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the ugly duckling

published: 2012-03-26

The Ugly Duckling. Or call it Swan. We like to emphathise the positive don’t we? I wonder about the ugly duckling becoming a swan. Does this mean there is hope for every ugly child? But what if that child never becomes a swan? Will the chicken he meets keep biting him?
We forget that the ugly duckling is tested. He is made to survive winter. At one stage, he is even trapped in ice. But a farmer happens to notice him and breaks the ice. Dogs chase after the duckling. And a cat tells the duckling it’s useless. It should either lay an egg, the way a chicken does, or purr the way the cat does. Otherwise it may as well disappear.

My son listens to the story and is in continual distress. He does not know the ending yet. I tell him he’s not to worry, it will end well. He doesn’t believe me. Clearly, if I don’t tell him the ending, he won’t sleep. I whisper to him – “the duck isn’t a duck but is actually swan.”

This doesn’t calm hi, not even one bit. In fact, it makes it even worse. He obsesses over the question how on earth the swan egg got into the nest of a duck? Who laid that egg? He asks. For him, the story is not about justice or revenge (“see, I’m actually beautiful”). It’s about the fact that the ugly duckling would have been perfectly fine if it had been where it belonged.

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