A duck broods a dozen eggs that was put under her. Eleven of the eggs looked like all duck eggs, but the twelfth was bigger and a different species. The duck was very proud of this egg; she showed to all the neighbors who came to see her and she said:
“See how big it is! I’m sure it will come out a beautiful duckling.“
After some time, the duck mother heard in the interior of the eleven regular eggs small beaks and chirps; then she saw coming out of eleven charming little ducks shells, dressed in yellow down. But the twelfth egg delayed to hatch. And, although this was worrying a little the mother, she said:
“The child will be even more beautiful.” And she began patiently to hatch.
But when finally the egg broke the poor mother was terrified. It was not at all a beautiful duckling, but an ugly animal, with too long neck, too big body and walking legs inside, no elegance. The eleven brothers and sisters mocked him, and the mother herself, when she was driving her children to the pool, was ashamed of it because everyone said in his path:
“Oh! So see this ugly duckling!“
Nobody wanted to play with him, and the poor little was unfortunate. He held her too long neck to the sky as if to say, “Ah! Why was I born?“or, sadly folding along its body, it remained to dream in a corner.
One day, when the others had scolded more than usual, he decided to leave his family. He walked long before him and came to a lake where swans were swimming.
“Ah!” said the ugly duckling, “these birds are beautiful! For sure they will scold me because I’m too ugly.“
And he was about to retire, when grandmother swan, who was resting on shore, called out:
“Hep! my child, where are you from and how is your name?“
“I am coming from barnyard, madam, and I’m duck. I went because my friends find me too ugly and do not want to play with me.“
“Poor little!” said the grandmother. “The fact is that you are not nice, but that is because you’re tired and sad. Wait till I examine you. You remind me a little one son I lost … Yes, there’s no doubt about it, you’re not at all a small duck, you are indeed a swan. It is the farmer who had to move one of our eggs amid the duck eggs; and that you have considered as your mother was only your incubator. Poor little orphan, come on my heart!”
Then the grandmother called all the other swans, and she told them the story of the ugly duckling.
“It is not so ugly as that,” said the swans.
And a gentleman swan, with a beautiful white bib and beautiful varnished feet, said:
“Let him stay with us, and in three months I will give him my daughter in marriage.“
(Translated and adapted from ABC – Petits Contes, by Jules Lemaître)