The Ugly Duckling

Out on the Moor

At last one day the Duckling ran and flew high over the fence, and the little birds in the bushes started up in fear.

“That is because I am so ugly!” thought the Duckling. He shut his eyes and flew on and on until he came out into the wide moor where the Wild Ducks lived. Here, tired and sad, he lay the whole night long.

In the morning the Wild Ducks flew up and saw their new mate.

“What sort of a thing are you?” they asked.

The Duckling turned about to each and bowed as well as he could.

“You are really very ugly!” said the Wild Ducks. “But that will not matter if you do not want to marry into our family.”

The Duckling certainly had no thought of marrying. He asked only for leave to lie among the reeds and drink some of the swamp water.

After he had lain there two whole days there came to him two Wild Ganders. They had not been out of the egg very long, and that accounts for their boldness.

“Listen, comrade,” said one of them. “You’re so ugly that I like you. Will you go with us and become a bird of passage? Near here there is another moor, where there are a few lovely wild geese, all unmarried. You’ve a chance of making your fortune, ugly as you are.”

“Bang! Bang!” sounded through the air. And both the ganders fell down dead in the reeds, and the water became blood-red. “Bang! Bang!” it sounded again, and the whole flock of wild geese flew up from the reeds. Then there was another report.

A great hunt was going on. The gunners lay around in the moor. Some were even sitting up on the branches of the trees that spread out over the reeds. The blue smoke rose like clouds among the dark trees, and hung low over the water. The hunting dogs came—splash, splash!—into the mud. The reeds and rushes bent down on every side.

The Ugly Duckling was too frightened to move. He turned his head to put it under his wing, and at that very moment a great dog stood close by the Duckling. His tongue hung far out of his mouth, and his eyes glared. He put his nose close to the Duckling, showed his sharp teeth, and—splash, splash!—on he went without touching it.

“For once I am thankful for being ugly,” said the Duckling. “Even the dog does not like to bite me.”

He lay quiet while shots rattled through the reeds and gun after gun was fired over him. At last, late in the day, all was still. The Duckling did not dare to get up, but waited several hours before he looked around. Then he hurried away out of the moor as fast as he could. He ran on over field and meadow, and, as a storm was coming on, he had hard work to get away.

From Andersen's Best Fairy Tales by Alice Corbin Henderson.
Chicago, New York: Rand, McNally & Company, 1911.

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