The Ugly Duckling
In the Peasant’s Hut
As it grew dark the Duckling came to a peasants poor little hut. It was so far tumbled down that it did not know on which side it ought to fall, and that’s why it stood up! The storm whistled around the Duckling. He had to sit down to keep from blowing away. The wind blew harder and harder. Then the Duckling noticed that one of the hinges of the door had given way, and he slipped through the crack into the hut.
Here lived an old woman with her Cat and her Hen. The Cat, she called Sonnie. He could arch his back and purr. If you rubbed his fur the wrong way, he could even give out sparks. The Hen had short legs, and therefore she was called Chicka-bidddy Shortshanks. She laid good eggs, and the woman loved her as her own child.
In the morning, when they saw the strange Duckling, the Cat began to purr and the Hen began to cluck.
“What’s all this noise about?” asked the old woman, looking around the room. As she could not see well, she thought the Duckling was a fat duck that had strayed from home.
“This is a prize,” she said. “Now I shall have duck’s eggs, if it is not a drake. We must see about that.”
So the Duckling was taken on trial for three weeks. But no eggs came.
Now the Cat was master of the house, and the Hen was mistress, and they always said, “We and the world!” for they thought that was all there was of it.
It seemed to the Duckling that one might think differently, but the Hen would not allow it.
“Can you lay eggs?”
“Then hold your tongue!”
“Can you curve your back, and purr, and give out sparks?” the Cat asked.
“Then you have no right to an opinion of your own!”
The Duckling sat in a corner and was unhappy. Then the fresh air and the sunshine gave him such a strange longing to swim on the water that he could not help telling the Hen of it.
“What nonsense!” cried the Hen. “You have nothing to do, that’s why you have these fancies. Lay eggs, or purr, and they will soon pass over.”
“But it is nice to swim in the water, to feel it go over your head, and to dive down to the bottom!”
“Really,” said the Hen, “you must be crazy. Ask the Cat about it; ask him if he likes to swim in the water, or to dive down. I won’t speak about it myself. Ask our mistress, the old woman. No one in the world knows more than she does. Do you think she wants to swim, and to let the water close over her head?”
“You don’t understand me!” said the Duckling.
“We don’t understand you? Then who will understand you? You don’t think you know more than the Cat or the old woman does?—I say nothing of myself. Don’t be foolish, but be thankful for all you have.
“Are you not in a warm room, and are there not people here from whom you can learn something? But you’re a goose, and it is a bother to have you about! I speak only for your good. I tell you unpleasant things, but that is a sign of my friendship. You must learn to lay eggs, or to purr and give out sparks!”
“I think I will go out into the wide world,” said the Duckling.
“Yes, do go,” replied the Hen.
So the Duckling went away. He swam on the water, and dived, but he was shunned by everything because he was ugly.
From Andersen's Best Fairy Tales by Alice Corbin Henderson.Chicago, New York: Rand, McNally & Company, 1911.