Duck! An ugly little story with a dubious moral..

‘There once was an ugly duckling, his feathers all stubby and brown.’ Sing along now. It’s one of the many records I played on my red dansette when confined to bed as a child.  A story of hope, of growth, of optimism. Back the truck up. Not so. Let’s just look at this story a wee bit closer shall we? I was that duckling. We all have been. Some of us still are. We are all of us ducklings but some of us are looking at the swans as the Duck Pretenders might have sung.

So here’s the real story. Once upon a time there was a duckling. Looked a lot like you and me. Like us, he was an ugly social misfit (with a penchant for creative writing). Spurned by all and sundry he went and hid himself away because the swans were constantly  criticising  his looks and his writing.  Many is the winter he spent alone, working hard to  revise, re-edit and generally make his work acceptable to the swans.

Spring came (it’s not this year then) and he came out to the cries ‘You’re a swan.’ He couldn’t believe it. ‘ Me a swan, no…’ Then he looked in the mirror and saw himself and said ‘I am a swan… wheeeee…’ and we go into a lovefest of the ugly duckling becoming a best selling author (sorry, a swan, I need to keep my subtext under control in fairy stories, I know).

What can be wrong with this story? It’s fiction after all. A fairy story. Does it need to be examined thus? Of course not, but if you do, you’ll see a couple of things which are a bit unsettling. #1 (since we’re all American in the use of the # now!) Most often when you come out of hiding and present your cherished life’s work again the swans are just as likely to pan it. Or more swans come to pan it. However good it is. Whatever you do there’s  a never ending parade of swans to tell the ducklings that they just don’t fit the bill one way or another.  You have to become a swan to be accepted by the swans.  Which brings me to #2. Logical impossibility. No duckling ever grew up to be a swan. Signets become swans. Ducklings become ducks.  If you’re born a duck (and ugly is surely just a subjective opinion) be happy to be a duck. Don’t be unhappy that you’re not a swan. Don’t think you should be a swan or that swans are where it’s at man. Just quack to your heart’s content.  You have the right to have your voice heard. Write for the ducks – there’s a lot of us out there. Don’t waste your time trying to please swans.

 My own moral from this story is: when they say your face doesn’t fit the appropriate response is – it fits me thanks – and splash water in their faces as you tell them to take a flying duck! 


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