Book and Film, Emotions

The ugly duckling in modern times: why Hans Christian Anderson was the greatest storyteller

All accomplished people were once ugly ducklings, like Anderson.

As a child I didn’t know or think much about how I looked. When I was 9 years old and a formal passport size photograph was taken of mine and my whole family it was the first time I realized what I actually looked like. I looked dull and unattractive to myself, whereas my sister 4 years older than me had the most lovely looking face in her passport photo. I appeared darker and more ghostly in my own photo. I looked like a ghoul with dark eyes.

This is my personal story as the ugly duckling

My brothers had started telling me that I have large ears and a very large nose. They said my nose was so large that it looked like a fritter. They said that I had ears as huge as an elephant.

I only saw ugliness in the photographs of mine

They used to call me elephant. A female elephant.

Firstly perhaps I would have shrugged it off, but as days, weeks and months passed by, I started believing this more and more, and they would reiterate it more often. This continued for several years. The fact was that this was not a innocent Dumbo cartoon description of myself in which I would consider myself very cute and likable. This was an establishment of a fact that I had very big ears more than normal humans and I had a very ugly fat nose.

It Grew Colder and Colder (1999)
Illustration for The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen
Morrow Junior Books, New York,

As it happened the moment I turned 11 years old, another passport size photo was taken of me. In that photo I saw how ugly infact I was. I really did have a very large nose, and a dull looking face and very thin lips. It was a very ugly photo of mine. My this time, I did see for a fact that I was very ugly. By the age of twelve I started regularly pressing my nose and make it into a habit to try to “slim” it down, to try to pinch it into a smaller shape. I made this a regular habit of mine. Further family visits to relatives and they would comment how beautiful and charming my sister was and how I looked like her older sister because I had a dull skin and I never looked radiant. Further photographs taken at family events would make me feel embarrassed at how ugly I look.

It had been established as a fact, I was UGLY, I did indeed look like an elephant.

I Am Longing to Float on the Water Again (1999)
Illustration for The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen
Morrow Junior Books, New York

My sister had blossomed into the most beautiful 16 year old and was the most desired dream girl wherever she went. And then there was me somewhere in the background too. I started receiving strange advices of trying to improve my looks but as I tried more I just ended up looking worse. By this time I had completely accepted the fact that I was born ugly, I am ugly and I will stay ugly. This is how nature had made me, and the only ray of hope is that I improve my personality and work hard on that since there is no hope for me being accepted in society other than my intellectual skills.

 I had once asked my  mother,

Mom do you regret having such an ugly child such as me?

She had answered, “Absolutely not, you are so dear to me, and don’t listen to your brothers”. My sister had also told me that my features are so balanced for my face. She said you have such a large and round face and a prominent nose suits it so well, how inappropriate a tiny nose would look on that!

He Picked Up the Duckling (1999) This is the way I felt my mom accepting me as ugly.
Illustration for The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen
Morrow Junior Books, New York

I still felt ugly but I started changes in my behaviour, I became softer, kinder, more social, funnier and more intelligent. I cut my hair very short since it was not thick and voluminous like my sisters and very thin long hair looked so bad on me. Time passed until I became 16 years old. At the age of 16 in high school I met new friends who told me for the first time how pretty I was. I was shocked! I couldn’t believe them. They told me I should apply eyeliner as I had such pretty eyes. I had always thought that the black eyeliner with my black eye circles would make me look like an ugly panda. I was so surprised at being appreciated not only for my personality but also for my looks. It took me two years to see that I had infact somehow grown into a slightly different version of myself. I was not alone or singled out anymore!

How overjoyed I was to find friends in college who accepted the way I looked!

My mom’s boss met me recently and said to her “Gracious the younger daughter of yours has blossomed so beautifully,” he invited my mother and I for dinner and there his wife told me ” I was so exited to meet you since I was told how beautiful you have become now”, and in order to make it less offensive to me, “not that you weren’t pretty before, I mean you were pretty before too but even more pretty now”.

In  life I learnt you have to wait for your chance, you have to let yourself grow, be patient for what is meant for you. You have to never make the mistake of comparing yourself with others, not even your siblings, and not listen to what others think or say about you. No one defines you, no one has the right to do that. Only you define you!

Thus my story went exactly as Hans Christian Anderson had described it in the ugly duckling. It was after all his own story of how everyone in the town called him long legs and how ugly he had felt, the same way I had. Through my personal experience, I respect and revere Anderson as one of the best story tellers in the world with his stories as allegories with an essential moral lesson to apply in our everyday lives, relevant even today.

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