Story List

The Ugly Duckling
Hans Christian Anderson
It was lovely summer weather [in the country], and the golden corn, the green oats, and the haystacks (piled up [in the meadows]) looked beautiful. The stork (walking about [on his long red legs]) chattered [in the Egyptian language], (which he had learnt [from his mother]).

The corn-fields and meadows were surrounded [by large forests], ([in the midst (of which ] were deep pools). It was, indeed, delightful [to walk about [in the country]]. [In a sunny spot] stood a pleasant old farm-house close [by a deep river], and [from the house] down [to the water side] grew great burdock leaves, so high, [that [under the tallest (of them)] a little child could stand upright]. The spot was as wild [as the centre (of a thick wood)].

[In this snug retreat] sat a duck [on her nest], [watching [for her young brood to hatch]]; she was beginning [to get tired [of her task]], for the little ones were a long time coming [out of their shells], and she seldom had any visitors. The other ducks liked much better [to swim about [in the river]] [than to climb the slippery banks, and sit [under a burdock leaf], [to have a gossip [with her]]].

At length one shell cracked, and then another, and [from each egg] came a living creature (that lifted its head and cried, “[Peep, peep].”)[Quack, quack],” said the mother, and then they all quacked as well [as they could], and looked [about them] [on every side] [at the large green leaves]. Their mother allowed them to look as much [as they liked], [because green is good [for the eyes]]. “[How large the world is],” said the young ducks, [when they found how much more room (they now had) [than while they were [inside the egg-shell]].

[Do you imagine [this is the whole world]]?” asked the mother; “Wait [till you have seen the garden]; it stretchs far [beyond that] [to the parson’s field], but I have never ventured [to such a distance]. [Are you all out]?” she continued, [rising]; “No, I declare, [the largest egg lies there still]. I wonder [how long this is to last], I am quite tired [of it];” and she seated herself again [on the nest].

[Well, how are you getting on]?” asked an old duck,(who paid her a visit). “[One egg is not hatched yet],” said the duck, “it will not break. But just look [at all the others], are they not the prettiest little ducklings (you ever saw)? They are the image (of their father), (who is so unkind, [he never comes [to see]]).”

[Let me see the egg (that will not break)],” said the duck; “I have no doubt (it is a turkey’s egg). I was persuaded to hatch some once, and [after all my care and trouble (with the young ones)], they were afraid [of the water]. I quacked and clucked, but all [to no purpose]. I could not get them to venture in. Let me look [at the egg]. Yes, that is a turkey’s egg; take my advice, leave it [where it is] and teach the other children to swim.”

[I think [I will sit [on it] [a little while] longer]],” said the duck; “[as I have sat so long already], a few days will be nothing.” “[Please yourself],” said the old duck, and she went away.

At last the large egg broke, and a young one crept forth [crying, “[Peep, peep]].” It was very large and ugly. The duck stared [at it] and exclaimed, “[It is very large and not at all {like the others}. I wonder [if it really is a turkey]. We shall soon find it out, however [when we go [to the water]]. It must go in, [if I have to push it, myself].”

[On the next day] the weather was delightful, and the sun shone brightly [on the green burdock leaves], so the mother duck took her young brood down [to the water], and jumped in [with a splash]. “[Quack, quack],” cried she, and [one (after another)] the little ducklings jumped in. The water closed [over their heads], but they came up again [in an instant], and swam about quite prettily [with their legs paddling [under them] as easily [as possible]], and the ugly duckling was also [in the water] swimming [with them].

[Oh],” said the mother, “that is not a turkey; how well he uses his legs, and how upright he holds himself! He is my own child, and he is not so very ugly [after all] [if you look [at him] properly]. Quack, quack! come [with me] now, I will take you [into grand society], and introduce you [to the farmyard], but you must keep close [to me] or you may be trodden upon; and, [above all], beware [of the cat].” 

 

[When they reached the farmyard], there was a great disturbance, two families were fighting [for an eel’s head], (which, [after all], was carried off [by the cat]). “[See, children, that is the way (of the world)],” said the mother duck, [whetting her beak], for she would have liked the eel’s head herself. “Come, now, use your legs, and let me see [how well you can behave].

