The Ugly Duckling
The Birth of the Duckling
It was summer time out in the country. The cornfields were golden, the oats were green, and stacks of hay were piled high in the wide meadows. The stork stepped about on his long red legs and talked Egyptian, for that was the language his mother had taught him. On the edge of the fields and pastures the trees grew thick, and in the midst of the woods lay deep, still lakes. It was beautiful in the country.
Out in the sunlight there stood an old farmhouse. Around the farmhouse ran canals, and from the house to the water grew burdocks. They grew so high that little children could stand upright under the tallest of them. Under their branches it was as wild as in the thickest woods.
Here a Duck sat hatching a nestful of eggs. She was getting tired of waiting for the young ducks to break their shells. She had few visitors, for the other ducks liked swimming about in the canals better than sitting up under a burdock talking to an old mother duck.
At last one eggshell broke. And then, another, and another, and another.
“Pip! Pip!” cried every duckling that stuck out its head.
“Quack! Quack!” said the Duck. Then they all came out as fast as they could.
They looked around them under the green leaves, and their mother let them look as much as they liked, for green is good for the eyes.
“How wide the world is!” cried the young things. They certainly had more room now than they had had in the shell!
“Do you think this is all the world?” asked the mother. “The world reaches far across to the other side of the garden, even into the parson’s field, but I have never been there yet.
“Are you all out?” she said, and she stood up to see. “No, not all. The largest egg is still whole. I wonder how long it will be before that will break? I am really tired of waiting.”
And she sat down again.
“Well, how goes it?” asked an Old Duck who had waddled up to see her.
“It takes a long time for this one egg,” said the Duck. “It will not hatch. But look at the others! They are the prettiest little ducks I ever saw. They all look like their father. The good-for-nothing never comes to see me!”
“Let me see the egg that will not hatch,” said the Old Duck. “It must be a turkey’s egg. I was once cheated in that way, and I had a great deal of trouble, for the young turkeys were afraid of the water. In fact, I could not make them go in. I quacked and I clacked, but it was no use. Let me see the egg. Yes, that’s a turkey’s egg. Let it alone and go teach the other children to swim.”
“I think I will sit on it a little longer,” said the Duck. “I’ve sat here so long now that I can wait a few more days.”
“Just as you please,” said the Old Duck; and she went away.
At last the big egg burst. “Pip! Pip!” said the little one, as he came out. He was big and ugly. The Mother Duck looked at him.
“It’s a large duckling,” she said. “None of the others look like that. It really must be a turkey chick! Well, we shall soon find out. He shall go into the water if I have to push him in myself.”
From Andersen's Best Fairy Tales by Alice Corbin Henderson.Chicago, New York: Rand, McNally & Company, 1911.