see anything quite as ugly as that great tall
creature? He is a disgrace to any brood. I shall go and chase him
out!' So saying she put up her feathers, and running to the big
duckling bit his neck.
The duckling gave a loud quack; it was the first time he had felt any
pain, and at the sound his mother turned quickly.
'Leave him alone,' she said fiercely, 'or I will send for his father.
He was not troubling you.'
'No; but he is so ugly and awkward no one can put up with him,'
answered the stranger. And though the duckling did not understand the
meaning of the words, he felt he was being blamed, and became more
uncomfortable still when the old Spanish duck who ruled the fowlyard
'It certainly is a great pity he is so different from these beautiful
darlings. If he could only be hatched over again!'
The poor little fellow drooped his head, and did not know where to
look, but was comforted when his mother answered:
'He may not be quite as handsome as the others, but he swims better,
and is very strong; I am sure he will make his way in the world as well
'Well, you must feel quite at home here,' said the old duck waddling
off. And so they did, all except the duckling, who was snapped at by
everyone when they thought his mother was not looking. Even the
turkey-cock, who was so big, never passed him without mocking words,
and his brothers and sisters, who would not have noticed any difference
unless it had been put into their heads, soon became as rude and unkind
as the rest.
At last he could bear it no longer, and one day he fancied he saw signs
of his mother turning against him too; so that night, when the ducks
and hens were still asleep, he stole away through an open door, and
under cover of the burdock leaves scrambled on by the bank of the
canal, till he reached a wide grassy moor, full of soft marshy places
where the reeds grew. Here he lay down, but he was too tired and too
frightened to fall asleep, and with the earliest peep of the sun the
reeds began to rustle, and he saw that he had blundered into a colony
of wild ducks. But as he could not run away again he stood up and
'You are ugly,' said the wild ducks, when they had looked him well
over; 'but, however, it is no business of ours, unless you wish to
marry one of our daughters, and that we should not allow.' And the
duckling answered that he had no idea of marrying anybody, and wanted
nothing but to be left alone after his long journey.
So for two whole days he lay quietly among the reeds, eating such food
as he could find, and drinking the water of the moorland pool, till he
felt himself quite strong again. He wished he might stay were he was
for ever, he was so comfortable and happy, away from everyone, with
nobody to bite him and tell him how ugly he was.
He was thinking these thoughts, when two young ganders caught sight of
him as they were having their evening splash among the reeds, looking
for their supper.
'We are getting tired of this moor,' they said, 'and to-morrow we think
of trying another, where the lakes are larger and the feeding better.
Will you come with us?'
'Is it nicer than this?' asked the duckling doubtfully. And the words
were hardly out of his mouth, when 'Pif! pah!' and the two new- comers
were stretched dead beside him.
At the sound of the gun the wild ducks in the rushes flew into the air,
and for a few minutes the firing continued.
Luckily for himself the duckling could not fly, and he floundered along
through the water till he could hide himself amidst some tall ferns
which grew in a hollow. But before he got there he met a huge creature
on four legs, which he afterwards knew to be a dog, who stood and gazed
at him with a long red tongue hanging out of his mouth. The duckling
grew cold with terror, and tried to hide his head beneath his little
wings; but the dog snuffed at him and passed on, and he was able to
reach his place of shelter.
'I am too ugly even for a dog to eat,' said he to himself. 'Well, that
is a great mercy.' And he curled himself up in the soft grass till the
shots died away in the distance.
When all had been quiet for a long time, and there were only stars to
see him, he crept out and looked about him.
He would never go near a pool again, never, thought he; and seeing that
the moor stretched far away in the opposite direction from which he had
come, he marched bravely on till he got to a small cottage, which
seemed too tumbledown for the stones to hold together many hours
longer. Even the door only hung upon one hinge, and as the only light
in the room sprang from a tiny fire, the duckling edged himself
cautiously in, and lay down under a chair close to the broken door,
from which he could get out if necessary. But no one seemed to see him
or smell him; so he spend the rest of the night in peace.
Now in the cottage dwelt an old woman, her cat, and a hen; and it was
really they, and not she, who were masters of the house. The old
woman, who passed all her days in spinning yarn, which she sold at the
nearest town, loved both the cat and the hen as her own children, and
never contradicted them in any way; so it was their grace, and not
hers, that the duckling would have to gain.
It was only next morning, when it grew light, that they noticed their
visitor, who stood trembling before them, with his eye on the door
ready to escape at any moment. They did not, however, appear very
fierce, and the duckling became less afraid as they approached him.
'Can you lay eggs?' asked the hen. And the duckling answered meekly:
'No; I don't know how.' Upon which the hen turned her back, and the
cat came forward.
'Can you ruffle your fur when you are angry, or purr when you are
pleased?' said she. And again the duckling had to admit that he could
do nothing but swim, which did not seem of much use to anybody.
So the cat and the hen went straight off to the old woman, who was
still in bed.
'Such a useless creature has taken refuge here,' they said. 'It calls
itself a duckling; but it can neither lay eggs nor purr! What had we
better do with it?'
'Keep it, to be sure!' replied the old woman briskly. 'It is all
nonsense about it not laying eggs. Anyway, we will let it stay here
for a bit, and see what happens.'
So the duckling remained for three weeks, and shared the food of the
cat and the hen; but nothing in the way of eggs happened at all. Then
the sun came out, and the air grew soft, and the duckling grew tired of
being in a hut, and wanted with all his might to have a swim. And one
morning he got so restless that even his friends noticed it.
'What is the matter?' asked the hen; and the duckling told her.
'I am so longing for the water again. You can't think how delicious it
is to put your head under the water and dive straight to the bottom.'
