The Ugly Duckling


The Ugly Duckling


Hans Christian Andersen

(Denmark - 1844)

The Ugly Duckling is a folktale that I have slightly reformulated and tried to adapt to today situasjon for minority children in the majority community. (Saleh Mousavi, Norway)

Once upon a time one bright spring morning a mother duck was pleased that her eggs had begun to hatch. Cheep Cheep chipped the chicks. Mother duck was very proud of her fluffy ducklings- but one of them looked different from the others.


Oops that is a very ugly duckling said one of the other ducklings, he cannot even talk.

Everything that is different is ugly to them because they are not used to seeing other kinds as themselves. They say he cannot even talk, but in fact, he can talk, but it is different from them.

15 years ago I worked as a teacher in a primary school in Norway, when a student could not speak Norwegian, some Norwegian teachers said that this student cannot speak, for them was to speak only Norwegian.

If my language is not recognized in school, what does that say about me?

I was 20 years of age when I began to write in Sami, it felt like I was finally home

Saami author Inger-Mari Aiko-Arianaick, /Dagsavisen 18.02.04

When the mother duck took her ducklings to meet the other animals in the farmyard a row began.

Here is where the real problems begin. The ugly duckling does not fit in, in the other ducks ideal world. In addition, the comments begin.

”If I had had such an ugly duckling I would have kept it hidden”, said another duck

”He looks like a monster,” said the turkey

”I have never in my life seen something so ugly,” said the hen

”Who let this creature in to my yard” asked the rooster.

Adapting to the outside society has begun and it is in this context that the individual’s self-confidence and identity will take shape. How the society perceives you reflects back to you and helps shape your self-confidence. When you hear comments like you are ugly or, you are a monster as a child this makes your self-confidence and your self-worth very low. When you enter a society people, tie some expectations to you. When the ugly duckling and his siblings came to this society those expectations were ok for the ducklings siblings, but not for him. It was easy for the ducklings siblings to adapt to that society, but difficult for the ugly duckling, because he does not belong there. Our being is created by our interactions with others. How others perceive you and their expectations of you help create oneself. The ugly duckling looked to him as an ugly duckling and therefore he does not belong in that community. Ugliness is as a symbol for a deviant behavior. Even the mother wishes that he appeared from this society because he is a shame for the mother.   


His behavior is

abnormal; therefore,

the feeling of shame


He decided to flee to escape the things that make him unhappy.

Every single day the poor duckling was teased, bites, ridiculed and chased. Finally, he was forced to leave the farmyard. ”Now I’m all alone,” thought the ugly duckling.

He came out to the wild ducks. The wild ducks said to him “You are ugly, but that will not matter if you do not want to marry one from our family.”

Poor thing! He had no thoughts of marriage, all he wanted was permission to lie among the rushes, and drink some of the water on the moor. 

He is accepted here as long as he does not try to come into the group and spread his ugliness.

Next, he met a dog.

He turned away his head to hide it under his wing, and at the same moment, a large terrible dog passed quite near him. His jaws were open, his tongue hung from his mouth, and the ducklings eyes glared fearfully. He thrust his nose close to the duckling, showing his sharp teeth, and then, “splash, splash,” he went into the water without touching him,

“Oh,” sighed the duckling, “how thankful I am for being so ugly; even a dog will not bite me.”

The duckling interprets the dog behavior as meaning that he is ugly. It is not so much about others opinions of us, but more about our understanding of their view of us.


Self-confidence is an


aspect of emotional


and is a strong foundation

to a successful life.

When you are feeling low on confidence and poor self-esteem can influence every aspect of your life stopping you from having fun and achieving your goals.

The most common problems with low self-confidence are:

• being to afraid to make conversation with strangers

• Embarrassment when speaking up in a meeting or in front of groups of people

• knocking yourself down all the time rather than bolstering yourself up

• having too much self-doubt to say, "I can" rather than "I can't"

• being afraid to take risks as your lack of confidence holds you back

• Letting people walk all over you rather than sticking up for yourself

One day the ugly duckling arrived at a cottage where a woman lived with her cat and her hen. A New social system. The cat and the hen were concerned about themselves and did not show empathy.

”If you think you are going to live here, you must be able to lay eggs,” said the hen.

”Or say mjau” said the cat. However, the duckling could neither lay eggs nor say mjau.

”But I’m very good at swimming and diving” said the duckling.

”That is nothing that is of use to us,” answered the hen.

Neither the cat nor the hen showed empathy to put themselves in his position. A peaceful and friendly relationship needs the understanding of others.

Both the cat and the hen expect something of him from their own standpoint.

They had the power to define and the ugly duckling has to adapt to their definition.

So he tried to talk about something he was good at, namely swimming and diving.

He talks about mastering something, but the others define what he can do to be counted as mastering.


feeling of

inherent worth

The duckling was forced to leave the cottage and again he was all alone.

After many months of drifting alone from one place to another, the duckling finally arrived at a pond. There he saw the most beautiful swans he had ever-layed eyes on.

”If I would dare to go over there and say hi, they would probably kill me because I’m so ugly,” he thought to himself.

His self-confidence is so damaged that he thinks they will kill him, because he is so ugly.

”Even if I get killed by them it is better than being bitten by ducks, teased by hens or chased by humans”

He prefers to be killed than to live with all the negative things he experiences.

The little duckling approached the swans carefully and he said to them,” Kill me I’m too ugly to live”.

However, suddenly he saw his own reflection in the water and he was no longer an ugly duckling he was a swan. A beautiful swan.

”Who would have guessed that all this time I have been a swan, I never thought I would be this happy,” he shouted.

When you hear that you are the most beautiful can your identity be devolved in a new direction.

Finally, he understood that he is not ugly but beautiful. He could see his own reflection, which is not easy for everyone to see. Either you should see your own reflection or your parents; your teachers should show you. If you are weak, and if your parents have many problems, and you do not have good teachers what can happen???

A person can change his self-confidence when his mirror-self is changed. the ugly duckling can changed to be a beautiful swan.

Our mirror-self is always in changing.  It has three parts:

-conception about how the other look to us and how they understand us

-conception about how the other evaluate and judge us

-my own self-esteem, meaning and sense of myself

This story is talking about recognition. Everybody, and especially in our context, children, should be recognized by others. By others I mean parents, family, the legal system and society. Everybody would decide how we should be.

Saleh Mousavi

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The Ugly Duckling