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The Ugly Duckling, A Danish Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Anderson

As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

The Ugly Duckling, A Danish Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Anderson

The Ugly Duckling, A Danish Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Anderson

My Children’s Alphabet Book

If you have followed my Fairy Tale Alphabet book series, you know I created a children’s book using fairy tales for each letter of the alphabet. I tried to keep them global, and not concentrate on only the classic Grimm’s fairy tales. This one is a tale written by Hans Christian Anderson of Denmark. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The ugly duckling is a misunderstood universal myth. It's not about turning into a blonde Barbie doll or becoming what you dream of being; it's about self-revelation, becoming who you are.

— Baz Luhrmann

Photo References for The Ugly Duckling

Photo References for The Ugly Duckling

The Ugly Duckling, A Danish Fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen

A very happy mother duck hatched her eggs and admired her ducklings when she noticed one was different from all the others. It was a homely creature with brown feathers instead of beautiful golden ones like all his duckling sisters and brothers. She became ashamed of him and tried to hide him. All the other animals of the farm abuse and laugh at the ugly duckling, including the mother duck and all his duckling sisters and brothers.

Soon, he was not able to take any more abuse and he wandered away from the farmyard and lived with the wild ducks and geese at the edge of a wood. One day a hunter came and killed many of the wild ducks and scared away the others. Again the little ugly duckling was all alone.

The poor little duckling spent the cold, miserable winter alone, mostly hiding in a cave by a frozen lake. When spring came, a flock of swans descended on the lake. The ugly duckling had now fully grown but was so sad at his lonely life that he decided to throw himself at the flock of swans. It was better to be killed by such beautiful creatures than to live his life in ugliness and misery. But when he tried to threaten the swans, he was very surprised that the swans didn’t kill him but instead welcomed him. Only then did he see his reflection in the water and realize that he had grown to be one of them. He was no longer an ugly duckling. He was a beautiful swan.

Thumbnails for The Ugly Duckling

Thumbnails for The Ugly Duckling

Collage Illustrations

I used several photo references of swans and cygnets (baby swans). Unfortunately, this collage was one of the first I worked on before I began making videos of my work so you cannot see my progress on the collage. I do have a few photos of the progress instead. I hope you like this collage.

Value Sketch

Value Sketch

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.

— Hans Christian Andersen

Published with Lulu

This fairy tale has been shortened to fit into my book along with all the other letters of the alphabet. If you would like to read the full version, you can Google the title and find the story as The Ugly Duckling.

My book, The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World, was self-published last year with Lulu.com because Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing) refused to allow illustrations that spanned the central gutter of the page. They demanded at least a half-inch margin around the outside, which I could have done, and a half-inch margin through the center margin, which would destroy the look and cohesiveness of the double-page illustrations. I had to find a different publisher who would allow the illustrations the way I wanted them. KDP obviously does not understand illustrated children’s picture books. If you are interested in purchasing the book, go to the Lulu website and put my name or the name of the book in the search.

Color Composition for the illustration

Color Composition for the illustration

Did You Notice

In my collages, I use paper from magazines, old wall calendars, catalogs, and circulars. Often I will add things into a collage you can't see unless you are looking for it.

“I really feel that we're not giving children enough credit for distinguishing what's right and what's wrong. I, for one, devoured fairy tales as a little girl. I certainly didn't believe that kissing frogs would lead me to a prince, or that eating a mysterious apple would poison me, or that with the magical 'Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo' I would get a beautiful dress and a pumpkin carriage."

— J.K. Rowling

Photo of the progress of the collage

Photo of the progress of the collage

Final Thoughts

I love this story because it shows that we are not all that we seem. The outside covering doesn’t necessarily indicate what we really are inside. That always gives me hope that I may transform into something truly remarkable.

