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duck amuck
Registered User
(6/2/06 3:46 am)
the ugly duckling
hi i've been writing a story for an animation i'm doing and was hoping i could get some help or ideas from some people who know about these things more than i.

you see the ugly duckling is brought up in a philosophical debate by one of the characters. i found a very helpful thread from a month or two ago which has been a great help (here) but i'd like to try and take it a bit further and get more peoples thoughts about it.

so heres some ideas that i've seen brought up, and a proposition my 4 year old gangster brings up. please be brutal.

1) kids are supposed to learn that their differences can also be great benefits, its about making children feel less ashamed of these differences. as a story it works well because this is the only level of meaning that children usually pick up on, even if there are more complex and less harmonious threads weaved in there.

2)its ok to be ugly if you grow up to be pretty,
he's only accepted when he becomes something more than a duck, a swan.

if he just became a handsome duck or was accepted by a different set of ducks i.e became an equal; then the story wouldn't work because there is nothing to change the tormentors view point and the change in situations is merely a difference in opinions. thus the situation is never really remedied. But because he becomes greater than the ducks, their attitude is changed and they are reveled as a lower class, displaying a level of elitism in the story (wikipedia talking there)

heres how my little 4 year old is going to debase the story.

the ugly duckling would never actually turn into a swan because the story is fundamentally flawed. Let me explain.
It is not enough for the protagonist of the story to go through great suffering, there must be a conscious effort by him or her to bring about change because otherwise he has not earned it, there has been no character development. The ugly duckling just spends his time running away from the problem and feeling sorry for himself; then he finds out heís a swan.
Nor is it enough that he is modest at the end, those ducks arenít going to care how morally sound he is when he gets such good luck, he has not earned it, and now heís better than them, theyíre obviously gonna do something violent to him to take said luck away.
Itís a dog eat dog world out there and youíve got to grab life by the balls is the characters frame of mind.

Iíve another premise Iíd like to work in but I wonít flood you with ideas. Any opinions on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
A duck amuck.


www.surlalunefairytales.com/boardarchives/2006/mar2006/uglyduckling.htmlhere

duck amuck
Registered User
(6/5/06 6:16 pm)
Re: the ugly duckling
think of it as Baby Face Finster's opinion on the old fairytale

KathieRose
Unregistered User
(6/7/06 8:15 pm)
re ugly duckling
Hmm, I used to use this story a lot in therapy as a tale about finding your own 'kin'--- the kin you belong to, not necessarily those who raised you. Why would he have to 'earn' his way to reunion with what he really belonged with in the first place?

But I'm not trying to rain on your parade here. Good luck with your version of it........

Kathie

searsmith
Registered User
(6/7/06 8:42 pm)
The Ugly Duckling
Traditional tales, and the narratives based on them, often include recoveries of lost origins. These weren't problematic in a time when nobility was believed to begin in the blood. Thus, although some of Dickens' heros often slog in the filth of society as orphans we come to learn that their inherent virtues are confirmed by their having secret middle-class origins (ex. Oliver Twist).

"The Ugly Duckling" may be read as such a tale. The comeuppance given to the lower ducks at story's end is typical of some traditional tale endings, which revel in the now proven higher status of the victim. Even though the reader or listener couldn't expect such a change of fortune, they might map it onto personal circumstances or virtues that enobled them above their peers (as was made explicit in some narrative adaptations).

I like the modern revisions of "The Ugly Duckling" that create a new moral to the story, of finding birds of a feather -- kin of kind / choice.

To adapt the story otherwise is to first uncover what other values you really want to teach and then to think what the ugliness might represent within that new value system. In our appearance-oriented culture, it can be difficult to think past its representing physical beauty. In the original tale, though, the ugliness represented much more than that, as I've discussed.

You could readily adapt the tale to be one about bigotry. The comeuppance at the end would shut the beaks of prejudice and so make the swan finish an appealing end (although you might try a black swan, just to tweak the racist angle a bit more, and make all the ducks white).

DividedSelf
Registered User
(6/8/06 11:29 am)
Re: The Ugly Duckling
Have to say I'm more with the questioner on this (can't call you by your user name, sorry!) I understand the points made about finding kin and there's probably a lot to be said for them... but it's also thin ice, surely...

First, saying people are divided into ducks and swans, rather than just a whole load of weird and wonderful PEOPLE, seems pretty damn dangerous to me - as might be suggested by the white ducks/black swans idea.

Second, the message of the story all too easily becomes a seductive fantasy - that you don't need to DO anything to fulfil your potential, you just have to wait for others to come to you... There's plenty of us out here who are simply bizarre looking ducks - or worse, bizarre looking swans - or worse, bizarre looking people... Hiding till your "kin" come by is just a recipe for wasted life.

And then there's the other side of the coin in which "we wonderful swans are much grander than you waddly ducks".

I really don't know what to make of Andersen. Is he a "psychological terrorist"?

Obviously anything's okay in a contained situation if it helps someone find a belonging... but not without risks, I'd think...

InkGypsy
Registered User
(6/8/06 12:25 pm)
Re: The Ugly Duckling
I've always thought of The Ugly Duckling being more about "what's on the inside that counts" - not specifically a race/blood/skin thing. Your 'true colors' will shine through in the end and that will help you find your place (I use 'help' rather than 'will find' because it's rarely an automatic acceptance). I've always thought of the story as a simple metaphor - showing in easy plain-to-see terms - what's really happening on the inside. I've never understood it, even as a kid, to be about class or race. I think the movie Hans Christian Andersen may have helped this view too -he sings a song about the Ugly Duckling to a kid who has no hair (cancer?) to encourage him and help his confidence - no indication of class or race differences - just about growing up. I find the story far more useful using this interpretation. if it gets into class and race then it seems to defeat it's own purpose to me. Just my two cents.

searsmith
Registered User
(6/8/06 12:50 pm)
What's on the inside
Yes, the ugly duckling could be about what's on the inside counting (which is why I suggested bigotry could be its theme, just as disability could be -- as you suggest). However, it's the duckling's final external beauty, his transformation into a swan, that's his reward. This is the problem a modern adaptation must get around if it doesn't want to reinforce the message that what's on the outside is really ultimately how other's judge us and what we value.

Personally, I'm skeptical of the ultimate impact of stories that try to teach modern American kids that it's only what's on the inside that counts. It's an ideal I wish were actual, and one I hope we'll continue to promote, but it's far from a pragmatic life lesson.

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