Table of Contents
The Ugly Duckling
The Marsh-King's Daughter
The Wicked Prince
Pen and Inkstand
Little Claus and Big Claus
The Girl Who Trod upon Bread
The Emperor's new Clothes
The Little Sea-maid
The Farm-yard Cock and the Weather-cock
The Elfin Mound
Soup made of a Sausage-stick
The Wild Swans
The Galoshes of Fortune
Twelve by the Mail
The Garden of Paradise
The Constant Tin Soldier
The Stone of the Wise Men
The Snow Man
The Silver Shilling
The Naughty Boy
The Nis and the Dame
The Neighboring Families
The Happy Family
The Old House
In the Duck-yard
In the Nursery
The Red Shoes
The Snail and the Rose-tree
Little Ida's Flowers
The False Collar
The Flying Trunk
THE UGLY DUCKLING
T was so glorious out in the country; it was summer;
the corn-fields were yellow, the oats were green, the
hay had been put up in stacks in the green meadows, and
the stork went about on his long red legs, and
chattered Egyptian, for this was the language he had
learned from his good mother. All around the fields
and meadows were great forests, and in the midst of
these forests lay deep lakes. Yes, it was right
glorious out in the country. In the midst of the
sunshine there lay an old farm, with deep canals about
it, and from the wall down to the water grew great
burdocks, so high that little children could stand
upright under the loftiest of them. It was just as
wild there as in the deepest wood, and here sat a Duck
upon her nest; she had to hatch her ducklings; but she
was almost tired out before the little ones came; and
then she so seldom had visitors. The other ducks like
better to swim about in the canals than to run up to
sit down under a burdock, and cackle with her.
At last one egg-shell after another burst open. "Piep!
Piep!" it cried, and in all the eggs there were little
creatures that stuck out their heads.
 "Quack! quack!" they said; and they all came quacking
out as fast as they could, looking all round them under
the green leaves; and the mother let them look as much
as they chose, for green is good for the eye.
"How wide the world is!" said all the young ones, for
they certainly had much more room now than when they
were in the eggs.
"D'ye think this is all the world?" said the mother.
"That stretches far across the other side of the
garden, quite into the parson's field; but I have never
been there yet. I hope you are all together," and she
stood up. "No, I have not all. The largest egg still
lies there. How long is that to last? I am really
tired of it." And she sat down again.
"Well, how goes it?" asked an old Duck who had come to
pay her a visit.
"It lasts a long time with that one egg," said the Duck
who sat there. "It will not burst. Now, only look at
the others; are they not the prettiest little ducks one
could possibly see? They are all like their father:
the rogue, he never comes to see me."
"Let me see the egg which will not burst," said the old
visitor. "You may be sure it is a turkey's egg. I was
once cheated in that way, and had much anxiety and
trouble with the young ones, for they are afraid of the
water. Must I say it to you, I could not get them to
venture in. I quacked and I clacked, but it was no
use. Let me see the egg. Yes, that's a turkey's egg.
Let it lie there, and teach the other children to
"I think I will sit on it a little longer," said the
Duck. "I've sat so long now that I can sit a few days
"Just as you please," said the old Duck; and she went
"At last the great egg burst. "Piep! piep!" said the
little one, and crept forth: It was very large and
very ugly. The Duck looked at it.
"It's a very large duckling," said she; "none of the
others look like that: can it really be a turkey chick?
Well we shall soon find out. It must go into the
water, even if I have to thrust it in myself."
 The next day, it was bright, beautiful weather; the sun
shone on all the green trees. The Mother-Duck went
down the canal with all her family. Splash! she jumped
into the water. "Quack! quack!"
she said, and one
duckling after another plunged in. The water closed
over their heads, but they came up in an instant, and
swam capitally; their legs went of themselves, and they
were all in the water. The ugly gray Duckling swam
"No, it's not a turkey," she said; "look how well it
can use its legs, and how straight it holds itself. It
is my own child! On the whole it's quite pretty, if
one looks at it rightly. Quack! quack! come with me,
and I'll lead you out into the great world, and present
you in the duck-yard; but keep close to me, so that no
one may tread on you, and take care of the cats!"
And so they came into the duck-yard. There was a
terrible riot going on in there, for two families were
quarreling about an eel's head, and the cat got it
"See, that's how it goes in the world!" said the
Mother-Duck; and she whetted her beak, for she too
wanted the eel's head. "Only use your legs," she said.
