The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen (Danish: Den grimme ælling) is a Danish literary fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875). It was first published on 11 November 1843 in New Fairy Tales. First Volume. First Collection, with three other tales by Andersen in Copenhagen, Denmark to great critical acclaim. The tale has been adapted to various media including opera, musical, and animated film. The tale is an original story by Andersen.
After a mother duck's eggs hatch, one of the ducklings is perceived by the other animals as an ugly little creature and suffers much verbal and physical abuse. He wanders from the barnyard and lives with wild ducks and geese until hunters slaughter the flocks. He finds a home with an old woman, but her cat and hen tease and taunt him mercilessly, and once again he sets off alone.
The duckling sees a flock of migrating wild swans. He is delighted and excited but cannot join them, for he is too young, ugly, and unable to fly. When winter arrives, a farmer finds and carries the freezing duckling home, but he is frightened by the farmer's noisy children and flees the house. The duckling spends a miserable winter alone outdoors, mostly hiding in a cave on the lake that partly freezes over.
The duckling, now having fully grown and matured, cannot endure a life of solitude and hardship anymore. He decides to throw himself at a flock of swans, feeling that it is better to be killed by such beautiful birds than to live a life of ugliness. He is shocked when the swans welcome and accept him, only to realize by looking at his reflection in the water that he had been not a duckling but a swan all this time. The flock takes to the air, and he spreads his wings to take flight with the rest of his new family.