Folktales > The Ugly Duckling

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Story begins at 2:32. Direct download: ugly_duckling.mp3

The Ugly Duckling show notes.

Narrator: Once upon a time, there was a mother duck and there were some duck eggs. As fate would have it, the duck eggs were very close to the mother duck. In fact, they were underneath her. And they had been for several days, because she was sitting on them waiting for them to hatch.

Mother Duck: Oh boy, I bet Mother Goose never has to babysit this long. Hey! What's that cracking noise? Either my joints are really stiff, or they're beginning to hatch. They are! They are! They're coming out! Oh, it's about time! Four eggs? I thought there were only three. Okay children. Time for roll call. Duckling number one: (duck quacks) Oh, my little sweetheart. Duckling number two: (duck quacks) Oh, my little doll. Duckling number three: (duck quacks) Oh, my precious. Duckling number four: (squack) Oh my! You're, uh, a bit... different, aren't you? I thought your egg looked kind of odd. But they say you can't judge an egg by its shell. Well, uh, okay, children, let's all go out for a walk and meet the other animals.

Narrator: But when they went out among the other animals, they all laughed and made fun of the duckling who was somewhat less than attractive.

(Sounds of cows, horses, pigs and chickens laugh in turn at the odd duckling.)

And the duckling was very sad.

Duckling: Nobody loves me. I must be really somewhat less than attractive. I think I'll run away and go live in the woods by myself.

Narrator: But when he got out into the woods, he discovered that the animals there did not welcome him, either. In fact, they also laughed and made fun of him. The wolf...

(Wolf howls with laughter)

The bear...

(Bear growls with laughter)

The eagle

(Eagle screeches with laughter)

The wapiti

Wapiti: How did I ever end up here?

Narrator: At a lake, he saw a flock of swans splashing around.

Duckling: Oh, they all look so beautiful. I wish I could be one of them.

Swan #1: Hey guys, stop admiring your reflections and get ready to fly. Winter's coming on and it's almost time to head south.

Swan # 2: We have to make sure our feathers are properly preened before we land in Acapulco. I hear there are some nice-looking chicks there.

Swan # 1: Well just don't preen too long or you'll get left behind, and get lost, and you may end up spending your winter in Mannitoba instead.

Narrator: Soon, winter arrived and it turned very cold. Brrrr.

Duckling: I'd better seek shelter somewhere. Hey, there's a light in the distance. Maybe it's a farmhouse.

Narrator: It WAS a farmhouse. So he went into the barn and huddled up in the hay to stay not so cold. The next morning, the farmer came out and discovered him.

Farmer: Hello there, young fellow. What kind of bird are you? Ummm... you are a bird, aren't you?

Duckling: Quack, quack.

Farmer: Yes, of course, you're a turkey. No, I mean duck. You just look like a turkey. I mean... you look … unusual for a duck. You also quack with a funny accent. Oh well, you must be cold out here. Come on in the house, and we'll take care of you.

Narrator: So the farmer took the somewhat less than attractive duckling into the house and showed it to his wife.

Farmer: Hey dear, look what I found in the barn.

Wife: What's that thing doing in the house?

Farmer: It's another animal to add to our collection. You know how we used to joke about trying to collect all the animals in that E-I-E-I-O song.

Wife: It looks like you ran out of vowels a long time ago. What IS this thing, anyway.

Farmer: It's a duckling, dear. At least that's what it says. How about it, can we give it a home for a while?

Wife: Well, I guess anything that homely will be right at home here. All right.

Narrator: So the somewhat less than attractive duckling spent a few weeks with them, but it wasn't as pleasant as he thought it was going to be. Their chicken was always trying to pick a fight with him.

Chicken: Waaak! Come on, let's have a pecking contest little bird. Whassamatter, you chicken? I'll fight you with one drumstick tied behind me.

Narrator: And the cat was always trying to eat him.

Cat: Meeow! Come here my little hors d'ouvre.

Duckling: Help! Help! Why would you want to eat me? I'm somewhat less than attractive.

Cat: You may not look so appetizing, but even so you're a bird, and birds all taste like chicken. So come here and get devoured like a good little sport. Meow!

Duckling: Help! Help!

Wife: Sylvester! What are you up to now? Are you terrorizing that poor little duckie wuckie?

Cat: Meow! No no, I'm much too innocent for that. I'm just playing, just as I always do. Heh heh heh.

Wife: Oh. Well isn't that precious. You seem to be including him in your playtime. That's very sweet of you when all the other animals have been so mean to him. Carry on.

Cat: Meow! Come here, you little feathered finger-food!

Duckling: QUACK!!! QUACK!!!

Narrator: So between being challenged to a duel by the chicken, and being invited to dinner by the cat, the poor duckling decided that he shouldn't keep staying with the farmer and his wife. He left for the woods again.

Duckling: Qua-aack. Brrr! It's so cold, my quack is starting to cracked. Hey, hey there's a cave. I didn't know that was here. I hear that caves stay the same temperature all the time. It won't be toasty warm, but at least I won't freeze to death.

Narrator: So he spent the winter in the cave, straying out only once every few days to gather what food he could find. Finally, the long cold winter was over. And the somewhat less than attractive duckling, very sad and lonely, decided to go back out into the world.

Duckling: I don't know why I should even bother. Nobody loves me. I feel really different somehow. I.. I'm bigger, that's what it is. I must have grown a lot during the winter. I wonder if I can fly.

Narrator: So he flapped his wings and lo and behold he took off into the air.

Duckling: Cool! There are definite advantages to having wings. Hey, there's the lake. And the swans are back again. I'll just land over on the other side, so I won't disturb anyone.

Swan # 1: Hey Brother! What are you doing over there? Come and join us.

Duckling: Are... are you talking to me?

Swan # 1: Of course, who else would I be talking to? Come on over.

Narrator: Well the duckling was surprised that they should be so friendly toward him. But rather timidly, he swam over to where the seven swans were a swimming.

Swan # 1: Hey brother, I don't know where you were all winter, but you missed a great vacation down south.

Duckling: Why do you keep calling me brother, when you're a swan and I'm a duck?

Swan # 1: A duck? (The swans all laugh) Oh, you have quite an identity crisis there, brother. Look at your reflection in the water.

Duckling: Wow. Is... is that really me?

Swan # 1: Either that or someone else's reflection got lost and is following you around.

Duckling: I really am a swan. But I always thought a was a duck. My mother was a duck.

Swan # 1: So what? Lots of us come from muggle families. No problem. I think what must have happened is that a swan egg somehow accidentally ended up in a duck's nest. That's my theory. But hey, whatever, you're one of us now, and that's what counts. Being a swan has its perks. We get ballets and operas written about us and we don't get eaten. Now come on, let's admire ourselves in the water.

Narrator: And so the former duckling, now a fully grown swan, lived with the swan flock, and he was a beautiful bird admired by all the same people and animals who'd scorned him before. Which just goes to show you.

~ The End

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About this Story

Hans Christian Andersen's beloved fable about judging people (or fowl) by their plumage. It's been the subject of songs and films -- Disney adapted it for the screen twice. In our version, as a further reminder of how uncool it is to tease other people, or talking ducks, for being different, we refer to him as the Somewhat Less Than Attractive Duckling.