“The Other Ugly Duckling” – 29 April 1991

(I found this today while I was going through a bunch of stuff in a bin in the basement.)


Subtitle:  "A modern version of a nice idea."

Once upon a time, but not too long ago, an ugly duckling was born – or hatched, rather. 

She was grey and gangly, and didn't look at all like her cute, fuzzy yellow siblings.  She tried not to be sad, but it was hard to ignore the taunts and jeers of the other barnyard creatures.

"Don't worry, my dear," quacked her mother.  "The same thing happened many years ago on your father's side of the family.  One of his great, great aunts hatched a…a duckling who was not quite like the others.  And this duckling grew into a beautiful swan.  So don't you pay any attention to what those other ducks and geese say.  Some day, you will be beautiful, too."

The ugly duckling had heard this story before, but this time it did not comfort her as it once had.

"But, Mama, what if I don't become a swan?  What if I just grow up to be an ugly duck?"

Mother duck had secretly worried the very same thing, but she didn't want to admit that suck a tragedy might come to be.

"Hush, hush, child.  What foolishness!  You will be beautiful.  Just believe that and it will be true."

The ugly duckling nodded her grey head and went down to her secret spot near the pond.  She gathered some of the flowers and grasses that grew nearby and amused herself by arrangeing and rearranging them at the water's edge.  When she found combinations she liked, she wove them together and set them on the water, where they were carried off by a gentle spring breeze.

"Children!  Children!  Lunch time!"

The ugly duckling dropped her flowers and hurried back to the barnyard to join her family.

Later that afternoon, old Mrs. Grey Goose waddled across the yard, calling to the other barnyard fowl.

"Look what I found!  Down by the pond!  Look at these beautiful flowers, all woven together!"

The other ducks and geese hurried over to exclaim and admire.

"Where did you say you found this?"

"Where there any more?"

"Are there any with just yellow flowers?  I'm partial to dandelions, myself."

"Oy, yes!" squawked Mrs. grey Goose.  "Follow me!"

And she waddled off at a fast pace with the rest of the barnyard ducks and geese waddling quickly behind her.

Every morning the ugly duckling went to her secret spot and wove together flowers and reeds and grasses and leaves.  Every afternoon the barnyard creatures waited at the other side of the pond for the wind to blow the day's treasures across.  Soon the barnyard was filled with splashes of color.

"Where do you suppose they come from?" Old Mrs. White Duck asked young Mrs. White Duck.

"I'm not sure," the younger duck answered, "but I have an idea."  She called her children to her side.  One, two, three, four, five, six.  "Where is your sister?" she asked.  The ducklings shrugged. 

"She always goes off by herself," one offered.

"Here I am, Mama!" The ugly duckling appeared from behind a bush.  Her beak was dripping with water, and there were flower petals in her feathers.  "Were you looking for me?"

Mama duck sent the other six ducklings back to play.  "Tell me the truth, daughter, are you responsible for all of these beautiful flower creations?"

The ugly duckling nodded.  "Are you angry?"

"Of course not!  I just don't understand.  How did you think of doing this?  And…why?  And why didn't you tell anyone?"

"I thought about what you've told me – about the ugly duckling generations ago, who became a swan.  And I know you meant well, but I might not become a swan when I grow up.  So I thought that if I couldn't be beautiful, maybe I could make something that was.  So I started picking flowers and leaves and things, and weaving them together…and that's how it all began.  I let them float on the water because they looked pretty there.  The wind did the rest."

Eventually the ugly duckling grew up.  She did not become a beautiful swan.  She was just a plain, ordinary-looking duck.  But she had such a knack for creating beautiful things that no one ever again thought of her as "ugly." 

And neither did she.

The End.

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