'I don't think I should enjoy it,' replied the hen doubtfully. 'And I
don't think the cat would like it either.' And the cat, when asked,
agreed there was nothing she would hate so much.
'I can't stay here any longer, I Must get to the water,' repeated the
duck. And the cat and the hen, who felt hurt and offended, answered
'Very well then, go.'
The duckling would have liked to say good- bye, and thank them for
their kindness, as he was polite by nature; but they had both turned
their backs on him, so he went out of the rickety door feeling rather
sad. But, in spite of himself, he could not help a thrill of joy when
he was out in the air and water once more, and cared little for the
rude glances of the creatures he met. For a while he was quite happy
and content; but soon the winter came on, and snow began to fall, and
everything to grow very wet and uncomfortable. And the duckling soon
found that it is one thing to enjoy being in the water, and quite
another to like being damp on land.
The sun was setting one day, like a great scarlet globe, and the river,
to the duckling's vast bewilderment, was getting hard and slippery,
when he heard a sound of whirring wings, and high up in the air a flock
of swans were flying. They were as white as snow which had fallen
during the night, and their long necks with yellow bills were stretched
southwards, for they were going--they did not quite know whither--but
to a land where the sun shone all day. Oh, if he only could have gone
with them! But that was not possible, of course; and besides, what
sort of companion could an ugly thing like him be to those beautiful
beings? So he walked sadly down to a sheltered pool and dived to the
very bottom, and tried to think it was the greatest happiness he could
dream of. But, all the same, he knew it wasn't!
And every morning it grew colder and colder, and the duckling had hard
work to keep himself warm. Indeed, it would be truer to say that he
never was warm at all; and at last, after one bitter night, his legs
moved so slowly that the ice crept closer and closer, and when the
morning light broke he was caught fast, as in a trap; and soon his
senses went from him.
A few hours more and the poor duckling's life had been ended. But, by
good fortune, a man was crossing the river on his way to his work, and
saw in a moment what had happened. He had on thick wooden shoes, and
he went and stamped so hard on the ice that it broke, and then he
picked up the duckling and tucked him under his sheepskin coat, where
his frozen bones began to thaw a little.
Instead of going on his work, the man turned back and took the bird to
his children, who gave him a warm mess to eat and put him in a box by
the fire, and when they came back from school he was much more
comfortable than he had been since he had left the old woman's cottage.
They were kind little children, and wanted to play with him; but,
alas! the poor fellow had never played in his life, and thought they
wanted to tease him, and flew straight into the milk-pan, and then into
the butter-dish, and from that into the meal- barrel, and at last,
terrified at the noise and confusion, right out of the door, and hid
himself in the snow amongst the bushes at the back of the house.
He never could tell afterwards exactly how he had spent the rest of the
winter. He only knew that he was very miserable and that he never had
enough to eat. But by-and-by things grew better. The earth became
softer, the sun hotter, the birds sang, and the flowers once more
appeared in the grass. When he stood up, he felt different, somehow,
from what he had done before he fell asleep among the reeds to which he
had wandered after he had escaped from the peasant's hut. His body
seemed larger, and his wings stronger. Something pink looked at him
from the side of a hill. He thought he would fly towards it and see
what it was.
Oh, how glorious it felt to be rushing through the air, wheeling first
one way and then the other! He had never thought that flying could be
like that! The duckling was almost sorry when he drew near the pink
cloud and found it was made up of apple blossoms growing beside a
cottage whose garden ran down to the banks of the canal. He fluttered
slowly to the ground and paused for a few minutes under a thicket of
syringas, and while he was gazing about him, there walked slowly past a
flock of the same beautiful birds he had seen so many months ago.
Fascinated, he watched them one by one step into the canal, and float
quietly upon the waters as if they were part of them.
'I will follow them,' said the duckling to himself; 'ugly though I am,
I would rather be killed by them than suffer all I have suffered from
cold and hunger, and from the ducks and fowls who should have treated
me kindly.' And flying quickly down to the water, he swam after them
as fast as he could.
It did not take him long to reach them, for they had stopped to rest in
a green pool shaded by a tree whose branches swept the water. And
directly they saw him coming some of the younger ones swam out to meet
him with cries of welcome, which again the duckling hardly understood.
He approached them glad, yet trembling, and turning to one of the older
birds, who by this time had left the shade of the tree, he said:
'If I am to die, I would rather you should kill me. I don't know why I
was ever hatched, for I am too ugly to live.' And as he spoke, he
bowed his head and looked down into the water.
Reflected in the still pool he saw many white shapes, with long necks
and golden bills, and, without thinking, he looked for the dull grey
body and the awkward skinny neck. But no such thing was there.
Instead, he beheld beneath him a beautiful white swan!
'The new one is the best of all,' said the children when they came down
to feed the swans with biscuit and cake before going to bed. 'His
feathers are whiter and his beak more golden than the rest.' And when
he heard that, the duckling thought that it was worth while having
undergone all the persecution and loneliness that he had passed
through, as otherwise he would never have known what it was to be
written by Hans Christian Andersen
I had to work hard for a recipe to go with this story but I found one!!!
Ugly Duckling Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 (17oz) can fruit cocktail with syrup
1 cup coconut
Preheat oven to 350.
Blend above ingredients.
Beat 2 minutes at medium speed.
Pour into a greased 9x13-inch cake pan.
Bake for 45 minutes.
Ugly Duckling Frosting
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 stick margarine
1 cup coconut
In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, milk and margarine.
Cook 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and stir in coconut. Pour over cake.
Here's a bonus! A classic Disney Silly Symphony...