One of my favorite fairy tales is Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling.
The mother duck is hatching her last egg, one which is different from all the others that already hatched into lovely little duckettes. There’s wild speculation about what type of egg it is, because it’s big and not at all like her other eggs. Is it a turkey? The mother decides she will sit on her egg a little longer until it hatches despite it not being a duck.
At last the large egg broke, and a young one crept forth crying, “Peep, peep.” It was very large and ugly. The duck stared at it and exclaimed, “It is very large and not at all like the others. I wonder if it really is a turkey. We shall soon find it out, however when we go to the water. It must go in, if I have to push it myself.”
Poor duckling, so unlike his siblings. An outcast, black sheep and worst of all, different. During my childhood, I remember thinking that I never quite fit in. It was an internal thing with me. I had friends and fun in school, but a part of me never completely fit the social mode. I call it The Me, Not Me syndrome.
Because the duckling doesn’t look like everyone else, the other ducks bite him and tease him. One duck wants him to leave. I love how the mother sticks up for her odd little son, seeing the good in him and downplaying his ugliness. Character over beauty.
“Let him alone,” said the mother; “he is not doing any harm.”
“Yes, but he is so big and ugly,” said the spiteful duck “and therefore he must be turned out.”
“That is impossible, your grace,” replied the mother; “he is not pretty; but he has a very good disposition, and swims as well or even better than the others. I think he will grow up pretty, and perhaps be smaller; he has remained too long in the egg, and therefore his figure is not properly formed;” and then she stroked his neck and smoothed the feathers, saying, “It is a drake, and therefore not of so much consequence. I think he will grow up strong, and able to take care of himself.”e others are very pretty children,” said the old duck, with the rag on her leg, “all but that one; I wish his mother could improve him a little.”
The duckling finds himself alone in the big world. Being ugly isn’t all bad because it saves him from being hunted. He discovers his love for water and wants to find his own path.
“You don’t understand me,” said the duckling.
“We don’t understand you? Who can understand you, I wonder? Do you consider yourself more clever than the cat, or the old woman? I will say nothing of myself. Don’t imagine such nonsense, child, and thank your good fortune that you have been received here. Are you not in a warm room, and in society from which you may learn something. But you are a chatterer, and your company is not very agreeable. Believe me, I speak only for your own good. I may tell you unpleasant truths, but that is a proof of my friendship. I advise you, therefore, to lay eggs, and learn to purr as quickly as possible.”
Instead of taking the advice of others, he goes out in the world again, searching for where he belongs. It’s this journey of self-discovery that transforms him into his true self – a beautiful swan. Others now appreciate his beauty, yet, all those times he was jeered at, teased and told that he was ugly has scarred him. At first he’s ashamed for being happy that he’s beautiful. When this moment passes, he allows his happiness and joy to shine through.
Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”
I love ‘ugly duckling’ stories – a person’s journey in finding their true self. In romance, often times our hero(ines) are beautiful, handsome, powerful, seemingly perfect. The characters that stand out are the one’s that are flawed. Everyone has some ‘ugly duckling’ in them and if brought out in a story, it makes the character real, complex and fascinating to watch their discovery of what’s truly important.
Viki Lyn: Award winning author of male/male paranormal and contemporary romances. You can find all of Viki’s books at the following sites: Amazon, All Romance Ebooks and GLBT Bookshelf.
Pride will be the death of him.
When psychic Nate Coleman dreams of a murder, he knows it’s a premonition. He can’t forget the image of his ex-lover with a bullet hole through his chest. Nate has no choice but to confront William and face the skeptical scientist’s ridicule.
Dr. William Ryner doesn’t believe in what he can’t prove. When Nate comes back into his life, it’s not to rekindle their love, but to bring up more of that mumbo jumbo that split them apart.
Despite William’s refusal to listen, Nate can’t ignore the premonition. And, William can’t ignore Nate. Before the gunman strikes, William must either trust in Nate’s ability or rely only on the facts, but if he does the latter, pride could be the death of him.
