The Ugly Duckling

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The Ugly Duckling

Thanks to Colin Dexter for reading this story for KidsOut.

One fine summer’s day Mother Duck found a lovely spot under a willow tree by the pond to lay her eggs.  She nestled down and waited for them to hatch.

After what seemed to her a long time they began to crack which was very exciting. 

First one little fluffy head appeared and she called him Oscar.

Then a second little fluffy head appeared and she called her Maya.

Then a third little fluffy head appeared and she called him Henry.

Then a fourth little fluffy head appeared and she called her Katie.

“Oh what sweet babies I have” she said “what a lucky mother I am.  But what has happened to the fifth egg I sat on?”

This egg was bigger than all the rest and showed no sign of cracking.  So, telling the ducklings to be patient and play where she could see them, Mother Duck settled down on the fifth egg.

Days later, much to her relief, a tiny crack appeared in the egg.  Slowly it grew bigger and bigger until POP, out came the ugliest ducking she had ever seen.

The Ugly Duckling“Oh dear, oh dear” she said “what can have happened?  He doesn’t look at all like his brothers and sisters; he’s much bigger and he’s all grey and straggly”.

The other ducklings looked at him “Yuck” they said “what’s that?”

“Now, now” said Mother Duck “don’t be nasty, he can’t help what he looks like.  He’s your brother and I’m going to name him Jonathan”.


Mother Duck led them onto the pond for their first swimming lesson. As they floated onto the water all they could hear were comments and whispers:

“What a funny looking duck!”

“Where did he come from?”

“I haven’t seen one like that before”.

“Is it smelly as well as ugly?”

Poor Jonathan, he couldn’t bear it and felt very lonely. His brothers and sisters wouldn’t let him play with them. However much Mother Duck tried to encourage him, and tell him that she loved him, he just wanted to hide away. 

So one day he decided that the only thing to do was to run away.  That night, when all the others were fast asleep, he crept down to the pond, swam across to the other side, and set off to find a pond of his own.

The Ugly DucklingFor many days he wandered, but every time he thought he’d found somewhere to stay he heard more whispers:

“What an ugly chap”

“Have you ever seen a beak like that?”

“That’s such a long neck you could tie it in a knot”

Poor Jonathan.  He was very sad. 

Early one evening, as he was moping along, he heard a strange magical noise that seemed to come from the sky.  Looking up he saw the most glorious sight he had ever seen.

“I wish I could fly up there with those beautiful birds” he thought.  What he had seen was a flock of swans flying overhead.

On and on he went until he came to a river.  To his surprise, the strange birds he had seen in the sky were there floating majestically on the glistening water.  He hid behind some reeds ashamed of his ugly body.  Jonathan couldn’t take his eyes off these graceful white swans.

Suddenly, one of the swans caught sight of him peering out from the reeds and swam across to him

“Good evening young sir” he said bowing his neck “may I ask your name?”  Because swans are very polite.

Jonathan was too overcome to speak, his beak dropped open but no sound came. No-one had been that nice to him before. 

He took a deep breath and tried again “Ppppppplease sir, mmmmy nnname is Jjjjjjjonathan”.

“Well Jonathan” said the swan, “why don’t you come and join us, it’s a beautiful day for a swim”.

“Bbbbut you ddddon’t want to be seen with me; I’m so ugly” said Jonathan.

“What nonsense” said the swan “whatever makes you think that?  Just look at yourself in the sparkling water”.

JoThe Ugly Ducklingnathan bent his neck and looked down.  To his astonishment he saw, not an ugly grey duckling reflected in the river, but the most beautiful, graceful white swan.

“Is that really me?” he asked, forgetting to be nervous. 

“Of course” answered the swan, “who did you think it was?”

Jonathan explained how everyone had been so nasty to him and the swan listened sympathetically.

“Well, you’re not ugly now” he said “you’re one of us”.

“Oh, how lucky I am” said Jonathan happily.

From that day on Jonathan lived with his new friends on the river.  Never again did people say horrid words about him. Each evening as the swans flew over the pond  his brothers and sisters would look up at the sky little knowing that one of them was the brother they had made so unhappy.