"See that you can bustle about, and bow your heads
before the old Duck yonder. She's the grandest of all
here; she's of Spanish blood—that's why she's so
fat; and d'ye see? she has a red rag round her leg;
that's something particularly fine, and the greatest
distinction a duck can enjoy: it signifies that one
does not want to lose her, and that she's to be known
by the animals and by men too. Shake
yourselves—don't turn in your toes; a well
brought-up duck turns its toes quite out, just like
father and mother,—so! Now bend your necks and
And they did so: but the other ducks round about looked
at them, and said quite boldly,—
"Look there! now we're to have these hanging on, as if
there were not enough of us already!
And—fie!—how that Duckling yonder looks; we
won't stand that!" And one duck flew up at it, and bit
it in the neck.
"Let it alone," said the mother; "it does no harm to
"Yes, but it's too large and peculiar," said the Duck
who had bitten it; "and therefore it must be put down."
 "Those are pretty children that the mother has there,"
said the old Duck with the rag round her leg. "They're
all pretty but that one; that was rather unlucky. I
wish she could bear it over again."
"That cannot be done, my lady," replied the
Mother-Duck. "It is not pretty, but it has a really
good disposition, and swims as well as any other; yes,
I may even say it, swims better. I think it will grow
up pretty, and become smaller in time; it has lain too
long in the egg, and therefore is not properly shaped."
And then she pinched it in the neck, and smoothed its
feathers. "Moreover it is a drake," she said, "and
therefore it is not of so much consequence. I think he
will be very strong: he makes his way already."
"The other ducklings are graceful enough," said the old
Duck. "Make yourself at home; and if you find an eel's
head, you may bring it me."
And now they were at home. But the poor Duckling which
had crept last out of the egg, and looked so ugly, was
bitten and pushed and jeered, as much by the ducks as
by the chickens.
"It is too big!" they all said. And the turkey-cock,
who had been born with spurs, and therefore thought
himself an emperor, blew himself up like a ship in
full sail, and bore straight down upon it; then he
gobbled and grew quite red in the face. The poor
Duckling did not know where it should stand or walk; it
was quite melancholy because it looked ugly, and was
the butt of the whole duck-yard.
So it went on the first day; and afterwards it became
worse and worse. The poor Duckling was hunted about by
every one; even its brothers and sisters were quite
angry with it, and said, "If the cat would only catch
you, you ugly creature!" And the mother said, "If you
were only far away!" And the ducks bit it, and the
chickens beat it, and the girl who had to feed the
poultry kicked at it with her foot.
Then it ran and flew over the fence, and the little
birds in the bushes flew up in fear.
"That is because I am so ugly!" thought the Duckling;
and it shut its eyes, but flew further on; and so it
came out into the great moor, where the wild ducks
lived. Here it lay the whole night long; and it was
weary and downcast.
 Towards morning the wild ducks flew up, and looked at
their new companion.
"What sort of a one are you?" they asked; and the
Duckling turned in every direction, and bowed as well
as it could. "You are remarkably ugly!" said the Wild
Ducks. "But that is nothing to us, so long as you do
not marry into our family."
Poor thing! it certainly did not think of marrying, and
only hoped to obtain leave to lie among the reeds and
drink some of the swamp water.
Thus it lay two whole days; then came thither two wild
geese, or, properly speaking, two wild ganders. It was
not long since each had crept out of an egg, and that's
why they were so saucy.
"Listen, comrade," said one of them. "You're so ugly
that I like you. Will you go with us, and become a
bird of passage? Near here, in another moor, there are
a few sweet lovely geese, all unmarried, and all able
to say 'Rap?' You've a chance of making your fortune,
ugly as you are."
"Piff! paff!" resounded through the air; and the two
ganders fell down dead in the swamp, and the water
became blood red. "Piff! paff!" it sounded again, and
the whole flock of wild geese rose up from the reeds.
And then there was another report. A great hunt was
going on. The sportsmen were lying in wait all round
the moor, and some were even sitting up in the branches
of the trees, which spread far over the reeds. The
blue smoke rose up like clouds among the dark trees,
and was wafted far away across the water; and the
hunting dogs came—splash, splash!—into the
swamp, and the rushes and the reeds bent down on every
side. That was a fright for the poor Duckling! It
turned its head, and put it under its wing; but at that
moment a frightful great dog stood close by the
Duckling. His tongue hung far out of his mouth, and
his eyes gleamed horrible and ugly; he thrust out his
nose and close against the Duckling, showed his sharp
teeth, and—splash, splash!—on he went,
without seizing it.