I ADORE fairytales. We had a giant book of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm when I was a kid. (Actually, I still have it.) I loved the familiar ones, because I could see what really happened in the stories without the Disney candy coating. (Spoiler alert Denise, The Little Mermaid dies at the end. Sorry!)
But my real favorites were the ones that I only found in those books. The girl with 7 brothers who were turned into swans. The dogs with eyes as big as teacups and towers. And then, my favorite, The Nightingale.
The story is simple. A Chinese emperor heard from a kitchen maid that a tiny brown bird had the most beautiful song in all the kingdom. He ordered the bird into his court, and the nightingale sang for him and all his friends. But then someone brought a mechanical bird, covered with gold and jewels, who could sing just as beautifully as the nightingale. The emperor forgot the real bird in lieu of the wind-up one, and the real bird left for its home in the forest.
Several years later, the wind-up bird had grown so fragile that it was hardly used at all, and then it broke completely. The emperor grew very ill, and Death perched on the end of his bed. The emperor begs for music to keep Death away, in a line I still say to myself every time I turn on the tunes:
“Music! Music! The great Chinese drum!”
The nightingale hears of the emperor’s condition, and leaves the forest and sings at his bedside. Death is so moved by her song that he agrees to leave the emperor. The emperor apologizes to the bird for the way he treated her, and she agrees to come back and sing for him as long as she can come and go as she pleases.
Sigh. I love this story. It reminds us that as cool as technology is, nature is even cooler. Yeah, I’m a fruity hippie. 😉
Have you heard of this one? Do you have a favorite that isn’t so well-known? Tell me! I love new fairytales. 🙂
On to today’s topic: Favorite Fairytales. This means it’s confession time. I’m a complete and total “Little Mermaid” junky. It’s true. (sigh) I stalked kids at the theater so people wouldn’t realize I was there to see it by myself. I bought an extra DVD when it was available so that I’d have an emergency copy in case of “mishap.” And, uh, Iknowallthewordstothesongs. There are several things about the Little Mermaid that make it a favorite story of mine, despite the fact I didn’t know the story until later in life.
First, I can totally relate to Ariel’s overwhelming desire to live somewhere else. I have a perpetual, incurable case of wanderlust, so I’m forever eyeing the next stop of life’s journey and yearning for it. “I want to be where the people are” is a battle cry for me. I want to surround myself with the “new,” and tend to become obsessed with “thingamabobs” and “whatsits” of faraway, seemingly impossible places (*cough*Ireland*cough*). I can, and have, become so focused on what’s coming that I forget to celebrate what is. Fortunately, I’ve had good friends around me to keep me grounded.
This brings me to my second talking point. Ariel has friends who have her back. Always. And even though they’re a lobster, a fish and a trippy seagull, they have her best interests at heart. They hold the hard lines with her when they need to, even though they don’t always win. And they are always there to commiserate and celebrate. The one thing I would have changed would have been the fact that all her friends are male. I would have loved to see her given a female friend and for that friendship to be valued by the prince. Seems women are forever denied strong female friendships in fairytales while the “evil” sisters or step-mothers or witches are elevated and thrust forward so we’re sure to know who the bad “guy” is.
My final talking point is, not surprisingly, the prince. Prince Eric falls in love with Ariel without the benefit of words and, for someone who talks a LOT (me), this is impressive. The two find a way to overcome their differences and he loves her in spite of a perceived “disability.” This is HUGE. Even though she’s this undeniable beauty, she’s not perfect, and that made the whole story so much more appealing to me. He loves her, not the evil Ursula in disguise (again, a beautiful woman disguise — and why do all the evil women have dark hair???) who’s ironically sporting Ariel’s amazing voice. That Eric loved her when he could have had a woman who wasn’t mute made me mad-crazy in love with him.
What are your thoughts on the Little Mermaid? Do you have a different take on it that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you. One final thought: if you’ve never read the original fairytale? DON’T. Just…spare yourself. I read it as research for this blog and I’m clinging to my lyrics and HEA harder than ever. Sea foam? Three hundred years for a soul? Prince Charms-a-Little? EEK! Disney, I’m all about your version.