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and mild. Then his wings rustled, he lifted his slender neck, and cried rejoicingly from the depths of his heart:
"I never dreamed of so much happiness when I was still that Ugly Duckling!"
THIS is one of the finest little stories that Hans Christian Andersen ever wrote, and no man ever wrote better stories for children. This is so good that we ought to be glad to read it more than once and see if we cannot find in it something new every time we read it.
In the first place, we are very much interested in the Ugly Duckling himself, his sorrowful childhood, his sufferings in winter, and the glorious end of everything; but unless we stop to think we do not realize how very much like one of ourselves the great Danish story-teller has made his Ugly Duckling, or how much like human beings are the characters in the story.
Does not the Ugly Duckling seem to feel as an awkward boy does when people talk about his big hands, his clumsy feet or his red hair?
Is it not just like a human mother to say, "Look how well he can use his legs, and how upright he holds his head. He is my own child. On the whole he is quite pretty if one looks at it rightly."
Perhaps you have seen people like Little Son or Chickabiddy-Shortlegs who were so very proud because they could do some one thing well that they made themselves disagreeable to everybody else. It is not manly to think that the thing one can do very well is the only thing that is worth doing. Everybody can do something well, and something that is very important, too. This is just what Little Son and Chickabiddy-Shortlegs did not understand.
Do you notice that the reason the Ugly Duckling was not proud when he found he was a white swan was that he had suffered so much when he was little? We cannot always see that our troubles make us better and really turn out in the end to be great blessings.
But then again, the birds and animals are not entirely human. They show their own natures very clearly.
The turkey cock swells up and struts around, just as such birds always do. The hunting dog will not touch the bird it is not trained to bring back to its master, and the cat arches her back and purrs just as cats always do when they are feeling good.
In every flock of fowls there is one leader, and every time new chickens or ducks come into the flock they are looked at and approved, or picked at and mistreated, just as are the old Duck's little brood.
Perhaps the best thing in the whole story is the conclusion that, after all, "it matters nothing if one is born in a duck yard if one can only be hatched from a swan's egg."
It seems a very good conclusion to make, for no matter where a person was born, or how poor he is, there is always a great deal of the swan in him if he only takes care to find it, and he can make himself strong, fine-looking and noble if he remembers that fact.
If you have time, and wish to study the story more, you can find the answers to the following questions written in the story, or you can think what the answers may he and talk to your parents or your older brothers and sisters about them:
1. How did the Duck find out that her ugly child was not a turkey?
2. What does the Mother-Duck mean when she says, "That is how it goes in the world"?
3. Why does the Mother-Duck think that because he is a drake the Ugly Duckling's looks are of no consequence?
4. Why did the dog's tongue hang out of his mouth?
5. What was the reason that the old woman's house did not fall down?
6. What advice did Little Son give the Ugly Duckling?
7. Are the birds prettier in the early summer than they are in the winter? Do they change their color? Is an old bird sometimes colored differently from a young one? Do you know the bobolink? Did you ever see him in winter when he is in the southern states, and in summer in the north when his wife is nesting?
8. Do you suppose the elder tree really bent its branches straight down into the water?
9. Do you think that the way to know one's true friends is by the disagreeable things they say?
BAUCIS AND PHILEMON
*P p^ONG, long ago, in a far-away land called Greece, lived people who were very different in some ways from those who live to-day. About some things they knew more than any people who have lived since their time. They made statues and built temples which were more beautiful than any made in later ages, but about some things they knew very little. They had no correct ideas as to how the earth was made, and they believed that there were many gods, who knew all about everything in the world, and who made things happen just as they pleased.
These gods, they believed, could make themselves look like anything they wanted to—so exactly like that not even the brightest eyes could tell the difference. And the old Greeks used to be very fond of telling their children stories about the times when the gods made themselves look like human beings and came to visit men and women. Then the people whom they visited did not guess that their guests were not men and women just like themselves, and sometimes this was very unpleasant; for if the gods did not like what people were doing and saying, they punished the offenders. One of the stories which the Greek children liked best you may read here.
One day the king of the gods, the wisest and strongest of them all, whose name was Jupiter, called one of his sons to him and said: