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The Ugly Duckling 

Click here to listenWhen I was a child, I often felt very lonely and unhappy. I felt I was somehow different from the other children. That was why they often teased me and wouldn't let me play with them. I didn't have a clue why I was different or in what way and neither did my parents.
My mother often tried to console me by telling me the story of the Ugly Duckling. You must have heard of that one, or have you?

Once upon a time a mother duck was breeding on her eggs. After a few weeks six of them hatched and out came six beautiful little ducklings. The seventh egg was slightly bigger than the other ones and it hatched a little later. Out of it came a very ugly duckling. It was too large and it was the wrong color. Mother duck was first afraid it may not even be a duckling; maybe it was a turkey? But when she saw this duckling could swim, just like her other children, she was reassured. This was probably just a phase and her child would grow over it. She lovingly accepted him as one of her own.

But the other ducklings were not so tolerant. And the other animals on the farm didn't accept him either. After several miserable weeks the poor duckling fled from the farm. He went to a nearby moor and asked all the animals if they had ever seen a bird like him, but nobody had. One day he saw a flock a very beautiful, white birds. These were swans of course, but the young duckling didn't know that. And somehow he felt towards them as he had never felt for any other bird in the world. He deeply wished he could be as graceful as they were, if only for one day! The beautiful birds flew away to the south, because the winter was beginning.

The winter was a very harsh time for this poor, lonesome bird. He almost ended up in a cooking-pot, he nearly froze to death and he felt more and more miserable.
Then, when the spring began he witnessed the return of those beautiful, white birds. He wanted to go near them, ugly as he was. He humbly approached them, bending his head down towards the water. But then he saw his own reflection! He saw he had grown into a beautiful, young swan! He was now just like the birds he had admired so much! He was lovingly accepted amongst the swans and people said he was the most beautiful of them all!
Of course the swan was very happy. But he never became vain or conceited. He always remembered how it felt to be despised and teased, and he was very sorry for all the creatures who are so treated merely because they are different from those around them.

It is a beautiful story with a happy ending, but it wasn't very consoling. I knew I was not a swan and I didn't see how I could ever live to see a happy ending like he did. Little did my mother and I know what was to happen to me many decades later in my life...

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