The Ugly Duckling – Tale Three for National Storytelling Week

My most popular story by far:

Once there was a nest, and in the nest there were five eggs. They were duck eggs, and the mother duck looked after them until they began to hatch. One by one the little ducklings emerged from their eggs, all eyes and beaks, and fluffy yellow down. four hatched, but the last egg, the largest egg, took its time. It was a full week later than the rest, and the chick that emerged was like none the mother duck had ever seen. It was larger than its siblings, with a longer beak, and its down was grey instead of yellow. The mother duck tried to love her strange chick as much as the others, but the ducklings were not so kind. They taunted the newcomer, nicknaming him the “Ugly Duckling”.

The Ugly Duckling was unhappy, but still he tried his hardest to fit in. He tried swimming with his siblings, but his long legs kept getting tangled in the water weed. He tried bobbing his head under the water to dabble for plants at the bottom of the pond, but his long neck meant he invariably got a mouthful of mud. He tried to join the other ducklings, shouting “cheep cheep” in their high-pitched voices, but his own voice was harsh and low-pitched, and said “Hooonk”.  After a particularly difficult day, where the Ugly Duckling felt he could do no right, he resolved to run away where he could do no harm.

The next morning, the ducks awoke to find the Ugly Duckling was missing. The mother duck looked high and low, but could find no sign of her odd duckling. By then he was far away, among the reeds by a river, and there he stayed all winter long, living alone and finding his own food.

One spring morning, the Ugly Duckling awoke to an odd sound, a hooting, honking sound. He looked for the source of the sound, and saw a flock of the most magnificent birds he had ever seen. They had long, graceful necks, broad white wings and strong yellow beaks. He plucked up all his courage, and spoke to them in a small voice “er, excuse me, but what kind of birds are you?”  The largest of the flock turned his majestic head toward the Ugly Duckling quizzically, and said “we’re swans, like you”.  The Ugly Duckling didn’t know what to make of this statement, so replied “but I’m a duck, and not a very good one at that”.

The swans beckoned him out into open water, and looked him up and down. “you’re definitely a swan, and a fine handsome one at that! No wonder you didn’t fit in! A duck indeed!” The swans bade the Ugly Duckling swim to a calm area of water, that he could see his reflection in the looking-glass smoothness of the water’s surface. The Ugly Duckling was astounded at the sight that met his eyes. Gone was the straggly grey down, replaced by sleek white feathers. His long neck was now strong and graceful, and his wings were broad and strong. The other swans said ” join our flock, and we’ll show you how to curve your neck, how to preen your new white feathers, and best of all, how to fly for hundreds of miles, to see far off lands, and taste exotic grasses.”

They gave him a new name “Handsome Swan”, and he grew strong and happy in the company of his flock. He was renowned throughout the land as the finest swan around, and he lived




The End


The Story-weaver – Tale Two of National Storytelling Week

Once there was a tailor, and he was famous throughout the land as he wove the finest fabrics to make magnificent garments for kings and emperors.

One king set out to find the tailor’s secret. He travelled far and wide until he saw a forest with strange lights glowing in the centre. He entered the forest and found himself in a fairy glen, bedecked with fireflies and will-o-the-wisps.

In the centre of the glen was the famous tailor, and he listened to the fairy’s stories. As he listened, gossamer threads appeared in the air between them, which he skilfully wove into a fabric. The king was about to leave, glad he had discovered the secret at last, when he stepped on a twig, and the fairies stopped their tales, and the tailor stopped his weaving, and they all turned to look at the king.
The tailor invited him into the glen.

“It is time to weave your story into the fabric, you have found my tapestry of words, you must add your own”.

The king sat down and recounted his adventures, and as he spoke, the tailor took the very words from the air, and span them into shimmering threads, then wove them into as fine a fabric as you have ever seen.

When the king had finished speaking, the tailor sewed the fabric into a cloak, then handed a needle and some scissors to the king.

The king was surprised, and asked why he had been given such fine gifts.

“It is the curse of the story weaver to carry the needle until such a time as he can weave a cloak from the life of another. I have woven your life into my cloak, and shall wear it henceforth. I wear your life and it is mine.”

The truth dawned on the king “but what will I do without my life?”

The tailor had put the cloak on, and looked just like the king now “I have been where you are now, and my advice to you is to do the very best story weaving you can, for once you have woven the finest stories you will ignite the curiosity of one who will tell you theirs, and perhaps one day we shall meet at my palace.”

The old king replied “you mean my palace!”, but found himself alone, save for the needle and scissors. He set out to search for stories to weave, a long journey, and the hope of redemption.

The Story Tree – First of seven stories for National Storytelling Week

Picture the scene: a discarded, once well-loved story book, on the dusty floor of a long-abandoned cottage. A breeze ruffles the pages and reveals a brief glimpse of one of the pictures. For a moment it looks as if something has come loose on one of the pages, or come alive, but that’s not possible, surely?
A little glint of fairy dust, the sound of tiny footsteps, and something wondrous begins to happen.
From the dusty depths of the yellowed pages, a shoot emerges, the shoot of a plant as yet unseen in the human realm.The words of stories long untold feed the shoots of new stories beyond imagination. The leaves of paper transform into the leaves of the plant. As the magic of each story grows and branches out, flowers grown of pure fantasy emerge and bloom.
The story-flower twines itself around furniture, and extends upwards towards the sunlight, where the light glinting on it catches the attention of a robin, the sole observer of the desolate scene.
The robin perches on the window ledge, and looks quizzically at the new flower, then swoops down and picks it, flying off triumphantly with its prize.
The robin flies until it reaches another lonely place, where a small boy sleeps all alone in a house. He knows no stories, as there has been nobody to tell him them. The robin drops the flower by his head, and as he sleeps, stories fill his dreams and grow in the rich soil of his imagination.
Back in the lonely cottage, the story-plant withers and dies, the words of dusty stories returning to the ground, safe in the knowledge that the seeds of new stories were growing and alive for the future.