You must bow your heads prettily [to that old duck] yonder; she is the highest born [of them all], and has Spanish blood, therefore, she is well off. Don’t you see [she has a red flag (tied to her leg)], [which is something very grand, and a great honor (for a duck)]; it shows [that everyone is anxious [not to lose her]], [as she can be recognized both [by man and beast]]. Come, now, don’t turn your toes, a well-bred duckling spreads his feet wide apart, just [like his father and mother], [in this way]; now bend your neck, and say[quack].’”

The ducklings did [as they were bid], but the other duck stared, and said, “[Look, here comes another brood, [as if there were not enough (of us) already]! and what a queer looking object one (of them) is; we don’t want him here],” and then one flew out and bit him [in the neck].

[Let him alone],” said the mother; “he is not doing any harm.” “[Yes, but he is so big and ugly],” said the spiteful duckand therefore he must be turned out.”

[The others are very pretty children],” said the old duck, (with the rag (on her leg)), “all but that one; I wish [his mother could improve him [a little]].”

[That is impossible, [your grace]],” replied the mother; “he is not pretty; but he has a very good disposition, and swims as well or even better [than the others]. I think [he will grow up pretty, and perhaps be smaller]; he has remained too long [in the egg], and therefore his figure is not properly formed;” and then she stroked his neck and smoothed the feathers, [saying, “[It is a drake, and therefore not {of so much consequence}. I think he will grow up strong, and able [to take care [of himself]]]].” “[The other ducklings are graceful enough],” said the old duck. “Now make yourself {at home}, and [if you can find an eel’s head], you can bring it [to me].”

And so they made themselves comfortable; but the poor duckling, (who had crept out [of his shell] last [of all], and looked so ugly, was bitten and pushed and made fun of, not only [by the ducks], but [by all the poultry]. “[He is too big],” they all said, and the turkey cock, (who had been born [into the world] [with spurs], and fancied himself really an emperor, puffed himself out [like a vessel (in full sail)], and flew [at the duckling], and became quite red [in the head] [with passion], so that the poor little thing did not know [where to go], and was quite miserable [because he was so ugly and laughed at [by the whole farmyard]].

So it went on [from day (to day)] [till it got worse and worse]. 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]]] 

 

[They are afraid [of me] [because I am ugly]],” he said. So he closed his eyes, and flew still farther, [until he came out [on a large moor], (inhabited [by wild ducks]). Here he remained [the whole night], [feeling very tired and sorrowful].

[In the morning], [when the wild ducks rose [in the air]], they stared [at their new comrade]. “[What sort (of a duck) are you]?” they all said, [coming [round him]].

He bowed [to them], and was as polite [as he could be], but he did not reply [to their question]. “[You are exceedingly ugly],” said the wild ducks, “but that will not matter [if you do not want [to marry one (of our family)]].”

[Poor thing]! he had no thoughts (of marriage); all (he wanted) was permission (to lie [among the rushes], and drink some (of the water) [on the moor]). [After he had been [on the moor] two days], there came two wild geese, or rather goslings, for they had not been out [of the egg] long, and were very saucy. “[Listen, friend],” said one (of them) [to the duckling], “you are so ugly, [that we like you very well]. Will you go [with us], and become a bird (of passage)? Not far [from here] is another moor, ([in which] there are some pretty wild geese), all unmarried. It is a chance (for you to get a wife); you may be lucky, [ugly [as you are]].”

