The Ugly Duckling

Once upon a time, on a lovely spring day in the country, something exciting was about to happen. A mother duck was sitting on her nest by the edge of the pond.

She had been sitting there for a very long time waiting for her eggs to hatch. It seemed like she had been sitting there forever!

Finally the eggs began to crack. “Peep, peep,” said the newly hatched ducklings. “Quack, quack,” said their mother. “You are the sweetest little yellow ducklings that I have ever seen! Are you all here?” She stood up to look in the nest. She saw that the biggest egg hadn’t hatched yet.

The tired mother duck sat down again on the last egg. When it finally cracked open, out tumbled a clumsy, gray baby bird. He was bigger than the others, and he didn’t look like them. In fact, compared to other baby ducks, he was rather funny looking.

“Peep, peep,” said the big baby. The mother duck looked at him. “He’s awfully big for his age,” she thought to herself. “I wonder if he can swim?”

The next day, the sun was shining brightly. The mother duck led her ducklings to the pond. “Quack, quack,” she told them, and the ducklings understood. One after the other, the eager little ducklings jumped into the water. They bobbed and floated like little corks. They knew how to paddle their legs and swim without being told.

All of the new baby birds swam very nicely, even the one who looked different. “He may have too long a neck,” thought the mother duck, “but see how nicely he holds it. If you tilt your head a little bit, he is almost handsome.” For the rest of the afternoon, the mother duck helped the baby ducklings practice their swimming.

The mother duck was very happy with her ducklings. She decided it was time to take her babies to the farm to meet the other ducks. “Quack, quack,” said the mother duck. “Follow me! Keep your legs far apart and waddle.”

The one baby could not quite get it right. The other baby ducks on the farm gathered around him and said, “Look how ugly that duckling is!” One big duck came over and quacked, “Stay out of my way, you ugly duckling!”

“Leave him alone!” cried the mother duck. “He may not be good-looking, but he is kind and he can swim as well as anyone — maybe even better!”

No one listened to her. The other ducks acted mean and chased the poor ugly duckling.

A few days later, the other ducklings were playing on the farm. They wouldn’t let the ugly duckling join in any of the games. For a while, the little duckling sat all alone.

Then he got an idea. “I’ll practice my swimming!” he said to himself.

The ugly duckling went to the pond and swam and swam and swam. When he stopped, he was very tired. Then he looked around. The ugly duckling had no idea where he was!

What was that noise? A big hunting dog was right there scouting out the area! The ugly duckling tried to make himself as small as possible. He was so afraid to move that he stayed in the water all night.

When morning came, the ugly duckling was sure the dog had gone away. The baby duck was still lost, and now he was hungry, too. He was also a little bit scared. The duckling knew he needed to do something.

I’ll just have to try to find something to eat,” said the ugly duckling. He hopped out of the pond and looked around. There was a farm down the road. He waddled closer to take a look. Near the farmhouse he saw a woman. “Peep,” said the duckling.

The woman said, “You look hungry. Come get something to eat.” When they got inside the house, the ugly duckling saw a cat and a pet hen. The cat and hen stared right at the ugly duckling. The duckling stared at the floor.

The duckling couldn’t lay eggs like the hen or purr like the cat. They picked on him because he was different. After a few days, the duckling remembered how much he liked to be in the fresh air and how much he missed swimming in the water. One night he quietly left the house.

The duckling waddled farther down the road and soon found a lake where other wild ducks lived. In this lake the duckling could dive to the bottom and pop back up again to float.

All the swimming helped him to grow bigger and stronger. Still, none of the wild ducks who lived there would even talk to him because they thought he was too ugly.

Soon the seasons changed. It was fall now. The leaves turned colors, and the air got cooler. The duckling found that the water was getting colder, too.

One evening, just at sunset, a flock of beautiful birds flew overhead. Their feathers were shiny white, and they had long, graceful necks. The birds were flying south to find a warmer place to live for the winter.

The ugly duckling stretched his neck as far as he could to look at the beautiful birds. He felt sad as he watched them. Soon he was shivering, and he felt very lonely.

Winter came, and the pond turned to ice. A duck cannot swim on ice. The ugly duckling needed to practice, so he went in search of water that wasn’t frozen.

Soon he came to a farmhouse. The fireplace had a roaring fire in it. Everything inside looked very warm and cozy. He waddled into the house and began his search.

Finally he found something. It was much smaller than the pond, but it would just have to do. He jumped in and started to swim.

The farmer’s wife heard a lot of splashing. She was very surprised to find a large bird inside the house! She quickly grabbed the broom and chased him back out into the snow, knocking over a fresh bucket of milk in the process. The children laughed and laughed at the big bird who had tried to swim in their bathtub.

The duckling was really scared now! He found a hiding place under some bushes. Snow fell all around him. He tried to stay warm.

The poor ugly duckling had a hard time that long winte

ust when he thought he couldn’t stand it any more, something wonderful happened — spring arrived! Now there was warm sunshine and blooming flowers. Many birds came back from their winter homes.

It was now warm enough to go back on the lake. How good it felt to swim on the water again. He stretched his neck all around. When he looked down, what a surprise he got!

There in the water was the most beautiful bird he had ever seen. He looked at the swans swimming farther down the lake. They must know this swan below the water.

r. There was barely any food to eat, and the icy wind made him very cold.

Just when he thought he couldn’t stand it any more, something wonderful happened — spring arrived! Now there was warm sunshine and blooming flowers. Many birds came back from their winter homes.

It was now warm enough to go back on the lake. How good it felt to swim on the water again. He stretched his neck all around. When he looked down, what a surprise he got!

There in the water was the most beautiful bird he had ever seen. He looked at the swans swimming farther down the lake. They must know this swan below the water.

The ugly duckling was surprised when he heard someone speak to him. “Come join us,” the swans said. What? Could this be true? Could the beautiful swans really be talking to him?

The ugly duckling looked down in the water again. Why, that wasn’t another bird at all. It was his own reflection that he saw in the water.

Over the winter, the ugly duckling had grown into a beautiful swan. He really wasn’t a duck at all. No wonder he didn’t fit in. The other swans circled around him and stroked him with their beaks. All the young swan had gone through made him appreciate his newfound happiness.

He saw beauty in all that surrounded him. He ruffled his feathers and thought, “I never dreamed I could be so happy when I was an ugly duckling.”

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