How transformational is the ugly little duckling, really? How this fairy tale actually relates to life.

MiniMe recently requested one of the stories in the H.C. Anderson collection of fairy-tales. As the title suggests, it was of-cause the tale of the Ugly Duckling. The Anderson fairy-tales are one of the most well-known across the globe. Many have been translated into different languages. My own book is written in German, so pardon me if I don’t quote it.

The ugly little duckling is known as a story of transformation. During my own childhood my older sister reference that story when I was feeling down because I was the ugly little duckling in my class.
“The ugly girls, turn into really beautiful girls just like in the ugly duckling,” she once said.
I was around the age of 10 at the time. “So then, the beautiful girls turn into ugly ducks when they grow up?”
My sister hesitated before she answered, “Em no. The beautiful girls become even more beautiful.”
What’s the use, I thought. Compared to them, I will always remain ugly.

 I haven’t really given the story much thought since then, until now. You never really analyze a fairy-tale until your offspring requests you read it for the umpteenth time.
Perhaps we’d understood the story wrong. It’s not really a tale of transformation.


Hatched by a mother duck who had to sit a bit longer on this somewhat larger egg, the ugly little duckling looks nothing like his brothers and sisters. Thus he is bullied by everyone.

Soon, he starts believing what others say about him. No matter where he goes, he has a hard time fitting in because of his negative self-reflection. If only he could be more handsome. Then, all the other characters in that story would accept him.

At one point he lands in a house with a cat, hen and old woman. When he tells the hen that he would like to go swim, she calls him crazy. He should try and be more like herself or the cat. No longer being able to resist his desire he rushes outside to swim. Then for the first time, he sees these stunning swans flying away for the winter season. He calls out to them in longing, not understanding why.

Eventually, after surviving the cold winter, the duckling lands in a lake where some swans are swimming. Yearning to be close to them, he risks swimming at their side. At first, he thinks these majestic birds will kill him for being so ugly. However, once he takes a peek at his reflection in the water he notices that he is no longer an ugly duckling. He is one of them. He is a swan.


While it is true the ugly little chick transforms into a beautiful swan, this “duckling” was never a duckling, to begin with. From the very start, he was a swan. And try as hard as a swan may, he could never be anything else but a swan. Problem was, the swan was never told he was a swan. Had he grown up with other swans, he may not have been made to believe he was ugly.

How often is our life not like that of this confused swan? We come into this world not knowing who we really are. We are made to believe the lies we hear about ourselves. We try to fit in. We try our utmost hardest to be more like the hen or the cat. Sadly, many of us never make it past this point. But some of us survive the cold winter.

Suddenly we can see our reflection. It becomes clear that we are a swan and never were a duck. And then, finally then when we realize who we truly are. We marvel and stop trying to be anything which we are not.

It stops mattering what the hen thinks, what the cat thinks, what all of the other ducks think. We are a swan. So what, we did not fly away for the winter! Still swan. Swan. Swan.


NanoPoblano 2017

This post links to a month’s long daily blogging challenge, during November. See who else has signed up to be a Little Pepper HERE. It’s called NANO POBLANO / NaBloPoMo.

About the Author

profile-pic-2Sarina often sat on the peaks of the dunes of Southern Africa watching the ocean tide drift in. A daydreamer, often dreaming up stories for lands somewhere over the rainbow. She is a mother, a wife, a blogger and an overall creative spirit. Above all, she is a human being.

Find her here:


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10 thoughts on “How transformational is the ugly little duckling, really? How this fairy tale actually relates to life.

  1. I think this is an excellent observation and very insightful into the fairytale itself. Not a transformation, it is the truth all along. We should be more comfortable in our own skin because we are going to spend many years getting acquainted with it! I’m obsessed with cats, so I think I would try to be like them except I don’t have their flexibility, so it is my destiny in life to be a sloth and to embrace my true nature by eating plus sleeping as much as possible 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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