A mother duck's eggs hatch, and out of the largest egg comes a big, gray, strange-looking duck. Despite the taunting of the animals on the farm, the mother loves her duckling. But as the days go by, the duckling is teased mercilessly by the other animals—even her siblings. Finally she runs away, hoping to be accepted for who she is. After many travels, she spies the most beautiful birds she’s ever seen. She's surprised when they welcome her to the flock—she herself is a baby swan, and the most beautiful young swan there!
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One summer in a beautiful country barnyard, a duck sat upon a nest of eggs waiting and waiting for them to hatch.
The duck was very lonely because all of the other ducks who lived on the farm were swimming and playing in the pond.
They did not want to sit in the hot sun with the duck and wait for the eggs to hatch.
Finally, the eggs began to crack and the little baby ducklings poked their heads through the broken eggshells and started to cry out, “Quack, quack!”
Upon hearing this sound, a very old duck came along to check on the Mother Duck. “Hello, Mother Duck. I see your eggs have hatched.”
“Yes they have, and I am so happy. Aren’t these the most beautiful ducklings you have ever seen? But this last egg still has not hatched.”
The Mother Duck moved aside so that the Old Duck could see the remaining egg, which was very large.
“That looks like a turkey egg. Maybe you’ve been tricked,” said the Old Duck. “You should teach your other children to swim before they are too old. If you wait, they will be too afraid to jump in the pond. Leave this other egg for awhile and come back after a swim to see if it has hatched.”
“No, I cannot leave my baby duckling until he or she hatches. I am sure it will not be too long before it does, and the others will learn to swim without a problem,” insisted the Mother Duck.
The Old Duck decided to sit with the Mother Duck while she waited for the big egg to hatch.
The next day, the big egg shook and cracked and the last baby duckling waddled out of the broken eggshell.
The Old Duck and the Mother Duck looked at the last baby duckling with great surprise.
She looked nothing like the other ducks.
In fact, she did not really look like much of a duck at all.
She was big, gray, ugly and strange looking.
“Well, she certainly is an unusual looking duckling,” said the Old Duck.
“Hmm, said the Mother Duck. “She must be so big and odd because she was in the egg for so long. She is rather pretty if you look at her a certain way. In time, I am sure she will grow into a proper looking duck.”
The Mother Duck led her children to the pond and one-by-one, they all jumped in.
The ugly, gray duckling swam very well.
Actually, she swam even better than the other ducklings.
The Mother Duck was happily surprised.
She was very worried that she might have been a poor swimmer because she was so big.
But after their swim, the Mother Duck and her family went into the barnyard.
All of the animals stopped in their tracks as soon as they noticed the ugly duckling.
They began to come up to her and tease her.
One young duck even bit her.
A hen came and grabbed some of the ugly duckling’s feathers in her beak and pulled until the Ugly Duckling began to cry.
And then, all of the animals began to sing and laugh, “Look, look, here, here, ho, ho, boo-hoo, see the Ugly Duckling cry. Look, look, here, here, ho, ho, boo-hoo, see the Ugly Duckling cry. Her neck is too long. Her feathers are dry.”
“Leave her alone,” said the Mother Duck. “She’s not hurting anyone.”
“Yes, but she is just so big and ugly that she should be forced to leave the farm so that we don’t have to look at her,” said the Duck who had bitten the ugly duckling.
“Don’t say that!” shouted the Mother Duck. “She may not be pretty but she is very kind and sweet and a very good swimmer. As a matter of fact, she swims even better than her brothers and sisters, and I think that in time, she will become smaller and prettier. Now just leave her alone.”
Even though her mother tried to make them all see that she was a good duck, the next few days were terrible for the ugly duckling.
The other animals of the farmyard did not obey the Mother Duck’s order to leave the Ugly Duckling alone.
Instead, they became even meaner to the Ugly Duckling and soon her brothers and sisters began to tease her too.
And eventually, her mother became too tired to defend her anymore.
And so, one night, the Ugly Duckling snuck away from the farm into the great, wide world.
She traveled a long, long way until she finally found a huge field and fell asleep.
In the morning, the Ugly Duckling awoke to find herself surrounded by several wild ducks.
One of the ducks began to tease her for being so ugly.
Another duck told her, “It’s okay that you are so ugly as long as you don’t marry into our family.”
The Ugly Duckling soon moved on.
After traveling for a while, the Ugly Duckling found a gaggle of geese and stopped to look at them.
She hoped that she might be able to join them.
As she approached, she heard a loud, “BANG! BANG!”
Two geese fell dead to the ground.
In the distance, the Ugly Duckling saw some men with hunting rifles.
She got very scared and decided to run away from the geese.
She ran and ran until she was very far away and very tired.
She could hardly breathe from running so fast.
She stopped and turned around.
She could no longer see the geese but she realized that she was standing next to a beautiful lake.
She saw the most beautiful birds that she had ever seen gliding on the surface of the lake’s clear, blue water.
They had long necks and soft white feathers.
“Oh, those pretty birds will never allow me to join them or swim with them. They’re so beautiful and I am so ugly,” thought the ugly duckling.
Suddenly, the beautiful birds noticed the Ugly Duckling and swam toward the edge of the lake where she was standing.
One of them said, “Hello, young swan. Where did you come from?”
“Me?” said the Ugly Duckling in surprise, “I came from a place that is very far away. I don’t know what a swan is but I am a duck. What is a swan?”
The beautiful birds began to laugh. “What is a swan? Why, we are swans and so are you. You are not a duck. Imagine! You as a duck! A swan would make a very funny-looking duck. But you are the most beautiful young swan here. Come live with us and we will raise you.”
“I’m a swan! I AM beautiful!” rejoiced the swan who was no longer an ugly duckling.
“Finally, I am accepted,” the swan thought to herself joyfully.
And the young swan lived among the other swans happily ever after.