IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK eps 11: “THE UGLY DUCKLING” by Hans Christian Andersen.

Published 1844


A Summary and Analysis of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Ugly Duckling’ Fairy Tale

‘The Ugly Duckling’, in summary, tells of a mother duck, whose eggs are hatching. The last of her baby birds to hatch is a larger bird than the other ducklings, and the other birds – and the other animals around on the farm – consider it to be ‘ugly’. They mock and vilify him, and he leaves his mother and siblings behind.

He encounters some wild geese (technically, ganders as they are male birds, strutting about), and narrowly avoids being killed when hunters turn up with guns and dogs and shoot the geese.

The ugly duckling keeps wandering, until he arrives at the home of an old woman. Here, once again, he isn’t there long before he is taunted and abused by the woman’s cat and hen: the hen dismisses the ugly duckling’s longing to glide upon the water, saying that she (the hen) is cleverer than him and it’s a stupid idea. Once more, the ugly duckling leaves and continues on his way.

The ugly duckling comes upon a flock of swans, and longs to join them, but he is unable to fly. He is delighted and excited, but he cannot join them, for he is too young and cannot fly. The duckling endures a harsh winter in a cave, and when spring arrives, he sees a flock of swans gliding on the lake.

The miserable duckling has given up on life by this point, and decides to throw himself into the path of the large swans and be killed, so he cannot be abused and rejected for being ‘ugly’ any more. But – surprise, surprise – the swans don’t devour him but instead welcome him with open arms (or wings) as one of their own. And when the ugly duckling catches sight of his own reflection in the water, he realises he is not an ugly duckling any more, but a beautiful, elegant swan. Having realised his beauty and found his family, this majestic swan takes flight with the flock of swans, happy at last.

Fitting In
Think about a moment in your life when you felt like you didn’t measure up to those around you. Although ‘The Ugly Duckling’ is on the surface a tale about physical appearance, it is universal in the idea that when we try too hard to fit in where we don’t belong, we will never feel completely confident. Let’s review the story and analyze its meaning.

One of the themes, or central messages, that emerges from this story is the idea that our suffering is only temporary. When the duckling knows nothing besides a life of being ridiculed because of who he is, he can’t imagine that he will ever know what happiness feels like. This makes him all the more joyful when his circumstances change because you can only feel true pleasure if you have experienced pain.

Themetic Analysis:
An Informal Look Into the Theme of Acceptance

The book I chose for my final project is “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen. The text was adapted and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. This text is a childhood favorite that explores the survival story of an ugly little bird who struggles to find his value in various groups. While traveling the countryside, he must survive harmful and scary situations. The main theme presented by this text, is the theme of acceptance and how the feelings of acceptance are unique to every individual.

The title, “The Ugly Duckling,” promotes a feeling of negative self-worth. This suggests that the ugly duckling in the story is seen as an outcast by his peers, therefore unaccepted. Throughout the story, the ugly duckling begins to notice his differences from his peers. He also notices how he is treated differently than his siblings. As the story develops, the duckling begins to acquire feelings of loneliness and bitterness towards his appearance making him feel as if he will never be accepted. The events that lead him to this conclusion start with his family and those closest to him, then strangers he meets look down upon him; finally, he truly begins to see himself as others see him. Ugly and unwanted. Feeling alone, he begins to mature into the very animal he had admired, a beautiful swan. Soon enough, he was flying next to the swan and experienced true acceptance.

Words that are often associated with loneliness are empty, unattended, homeless, withdrawn, isolated, and companionless. The settings and images in the text represent each of these words. In the beginning, the author creates a mood of loneliness by showing the ugly ducking being unattended to and withdrawn from the rest of the farm. The mood gradually shifts into a more depressing and isolated state. The setting and images reflect this by having the ugly duckling be continually rejected by different groups and finally, showing the ugly duckling alone, freezing, and close to death in the middle of winter. The colors in the images seem to get gloomier and depict the sad and depressing state of the duckling. However, as the mood shifts into feelings of acceptance and love, the images are brighter and happier. The story ends with the final message that things get better and somewhere and somehow you will experience acceptance.

I believe that acceptance is unique to every individual, not only in this story, but also in our day-to-day life. How I feel acceptance can be extremely different to the way some one else feels acceptance. I found acceptance within my God, church, and my family. I used to feel as if I was an outcast when certain health issues ended my sports career. After I was outcast from my sports family, I was left feeling alone, isolated, and depressed and seeking acceptance places where I could not find it. Soon after I found that all my answers were found in Jesus and I immediately found acceptance within Him. This led me to feeling accepted by my church and my family. I find that my story of acceptance is similar to the story of “The Ugly Duckling.” I believe that many people follow a similar path to acceptance but they may find acceptance in different things. This is why I believe that acceptance is unique to every individual.,by%20his%20peers%2C%20therefore%20unaccepted.