"O, Heaven be thanked!" sighed the Duckling. "I am so
ugly, that even the dog does not like to bite me!"
And so it lay quite quiet, while the shots rattled
 reeds and gun after gun was fired. At last, late in
the day, all was still; but the poor Duckling did not
dare to rise up; it waited several hours before it
looked round, and then hastened away out of the moor as
fast as it could. It ran on over field and meadow;
there was such a storm raging that it was difficult to
get from one place to another.
Towards evening the Duck came to a little miserable
peasant's hut. This hut was so dilapidated that it did
not itself know on which side it should fall; and
that's why it remained standing. The storm whistled
round the Duckling in such a way that the poor
creature was obliged to sit down, to stand against it;
and the wind blew worse and worse. Then the Duckling
noticed that one of the hinges of the door had given
way, and the door hung so slanting that the Duckling
could slip through the crack into the room; and that is
what it did.
Here lived a woman, with her Cat and her Hen. And the
Cat, whom she called Sonnie, could arch his back and
purr, he could even give out sparks; but for that one
had to stroke his fur the wrong way. The Hen had quite
little short legs, and therefore she was called
Chickabiddy Shortshanks; she laid good eggs, and the
woman loved her as her own child.
In the morning the strange Duckling was at once
noticed, and the Cat began to purr and the Hen to cluck.
"What's this?" said the woman, and looked all round;
but she could not see well, and therefore she thought
the Duckling was a fat duck that had strayed. "This is
a rare prize!" she said. "Now I shall have duck's
eggs. I hope it is not a drake. We must try that."
And so the Duckling was admitted on trial for three
weeks; but no eggs came. And the Cat was master of the
house and the Hen was the lady, and always said "We and
the world!" for she thought they were half the world,
and by far the better half. The Duckling thought one
might have a different opinion, but the Hen would not
"Can you lay eggs?" she asked.
"Then you will hold your tongue!"
And the Cat said, "Can you curve your back, and purr,
and give out sparks?"
"Then you will please have no opinion of your own when
sensible folks are speaking."
And the Duckling sat in a corner and was melancholy;
then the fresh air and the sunshine streamed in; and it
was seized with such a strange longing to swim on the
water, that it could not help telling the Hen of it.
"What are you thinking of?" cried the Hen. "You have
nothing to do, that's why you have these fancies. Lay
eggs, or purr, and they will pass over."
"But it is so charming to swim on the water!" said the
Duckling, "so refreshing to let it close above one's
head, and to dive down to the bottom."
"Yes, that must be a mighty pleasure, truly," quoth the
Hen. "I fancy you must have gone crazy. Ask the Cat
about it,—he's the cleverest animal I
know,—ask him if he likes to swim on the water,
or to dive down: I won't speak about it myself. Ask
our mistress, the old woman; no one in the world is
cleverer than she. Do you think she has any desire to
swim, and to let the water close above her head?"
"You don't understand me," said the Duckling.
"We don't understand you? Then pray who is to
understand you? You surely don't pretend to be
cleverer than the Cat and the woman—I won't say
anything of myself. Don't be conceited, child, and
thank your Maker for all the kindness you have
received. Did you not get into a warm room, and have
you not fallen into company from which you may learn
something? But you are a chatterer, and it is not
pleasant to associate with you. You may believe me, I
speak for your good. I tell you disagreeable things,
and by that one may always know one's true friends!
Only take care that you learn to lay eggs, or to purr,
and give out sparks!"
"I think I will go out into the wide world," said the
"Yes, do go," replied the Hen.
And so the Duckling went away. It swam on the water,
and dived, but it was slighted by every creature
because of its ugliness.
Now came the autumn. The leaves in the forest turned
 yellow and brown; the wind caught them so that they
danced about, and up in the air it was very cold. The
clouds hung low, heavy with hail and snow-flakes, and
on the fence stood the raven, crying, "Croak! croak!"
for mere cold; yes, it was enough to make one feel cold
to think of this. The poor little Duckling certainly
had not a good time. One evening—the sun was
just setting in his beauty—there came a whole
flock of great, handsome birds out of the bushes; they
were dazzlingly white, with long, flexible necks; they
were swans. They uttered a very peculiar cry, spread
forth their glorious great wings, and flew away from
that cold region to warmer lands, to fair open lakes.
