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

Happily

Ever

After

The End

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