There was once a mother duck. This mother duck had no children yet for none of her eggs had hatched.
She waited patiently day and night for her babies to hatch. One day, as she was sitting on her nest of eggs the mother duck felt something move beneath her.
CRACK!! CRACK!! CRACK!! CRACK!!
Filled with happiness, the mother duck watched as, one by one, her eggs hatched. She was so excited to lead her children to the pond and teach them all the ways of being a duck. Unfortunately for the mother duck, one egg was left to hatch. This egg was larger than the rest. This egg was browner than the rest. Her little ducks impatiently waited for two more days and nights.
“I want to go to the pond, Mother,” one baby duck quacked.
“Let’s go! Let’s go!” two more quacked excitedly.
But the mother duck made them all wait, for she promised herself that she would love all her children the same.
At the crack of dawn on the third day of waiting, the large brown egg began to vibrate. It shook and shook as all of the ducks watched in awe.
Then suddenly: CRAAAAACK!!!
Out from the large brown egg popped a large, strange looking head of a bird that didn’t look much like a duck. This baby’s beak was a little too long, his feathers were a little too scruffy, and his face was a little too ugly!
But, nonetheless, the mother duck promised herself that she would love all her children the same.
She led her children into the nearby pond and began to teach each duckling how to be a proper duck.
She taught them how to quack. Each duckling quacked.
QUACK!! QUACK!! QUACK!! QUACK!!
The ugly duckling quacked.
All of the ducks in the pond stared at the ugly ducking and began to laugh. The mother duckling sadly took her little ducklings over to a different part of the pond. The other ducklings were giggling and making fun of the ugly one. Two nearby ducks swam by and pecked at the ugly duckling’s feathers.
“This one looks nothing like your others!” one jested.
“This one is ugly!” the other scoffed.
The ugly duckling hung his head in shame. The mother duckling became very embarrassed of her ugly duckling and made him stay in the corner of the pond while the others practiced swimming, diving, quacking, and splashing.
One evening, as all of the ducks in the pond had gone to sleep, the ugly duckling decided that it was time for him to leave. He knew he was causing his mother distress and he did not want to live in a place where he felt unwanted.
So the little ugly duckling ran away.
He waddled far away from the pond where he was born. He waddled through small marsh plants and large river reeds. He waddled over bundles of sticks and piles of dung. All this waddling made him dirtier than ever.
He approached a new pond that was filled with a family of different ducks. These ducks were happily swimming and quacking. He advanced one of the ducklings who looked to be just a bit larger and older than the ugly duckling.
“Hello there!” beamed the ugly duckling to the other duckling. With this, the new family of ducks turned and stared at the ugly duckling.
“And who are you?” asked the mother duck.
“What are you?” asked the father duck.
“You sure are ugly!” all the ducklings chimed in.
As this family of ducks began to quack and laugh at the ugly ducking, he waddled off again in search of a nicer family to call his own.
He waddled far away from the pond with the family of ducks. He waddled through small marsh plants and large river reeds. He waddled over bundles of sticks and piles of dung. All this waddling made him even dirtier than before!
Next the ugly duckling came to an even larger pond filled with a family of geese. The goslings were a brown-gray like he was! Happily, the ugly duckling waddled to the water’s edge, plopped his little body in the water, and swam towards the family of geese. He advanced one of the goslings who looked even larger and greyer than him.
“Hello there!” the ugly ducking happily exclaimed, greeting the gosling. With this, the family of geese turned and stared at the ugly duckling.
“And who are you?” asked the mother goose.
“What are you?” asked the father goose.
“You sure are ugly!” all the goslings chimed in.
As this family of ducks began to honk and laugh at the ugly ducking. Before the duckling could waddle off the geese surrounded him and the father goose said, “Though you are quite strange looking you may stay with us! You are more than welcome to join our family.”
The ugly duckling couldn’t be happier. The geese were very kind to him though their honks hurt his ears.
Many days and nights passed and the ugly duckling was living happily with the geese. He loved to play with the goslings and the mother and father treated him like their own. Everything was perfect. Until…
A hunter and his basset hound approached the pond. The hunter began firing off shots at the geese and the hound chased the birds around the pond trying to catch one. The ugly duckling could do nothing but sit still. As the hound approached him, sniffed for awhile and cocked its head, “What are you? You sure are ugly!” it said before it ran off in search of a real goose.
In the midst of the hunter’s ambush, the ugly duckling sadly waddled off once more.
He was growing larger; his feathers were coming in and the ugly duckling was able to fly off the ground. However, the ugly duckling had become very weak and hungry; he did not have enough strength to fly.
Instead he waddled his way to a small house where he took shelter during the night.
In the morning, the ugly duckling awoke to the sounds of human chatter.
“What is it?” an old woman asked.
“A duck, perhaps?” her husband replied.
“Just what we’ve needed!” the woman exclaimed.
With that, the farmer and his wife allowed the ugly duckling to live with them in the hopes that the duck would lay eggs for them to eat.
They waited and waited… and waited. But nothing happened. The ugly duckling never laid eggs; he did, however, grow larger and harder to take care of.
Though the farmer and his wife had grown fond of the ugly duckling, they had no more room him in their house.
And so, they shooed him out.
“Go find yourself a family that will love you!” shouted the farmer, sadly, as he shut the door.
The ugly duckling hung his dead and waddled far away from the farmer’s house. He waddled through now frozen marsh plants and large frozen river reeds. He waddled over frozen bundles of sticks and frozen piles of dung. All this waddling made him colder than ever.
Miraculously, the ugly duckling had survived the cold winter. With spring, all of the frozen ponds melted and the frost evaporated from the marsh plants and river reeds. The ugly duckling was still sad, however.
He approached a crystal clear pond and saw a family of the most beautiful birds he had ever seen - swans.
As he sat by the water’s edge, he didn’t even dare to ask these birds if he could join, for he knew if he was too ugly to live with ducks, geese, and humans, he was surely too ugly to live with a gorgeous bevy of swans.
Suddenly, a swan gracefully glided through the water over to where the ugly duckling was sitting.
“My, my! Your feathers are the whitest I have ever seen. How they gleam in the sun!” the swan exclaimed to the ugly duckling.
Confused, the ugly duckling wandered to the water and peered at his reflection. Much to his surprise, he was not an ugly ducking, for he was not a duck at all! He was a beautiful white swan with a long and elegant neck.
He entered the water and joined his new family.
One day, as the swans were swimming, a man and his wife came strolling by with their child. The swan recognized this couple as the farmer and his wife.
They approached the edge of the pond and began to feed the swans breadcrumbs.
The farmer looked at the once ugly ‘duckling’ and said, “It looks like you found yourself a niche – a family. You are the most beautiful swan I have ever seen.”
For the rest of his days, the swan lived happily with his new swan family and was greeted often
by the farmer and his family.
About the Author:
My name is Tasha Guenther. I currently live in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada while I finish my PhD in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory with concentrations in digital cultures and Afrofuturism at McMaster University. I enjoy writing short stories and non-fiction pieces for grade school children. Learn more about me here or connect with me on my Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.