"The Ugly Duckling"
Twelve Dancing Princesses
Hans Christian Andersen
In 1843 Hans Christian Andersen published a literary tale he titled “The Ugly Duckling.” Already an accomplished storyteller, Andersen used his own life as a template; the story of the duckling who eventually becomes a swan mirrors Andersen’s own rise from working class plebe to celebrated author and poet, and while the journey of the duckling also resembles the blossoming of Perrault’s Cinderella, the bildungsroman tale that Andersen created is completely his own.
Folklore is the product of generations of storytellers, the original author’s names forgotten long ago. They were created to explain the life around the storyteller and his listeners, and were told in a simple manner, uninterested in academic observation or scientific fact. Instead, they relied on humour, violence, allegory, and action and adventure to forward the plot, or to explain a phenomenon. There are many literary comparisons to be made between Andersen's fairy tale and traditional folklore. While The Ugly Duckling resembles a folktale in its use of anthropomorphism to illustrate the theme, in the protagonist’s similarity to other well-known archetypes, and in its attempt to convey a serious and morally valuable message, the tale is an Andersen original, and there are other differences, such as the lack of a true villain or hero, as well as a lack of any helper characters.
The story follows the growth of a small duckling from disappointing and cruel childhood to graceful and revered swan. As a beast tale, it is also a moral tale, and the central themes of The Ugly Duckling are acceptance (both self-acceptance and the acceptance of others), the concept of beauty, and patience for the future and better things to come.
The setting opens in a realistic secondary world-an idyllic country farm-where the first words are an exclamation of "My, how big the world is!" (p.231) from a just-hatched duckling. Unlike...
Cited: Andersen, Hans Christian. "The Ugly Duckling." David, Alfred. The Twelve Dancing Princesses. n.d. 230.
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