Once upon a time, up a narrow street, down a quiet path, in a peaceful park, by a shallow pond, there was a Momma Duck who had a nest of 9 eggs. She loved those 9 eggs and sat on them diligently until they hatched. One by one, cute, yellow fuzzy ducklings broke free of their eggs. Finally one egg was left. It was the largest egg and when it too finally hatched, a large duckling emerged. She was not fluffy and yellow like her brothers and sisters. Her feathers were dull and grey. She was tall and awkward. Her feet were too big. Her neck was too long. Her brothers and sisters looked at her and laughed.
Momma Duck worried. She loved her ugly duckling but what would could she do to help her child? Undaunted Momma Duck determined that she would raise all her little ducklings into the best ducks she could, just as she had been raised. So the ducklings soon found themselves following Momma duck and learning the ways of the world.
Up and down the narrow street and the quiet path, through the peaceful park and in the shallow pond, Momma Duck and her ducklings joined the other ducks in their daily activities. Momma Duck led the way, then 8 fluffy ducklings, and one ugly duckling with the other ducks laughing behind her back.
First job of the morning was the breadcrumb begging from the old folks who came to the park benches each day. Momma Duck taught her ducklings not to get too close, but to show their cutest sides to the humans to get the best pieces of bread. She encouraged her 8 fuzzy ducklings to eat their fill. “Not too much now,” Momma Duck said to the Ugly Duckling, “You are already bigger than your sisters, you don’t need to eat any more carbs, besides, the cutest ducklings get the best bread for us all, best hang back with me and have a salad.” Momma Duck didn’t want the humans to laugh at her Ugly Duckling like the other ducks did, but her Ugly Duckling saw and heard more than Momma knew.
Next Momma Duck worked on swimming with her duckings. Unlike land, here Ugly Duckling felt graceful and beautiful. In the water her awkward legs felt strong and powerful and she could easily beat even her brothers in the duckling races. She loved to make herself fly across the water, and to dive deep down to the bottom to grab the tender seaweed that grew there. She loved it….until, she heard Momma Duck say, “Dear Ugly Duckling, you need to slow down. If the mallards think you are better at swimming than they are they won’t want to share a nest with you. You cannot afford to be so bold” Momma knew what was best. So Ugly Duckling choked back her strokes and her tears as she tried to be the best duck she could.
Finally, Momma Duck began to teach her ducklings to fly. Their larger feathers were growing in now, and soon they would be fully grown and ready to soar. Her brothers heads were turnings shiny and green. Her sisters were becoming mottled and brown, ready for important nest making. Ugly Duckling however, just kept growing. She was bigger than ever, no matter how much she listened to Momma’s diet advice. Instead of becoming a beautiful brown her feathers were turning white. Her neck was longer too. She was just so Ugly. They all knew it, and she did too.
Finally the day came to make a first “real” flight. Momma Duck planned to take her ducklings from the shallow pond accross the narrow road to the lake and back for an outing. One by one the ducks took off and flew to the lake for their day away. When they got there they were amazed by how many new things there were to see at the lake that they never saw in their shallow pond. There were new fish and birds. New kinds of ducks even! As they took a break for lunch, they watched all the different kinds of birds who lived there at the lake and along came a group of swans.
The Brothers and Sister ducks got up and laughed and pointed at the swans. “Look” they called. “There is a whole group of ugly ducklings here just like our sister! Why do you let so many ugly ducks in the lake?”
Then the lake became very quiet. Even the bees stopped their buzzing. The group of swans got up out of the lake and came over to the ducks.
“We are not ducks,” said the swan, “We are swans, and it seems that your sister is too, though she does not know it. Swans not the same as ducks. In some ways we are similar, but in many ways we are different as well. If we make ugly ducks, you would make ugly swans. How much better it would be if we just said we both make beautiful birds?”
With that the swan turned to the Ugly Duckling and said, “If ever you want to learn to be a Swan come join us at the lake, for you are a beautiful bird regardless of what you are called.”
Shaken, Momma Duck and all her ducklings went home. Her brothers and sisters were glad to see their shallow pond once more. “Swans think they know everything,” they said, “but they are still ugly.” They happily spent the remaining part of the day begging for bread and racing in the pond.
Ugly Duckling spent the rest of the day thinking. The narrow street, the quiet path, the peaceful park, the shallow pond, these places were all she really knew of life, but here she was the Ugly Duckling and would always be the Ugly Duckling.
“Come to the nest” Momma Duck called Ugly Duckling, “I made you a seaweed salad for dinner.”
Ugly Duckling turned away from the shallow pond, took flight and flew over the narrow street back to the lake of beautiful birds of all shapes and sizes.