The Ugly Duckling
Hans Christian Andersen, beloved as an amiable storyteller, chose to express himself through metaphor in the safe haven of children’s literature. But as he wrote in a letter in 1834, “Every character is taken from life–every one of them–not one of them is invented. I know and have known them all.” Born the son of a dirt-poor cobbler and an illiterate washerwoman in the provincial Danish city of Odense, he was homely, sexually confused, vain, anxious and very much the outcast that he later drew in the character of the ugly duckling. Later, he wrote to a friend, “I suffer with my characters…” Indeed, Andersen was an artist able to transmute his suffering and his ecstasy into poignant messages that were moving and also managed to entertain.
The Ugly Duckling endures to this day both as a cautionary tale of intolerance and misunderstanding, and as a hopeful tale of redemption and rebirth. And the name Hans Christian Andersen will always be part of the fabric of our own childhood lore