The ugly duckling
It was summertime and the air was scented with newly mown hay. In the forest, among the tall trees, there stood a castle surrounded by a moat. Thick clumps of weeds grew at the foot of the castle walls. In this quiet spot, a duck had built a nest and was sitting on her eggs. She sat for a long time hoping that something would happen. Eventually, the eggs hatched, one by one.
''Tweet, tweet!'' the tiny little duck lings cried as they broke out of their shells, their eyes wide with astonishment. The world was so big! The duck carefully counted her duck lings, but the biggest egg remained unbroken. An elderly duck who was passing advised her to abandon this last egg, which might be a turkey egg. But the duck, who had waited for such a long time, decided to sit on it just a little longer. Finally, the shell cracked and a large, gray, ugly ball of fluff emerged, looking nothing like the other duck lings. Never mind! Thought the mother duck, as she watched over her duck lings. The next day, the mother duck leaped into the waters of the moat.The duck lings dived in one after the other behind her and bobbed along on the water. Even the big, ugly, gray duck ling joined in. So it can't be a turkey chick after all, it swims too well for that! It really must belong to me, she thought. ''Come along. Stay right behind me all of you, and beware of the cat!'' said the mother duck to her duck lings. ''Hurry along now and don't forget to bend your necks and bow to Old Lady Duck!'' quacked the mother duck. All the ducklings obeyed, dipping their bills down low.
The other ducks made fun of the big ugly duck ling. One duck even leaped on him and bit his neck. ''Leave him alone! He isn't doing any harm! He may not be very handsome but he swims very well, and with time his looks may change!'' said the mother duck sadly. The poor ugly duck ling became a laughingstock. The drakes, roosters, and hens bit and pecked at him the turkey fluffed out all his feathers and charged at him. The ugly duck ling did not know what to do with himself, and he became more and more sad.
Even his brothers and sisters made fun of him. ''I hope the cat gets you, you ugly thing!'' they quacked. Even his mother said to him, ''If only you would go away! You don't really belong with us,'' So one evening, the duck ling decided to leave and hopped away over the hedge. Sad and exhausted, the ugly duck ling spent the night on the marshes. Even the wild ducks who lived there made fun of him. ''Fly away home!'' they quacked at him, ''you don't belong here.'' So he hid out of sight for three days. Then, two geese who were passing by said to him, ''Listen, friend, it doesn't matter to us how you look. Why don't you fly away with us?''But the duck ling's wings had not grown enough and he couldn't fly. So the two geese flew away to join their other friends, and the little duck ling was on his own again. The fall leaves swirled in the icy wind and the poor ugly duck ling shivered in the cold. As the sun began to set, a flight of large birds with long, waving necks appeared over the treetops. They were swans who were flying away for the winter. The duck ling had never seen such beautiful white birds. They opened their powerful wings and flew higher and higher. Full of excitement, the ugly duck ling stretched his neck to the sky to admire the beautiful sight. He let out a cry, which was so strange and piercing, he was frightened of it himself. He did not know the name of these marvelous birds, but he longed to be like them.The winter was terribly cold and the hollow in it which the duck ling slept soon filled with snow. It was more and more difficult to find anything to eat beneath the thick ice on the lake. The poor, lonely duck ling soon became very weak. One morning, a man saw him, lying on the ice. He picked him up and took him home to his wife, who put him in front of the warm stove. The children wanted to play with the duck ling, but he was frightened of them. So when the door was open, he flapped his little wings and ran out into the cold again.One day, the sun began to warm the marshes. It was spring again. The duck ling flapped his wings and to his great surprise, he could fly. He glided on his strong wings, into a beautiful garden.Three white swans glided gracefully on the surface of a pond. If I fly over to them, he thought, they might hiss at me because I am so ugly! But as he flew over, he could see his reflection in the surface of the water. He saw that he was no longer an ugly gray duck ling, he had turned into a beautiful swan! So he landed gracefully on the pond and joined the other, beautiful, white swans.