Pop, pop,” sounded [in the air], and the two wild geese fell dead [among the rushes], and the water was tinged [with blood]. “Pop, pop,” echoed far and wide [in the distance], and whole flocks (of wild geese) rose up [from the rushes]. The sound continued [from every direction], for the sportsmen surrounded the moor, and some were even seated [on branches (of trees)], (overlooking the rushes). The blue smoke (from the guns) rose [like clouds] [over the dark trees], and as it floated away [across the water], a number (of sporting dogs) bounded in [among the rushes], (which bent [beneath them] [wherever they went]). How they terrified the poor duckling! He turned away his head [to hide it [under his wing]], and [at the same moment] a large terrible dog passed quite [near him]. His jaws were open, his tongue hung [from his mouth], and his eyes glared fearfully. He thrust his nose close [to the duckling], [showing his sharp teeth], and then, “splash, splash,” he went [into the water] [without touching him],

[Oh],” sighed the duckling, “how thankful I am [for being so ugly]; even a dog will not bite me.” And so he lay quite still, [while the shot rattled [through the rushes]], and gun (after gun) was fired [over him]. It was late [in the day] [before all became quiet], but even then the poor young thing did not dare to move. He waited quietly [for several hours], and then, [after looking carefully [around him]], hastened away [from the moor] as fast [as he could].

He ran [over field and meadow] [till a storm arose], and he could hardly struggle [against it]. [Towards evening], he reached a poor little cottage (that seemed ready [to fall], and only remained standing [because it could not decide [[on which side] to fall first]. The storm continued so violent, [that the duckling could go no farther]; he sat down [by the cottage], and then he noticed [that the door was not quite closed] [in consequence (of one (of the hinges having given way))]. There was therefore a narrow opening [near the bottom] large enough [for him to slip through], [which he did very quietly], and got a shelter [for the night].

A woman, a tom cat, and a hen lived [in this cottage]. The tom cat, (whom the mistress called, “My little son)”, was a great favorite; he could raise his back, and purr, and could even throw out sparks [from his fur] [if it were stroked [the wrong way]]. The hen had very short legs, so she was calledChickie short legs.” She laid good eggs, and her mistress loved her [as if she had been her own child]. [In the morning], the strange visitor was discovered, and the tom cat began [to purr], and the hen [to cluck]

[What} is that noise {about]?” said the old woman, (looking [round the room]), but her sight was not very good; therefore, [when she saw the duckling] she thought [it must be a fat duck], (that had strayed [from home])[Oh what a prize!” she exclaimed, “I hope [it is not a drake], for then I shall have some duck’s eggs. I must wait and see.” So the duckling was allowed [to remain [on trial]] [for three weeks], but there were no eggs.

Now the tom cat was the master (of the house), and the hen was mistress, and they always said, “[We and the world],” for they believed themselves to be half the world, and the better half too. The duckling thought [that others might hold a different opinion (on the subject)], but the hen would not listen [to such doubts].

[Can you lay eggs]?” she asked. “No.” “Then have the goodness (to hold your tongue).” “[Can you raise your back, or purr, or throw out sparks]?” said the tom cat. “No.” “Then you have no right (to express an opinion [when sensible people are speaking]).” So the duckling sat [in a corner], [feeling very low spirited], [till the sunshine and the fresh air came [into the room] [through the open door]], and then he began [to feel such a great longing (for a swim (on the water))], [that he could not help telling the hen].

[What an absurd idea],” said the hen. “You have nothing else (to do), therefore you have foolish fancies. [If you could purr or lay eggs], they would pass away.”

[But it is so delightful [to swim about [on the water]]],” said the duckling, “and so refreshing [to feel it close [over your head]], [while you dive down [to the bottom]].”

[Delightful, indeed]!” said the hen, “why you must be crazy! Ask the cat, he is the cleverest animal (I know), ask him [how he would like [to swim about [on the water]], or [to dive [under it], for I will not speak [of my own opinion]; ask our mistress, the old womanthere is no one (in the world) more clever [than she is]. Do you think [she would like to swim, or [to let the water close [over her head]]]?”

[You don’t understand me],” said the duckling. “We don’t understand you? [Who can understand you], I wonder? Do you consider yourself more clever [than the cat, or the old woman]? I will say nothing (of myself). Don’t imagine such nonsense, child, and thank your good fortune [that you have been received here]. Are you not [in a warm room], and [in society] ([from which] you may learn something). But you are a chatterer, and your company is not very agreeable. Believe me, I speak only [for your own good]. I may tell you unpleasant truths, but that is a proof (of my friendship). I advise you, therefore, to lay eggs, and learn to purr as quickly [as possible].”