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. If you are interested you can purchase it on Lulu but not on Amazon. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 05, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

Many of them have wonderful lessons to learn, don't they? The new book can be found here if you are interested: bit.ly/3bAmimH. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 05, 2021:

Virginia Allain,

I'm glad you appreciate the time and effort the collage stage took. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 10, 2020:

You have so beautifully illustrated this classic fairy tale with your exceptional artwork. The tale is one that teaches a good lesson.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on April 27, 2020:

I'm glad you pointed out the collage stage as I might have missed it in my first reading. Such fun projects.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 22, 2020:

Marie Flint,

Yes, it would have been a very different story, wouldn't it? I don't know for sure what Anderson's childhood was like but as an adult, he was very much the ugly duckling. And who should he fall in love with but the most beautiful woman with the most outstanding singing voice at that time? She, of course, liked him but would never like him as he wanted. She rejected his advances. Sad really. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on April 22, 2020:

The story is also a message about bullying. If those who bully would only try to see beyond the outward appearance, life would be much more harmonious. And, for those who are being bullied, the message is to realize that you belong, and not judge yourself by just your external appearance.

As a child, I grew up in a very homogenous social structure--Germans, Fins, English, and some Polish, all European, fair-skinned types. When a brown child from Hawaii or Mexico (we had migrant workers in our rural area occasionally) showed up in class, I was enthralled and thought that child very special. I actually enjoyed having someone different! So, I don't know if Hans Christian Andersen truly realized children's feelings. Had he taken this perspective, the story would have been very, very different.

I loved the little cygnet. There is even a constellation in the sky dedicated to it.

Love the work, love the story.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 07, 2020:

Lora Hollings,

I hope this is true. I want it to be a keepsake for years to come. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Lora Hollings on April 07, 2020:

This has always been one of my favorite classic fairy tales. I think because the message is so powerful. You're doing a beautiful job on this book, Denise. I love the collage. Children will really enjoy your creative and lovely art that accompanies these great stories! And what a wonderful gift this book would make that could be passed down for generations.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 06, 2020:

Devika Primić,

Yes, timeless. That is what I hope my little book will be. A timeless treasure for children to cherish. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 06, 2020:

Mitara N,

Yes, there is hope. Thanks for commenting and liking my work.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 06, 2020:

MG Singh,

I'm so gratified that you liked this story and my illustrations. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 06, 2020:

William Kovacic,

I'm truly blessed to have some many excellent writers as fans of my work. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 06, 2020:

RoadMonkey,

Me too. I feel this one deeply. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 06, 2020:

Bill Holland,

Oh, I don't know. After reading your memoir, I would say you believed yourself an ugly duckling in a pond full of swans when the reverse was really true. Thanks for commenting and liking my art.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 06, 2020:

Liz Westwood,

Isn't it a charming tale? I know it was because he felt like an ugly duckling that Hans Christian Anderson wrote it. It is interesting how many of us have related to it over the years. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 06, 2020:

Denise your work is beautiful and unique? Such tales are endless and you make a great impression here. I believe that you have the most creative illustrations.

Mitara N from South Africa on April 06, 2020:

Gives us hope to transform into something truly remarkable.

Yet another beautiful and inspiring tale, you have great choice to your collection.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on April 05, 2020:

This is the story with which I have grown up. I love it and you have made it come alive in your own inimitable way with lovely illustrations. Thank you.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on April 05, 2020:

I still enjoy reading the old fairy tales. The video was great. I remember it. Thanks for your hard work here on HubPages and Lulu.

RoadMonkey on April 05, 2020:

I love the ugly duckling story and also the song.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 05, 2020:

My fairy tale days are gone, but my appreciation for fine art is growing daily, and your's is fine art.

Happy and Safe Sunday to you!

Liz Westwood from UK on April 05, 2020:

Lovely picture and a favourite tale. We used to have the song on tape when our kids were young. We played it so many times, I can still remember a lot of it.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 04, 2020:

Lorna Lamon,

Thank you. I appreciate you saying that. It's the audience I prefer to enchant than the professors who said my swans were so-so. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Lorna Lamon on April 04, 2020:

I love this timeless fair tale which never loses its charm for me. Nothing is ever as it seems and this story is testament to this. Your artwork is beautiful and the swans look so serene. Believe me Denise you are truly remarkable and it shows. Take care and stay safe.

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