On This Day (November 11th) - Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling

Tags: on this day, literature

11th November 1843

The Ugly Duckling is published. 

170 years ago Dutch poet and author Hans Christian Andersen published the heart warming fairy tale, ‘The Ugly Duckling’. 

The story was published in Copenhagen with 3 other tales; ‘The Angel’ ‘The Nightingale’ and ‘The Sweethearts’ which proved to be extremely popular. The first edition of 850 was sold out by December 18 and a further run of 850 copies was scheduled. Andersen said of the success “The book is selling like hot cakes. All the papers are praising it, everyone is reading it! No books of mine are appreciated in the way these fairy tales are!”

The Ugly Duckling tells the story of a modest bird born in a barnyard and subjected to the taunts of other animals for being ‘different’. As the duckling sadly ventures off on his own to find pastures new he is taken in by an old woman, but is again scrutinised for his appearance by the household animals. Sadly wandering off into the harsh winter, a farmer takes pity on him and carries him home. Alas, the farmers’ noisy children scared the duckling off into the open world, alone again to endure the winter and seek shelter in a cave next to a frozen lake. As Spring descends a flock of Swans appear at the lake which spurs the duckling to throw himself into their view, thinking it better to be killed by such beautiful birds than live a life of ugliness and misery. To his surprise, the Swans welcome him with open wings only realising when his reflection in the lake shines back, that he himself had blossomed into a beautiful swan! As the flock prepare to depart, the not so ugly duckling spreads its wings and takes flight with his new found family. 

The story is a popular tale around the world with a message of self discovery and transformation. It has been re-published many times and portrayed in film, music and TV. As well as being immortalised with a statue in New York’s Central Park, as seen in the above image, showing Andersen reading to the duckling.

Perhaps one of the most well known depictions of the tale is within the 1952 ‘Hans Christian Andersen’ film starring Danny Kaye. The film builds a fictitious story of Hans’ life around his many fairy tales, including The Emperor’s New Clothes, Thumbelina, The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling. 

Watch the video below of The Ugly Duckling song written and sung by Danny Kaye (which you may recognise from the Audi A5 Advert!) 

 

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