Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) | Study Guide

Hans Christian Andersen

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Course Hero. "Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) Study Guide." Course Hero. 6 Oct. 2017. Web. 19 Dec. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fairy-Tales-of-Hans-Christian-Andersen-Selected/>.

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Course Hero. (2017, October 6). Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 19, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fairy-Tales-of-Hans-Christian-Andersen-Selected/

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Course Hero. "Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) Study Guide." October 6, 2017. Accessed December 19, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fairy-Tales-of-Hans-Christian-Andersen-Selected/.


Course Hero, "Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) Study Guide," October 6, 2017, accessed December 19, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fairy-Tales-of-Hans-Christian-Andersen-Selected/.

Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) | The Ugly Duckling | Summary



The patient mother duck has hatched all her duckling eggs except one larger than the others. When the old duck comes to visit, she speculates it might be a turkey egg, in which case the baby will refuse to swim. The mother duck figures she might as well hatch it and see, but when the egg does hatch, the baby proves he has no fear of the water at all. The mother duck accepts him as her own, even if he is a bit large and gangly.

It doesn't take long for the mother duck to parade her brood in the barnyard. Everyone exclaims on the beauty of her ducklings, which only seems to emphasize how misshapen the ugly duckling is. Ridiculed and bullied by the animals in the barnyard, the ugly duckling believes what they say about him is true. Miserable and frightened, he makes his escape into the wide world, assuming all creatures despise him because of his looks. He falls in with a gaggle of wild geese who keep him around as a sort of mascot until they are hunted and leave the ugly duckling alone and abandoned. He makes his way to a hovel, but even there his opinions are dismissed and ridiculed.

Again the ugly duckling makes his escape, this time into the wild to endure a hard winter. Finally he has matured enough to spread his wings and fly to a distant land. There he encounters the most beautiful birds he's ever seen, unaware at first that they are swans. As soon as they see the ugly duckling, the swans bow their heads and swim to him. He thinks they mean to kill him because he is so ugly. But when he catches sight of himself reflected in the water of the lake, he sees he himself has grown into the most beautiful swan of them all.


This story carries the timeless message one should not judge others by appearances. Perhaps more than any other of his tales, "The Ugly Duckling" is truest to Andersen's own path through life. Gawky, shy, and overly emotional he struggled to find his own way and was "pecked to death" by criticism and ridicule on every side. Through endurance, however, Andersen was finally recognized and accepted as one of Denmark's most cherished authors, its finest "swan."

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