[I believe I must go out [into the world] again],” said the duckling. “[Yes, do],” said the hen. So the duckling left [the cottage], and soon found water ([on which] it could swim and dive), but was avoided [by all other animals], [because of its ugly appearance]. Autumn came, and the leaves (in the forest) turned to orange and gold. then, [as winter approached], the wind caught them [as they fell] and whirled them [in the cold air]. The clouds, heavy [with hail and snow-flakes], hung low [in the sky], and the raven stood [on the ferns] crying, “[Croak, croak].” It made one shiver [with cold] (to look [at him]). All this was very sad [for the poor little duckling].

[One evening], just [as the sun set [amid radiant clouds]], there came a large flock (of beautiful birds) [out of the bushes]. The duckling had never seen any (like them) before. They were swans, and they curved their graceful necks,[while their soft plumage shown [with dazzling whiteness]]. They uttered a singular cry, [as they spread their glorious wings] and flew away [from those cold regions] [to warmer countries (across the sea)].

[As they mounted higher and higher [in the air]], the ugly little duckling felt quite a strange sensation [as he watched them]. He whirled himself [in the water] [like a wheel], stretched out his neck [towards them], and uttered a cry so strange [that it frightened himself]. Could he ever forget those beautiful, happy birds; and [when at last they were [out of his sight]], he dived [under the water], and rose again almost [beside himself (with excitement)]. 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]. The winter grew colder and colder; he was obliged to swim about [on the water] [to keep it from freezing], but [every night] the space ([on which] he swam) became smaller and smaller. [At length] it froze so hard [that the ice (in the water) crackled [as he moved], and the duckling had to paddle [with his legs] as well [as he could], [to keep the space from closing up]. He became exhausted [at last], and lay still and helpless, [frozen fast [in the ice]].

Early [in the morning], a peasant, (who was passing by), saw [what had happened]. He broke the ice [in pieces] [with his wooden shoe], and carried the duckling home [to his wife]. The warmth revived the poor little creature; but [when the children wanted [to play [with him]]], the duckling thought they would do him some harm; so he started up [in terror], fluttered [into the milk-pan], and splashed the milk [about the room]. Then the woman clapped her hands, [which frightened him still more]. He flew first [into the butter-cask], then [into the meal-tub], and out again. What a condition} he was {in! The woman screamed, and struck [at him] [with the tongs]; the children laughed and screamed, and tumbled [over each other], [in their efforts (to catch him)]; but luckily he escaped. The door stood open; the poor creature could just manage [to slip out [among the bushes], and lie down quite exhausted [in the newly fallen snow]].

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].

[I will fly [to those royal birds]],” he exclaimed, “and they will kill me, [because I am so ugly, and dare to approach them]; but it does not matter: better [be killed [by them]] [than pecked [by the ducks], beaten [by the hens], pushed about [by the maiden] (who feeds the poultry), or starved [with hunger] [in the winter]].”

Then he flew [to the water, and swam [towards the beautiful swans]. [The moment (they saw the stranger)], they rushed to meet him [with outstretched wings]. “[Kill me],” said the poor bird; and he bent his head down [to the surface (of the water)], and awaited death.

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].

[Into the garden] presently came some little children, and threw bread and cake [into the water]. “[See],” cried the youngest, “there is a new one;” and the rest were delighted, and ran [to their father and mother], [dancing and clapping their hands], [and shouting joyously, “[There is another swan come; a new one has arrived].”

Then they threw more bread and cake [into the water], and said, “[The new one is the most beautiful [of all]; he is so young and pretty].” And the old swans bowed their heads [before him]. Then he felt quite ashamed, and hid his head [under his wing]; for he did not know [what to do], he was so happy, and yet not at all proud. He had been persecuted and despised [for his ugliness], and now he heard them say [he was the most beautiful [of all the birds]]. Even the elder-tree bent down its bows [into the water] [before him], and the sun shone warm and bright]. Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, [from the depths (>of his heart)], “[I never dreamed [of such happiness [as this], [while I was an ugly duckling].”