The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen, 1843
The magic trick:
Creating a character worthy of 100 percent sympathy
We begin a month of children’s lit on the website.
And it’s a classic, classic, classic today.
You know the story. Its plot has been imprinted on your brain since nursery school.
And for that, consider yourself lucky. It’s really good.
The key is grabbing your sympathies from the start. Shamelessly, really. It’s an ugly duckling. Are you kidding me? What could be more sympathetic. No one is nice to him. Nothing goes right for him. And he does nothing wrong. Ever.
There literally isn’t a more sympathetic character in fiction.
And that’s quite a trick on Andersen’s part.
“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.”
“The 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.”
“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.”
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