They mounted so high, so high! and the ugly Duckling
felt quite strangely as it watched them. It turned
round and round in the water like a wheel, stretched
out its neck towards them, and uttered such a strange,
loud cry as frightened itself. O! it could not forget
those beautiful, happy birds; and so soon as it could
see them no longer, it dived down to the very bottom,
and when it came up again, it was quite beside itself.
It knew not the name of those birds, and knew not
whither they were flying; but it loved them more than
it had ever loved any one. It was not at all envious
of them. How could it think of wishing to possess such
loveliness as they had? It would have been glad if
only the ducks would have endured its company—the
poor, ugly creature.
And the winter grew cold, very cold! The Duckling was
forced to swim about in the water, to prevent the
surface from freezing entirely; but every night the
hold in which it swam about became smaller and smaller.
It froze so hard that the icy covering crackled again;
and the Duckling was obliged to use its legs
continually to prevent the hole from freezing up. At
last it became exhausted, and lay quite still, and thus
froze fast into the ice.
Early in the morning a peasant came by, and when he saw
what had happened, he took his wooden shoe, broke the
ice-crust to pieces, and carried the Duckling home to
his wife. Then it came to itself again. The children
wanted to play with it; but the Duckling thought they
wanted to hurt it, and in its terror fluttered up into
the milk-pan, so that the milk
 spurted down into the room. The woman clasped her
hands at which the Duckling flew down into the
butter-tub, and then into the meal barrel and out
again. How it looked then! The woman screamed, and
struck at it with the fire-tongs; the children tumbled
over one another in their efforts to catch the
Duckling; and they laughed and they
screamed!—well it was that the door stood open,
and the poor creature was able to slip out between the
shrubs into the newly-fallen snow— there it lay
But it would be too melancholy if I were to tell all
the misery and care which the Duckling had to endure in
the hard winter. It lay out on the moor among the
reeds, when the sun began to shine again and the larks
to sing: it was a beautiful spring.
Then all at once the Duckling could flap its wings:
they beat the air more strongly than before, and bore
it strongly away; and before it well knew how all this
happened, it found itself in a great garden, where the
elder-trees smelt sweet, and bent their long green
branches down to the canal that wound through the
region. O, here it was so beautiful, such a gladness
of spring! and from the thicket came three glorious
white swans; they rustled their wings, and swam lightly
on the water. The Duckling knew the splendid
creatures, and felt oppressed by a peculiar sadness.
"I will fly away to them, to the royal birds! and they
will beat me, because I, that am so ugly, dare to come
near them. But it is all the same. Better to be
killed by them than to be pursued by ducks, and
beaten by fowls, and pushed about by the girl who takes
care of the poultry yard, and to suffer hunger in
winter!" And it flew out into the water, and swam
towards the beautiful swans: these looked at it, and
came sailing down upon it with outspread wings. "Kill
me!" said the poor creature, and bent its head down
upon the water, expecting nothing but death. But what
was this that it saw in the clear water? It beheld its
own image; and, lo! it was no longer a clumsy dark-gray
bird, ugly and hateful to look at, but a—swan!
It matters nothing if one is born in a duck-yard, if
one has only lain in a swan's eggs.
 It felt quite glad at all the need and misfortune it
had suffered, now it realized its happiness in all the
splendor that surrounded it. And the great swans swam
round it, and stroked it with their beaks.
Into the garden came little children, who threw bread
and corn into the water; and the youngest cried, "There
is a new one!" and the other children shouted joyously,
"Yes, a new one has arrived!" And they clapped their
hands and danced about, and ran to their father and
mother; and bread and cake were thrown into the water;
and they all said, "The new one is the most beautiful
of all! so young and handsome!" and the old swans bowed
their heads before him.
Then he felt quite ashamed, and hid his head under his
wings, for he did not know what to do; he was so happy,
and yet not at all proud. He thought how he had been
persecuted and despised; and now he heard them saying
that he was the most beautiful of all birds. Even the
elder-tree bent its branches straight down into the
water before him, and the sun shone warm and mild.
Then his wings rustled , he lifted his slender neck,
and cried rejoicingly from the depths of his
"I never dreamed of so much happiness when I was the
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