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Why my Ugly Duckling didn’t become beautiful.

When I began to research the Hans Christian Anderson classic tale of The Ugly Duckling I was reminded of just how difficult a time the little duckling had. I was very interested to read that many think that the story was in a way autobiographical. Hans Christian Anderson felt himself to be an ugly duckling. He was very tall, and he thought himself an ugly boy with a large nose and big feet. His singing and passion for the theatre made him a target for bullies and he was teased mercilessly.

A sad and grey ugly duckling illustrated by Claire Chrystall

Illustration by Claire Chrystall

The beauty of Anderson’s fairytale is that there is no knight in shining armour who appears to recuse the main character: this is the standard fairytale ending in most other tales. Here however the duckling ‘rescues’ himself.

The duckling accepts the other's perceptions of him, he accepts that he is different and ugly to them. In my version, my duckling remembers the words of the drakes, who did not think him ugly, but encouraged him to be strong as they had faith in him and they knew he would be great/succeed.

The moral of the story

The moral of the story teaches us to accept one another no matter how different we might appear.

I did not want my duckling to save himself by becoming beautiful. I wanted him to recognise that his size and his strength make him a magnificent swan. By accepting himself and recognising his beauty in a different form the swan is telling the reader that beauty comes in many forms.  Beauty can look different, be big and be strong. Beauty does not need to be a princess in a long colourful gown who is saved by a prince.

The trials that the duckling faces throughout the story are harsh. However many children also face these struggles. Bullying is very much part of life and hopefully, my story can help open up discussions about it in the classroom.

Hans Christian Anderson overcame the bullies and transformed himself just as the duckling does in the story. Anderson transformed himself into a world-famous author and poet.

In the planning ideas pack which accompanies the story I have many activities to help introduce the discussion around bullying. Hopefully there is already an anti-bullying ethos in your setting which the story can help to reinforce. There are ideas for very effective classroom displays which could also be used in hallways and in which the whole school could become involved.

 I hope my version of The Ugly Duckling brings many happy storytimes and provokes some good discussions with your children.

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