On the banks of the canal grew some tall dock leaves. Here a mother duck sat on her nest. She was waiting for her ducklings to hatch.
At last the eggs started to crack. One by one the little ducklings popped out of the eggs.
"Cheep ,cheep !" they cried as they saw the big outside world. Soon all the eggs had hatched except one. The biggest of all the eggs.
Mother duck sat on the egg a little longer and at last the egg started to crack. Out came the chick.
"Oh dear" she said, "You're so big and ugly."
The next day was warm and sunny so the duck took her ducklings down to the water.
One by one the ducklings followed her. Soon they were all swimming, even the big ugly one.
Then they went to the farmyard.
"Stay close to me and watch out for the cat," mother duck told her family.
They lived in the yard with the other animals, but the ugly duckling was very unhappy. The other ducks pecked at him and laughed at him. He wanted to run away as he was so unhappy, and one day he did.
He ran away until he came to the marshes where the wild ducks lived.
He stayed there for two days, feeling very tired and lonely. The wild ducks came and looked at him.
"You're very ugly !" they said and laughed at him.
Poor little ugly duckling! He ran away over the fields and meadows. The wind blew and the duckling was so cold and tired.
It was getting dark and he looked for somewhere to spend the night. Luckily, he found a little cottage. There was a gap in the door and he went inside for some warmth.
An old woman lived in the cottage. She had a cat which could purr and a hen which laid eggs.
The old woman said, "You can lay eggs for us so you can stay." So he stayed but he couldn't lay eggs.
The cat said to him, "Can you purr?"
"No" said the duckling.
"Well we have no use for you, you must go" they said. The ugly duckling went back to the marshes sadly.
Winter was coming and the ground was cold and hard. He had nowhere to go. One day some beautiful white swans flew overhead. "I wish I was like that, " said the duckling.
The winter grew colder. One night he was so tired that he fell asleep on the ice.
A farmer found him on the ice and he took him home. His children wanted to play with him, but he was frightened, and ran away from them. He flew into the milk and then landed in the flour tub.
The children laughed at him and tried to catch him.
He ran away again and hid among the reeds in the marsh all through the cold winter months.
The warmer months came and the duckling came out of hiding. He felt the sun on his back.
He spread his wings, they felt strong and he flew high into the sky.
He flew over the canal and saw some beautiful swans. He landed by the canal and saw himself in the water.
He couldn't believe what he saw. He was a beautiful swan now, not an ugly duckling any more. He was so happy.
The other swans called to him to fly with them...
And he did.