The Ugly Duckling Animated Cover

The Ugly Duckling Short Story & Audiobook

The ugly duckling feels like he does not belong. Will he ever find his place in the world?

Read myself

The Ugly Duckling

Once upon a time a Mama Duck sat on her nest.  

“These eggs are taking a long time to hatch,” she thought. But a Mama duck must keep her eggs warm until they do hatch.  

At last, the eggs began to crack. Pretty yellow ducklings came out of their shells. They shook their little wings and said, “Quack, quack!”

Mama Duck was very happy. They were all so cute. 

A brown and green mother duck is followed by 5 little yellow ducklings.

Mama Duck said, “Come on ducklings, off we go to the pond for your first swim.” Then she counted them; one, two, three, four, five. 

“Oh dear!” she thought, “I should have six ducklings!”

There was one big egg still in the nest. “Oh well,” thought Mama Duck, “I'd better sit on my nest again and wait.”

The next day, the big egg hatched and out came a baby boy duckling. He was much bigger than the others. He was dark grey and not yellow. And he had longer legs than the others.

One of the yellow ducklings pointed at him, “He doesn’t look like one of us!”

“Such an ugly duckling!” said another.  

“That is not a nice thing to say,” said Mama Duck, “he hatched from the same nest as you. Now, off to the pond for your very first swim.”

A tall white duckling towers over 5 little yellow ducklings.

The other ducklings quacked, “Ugly! Ugly! Ugly!”

The Ugly Duckling did not know why the other ducklings were being so horrible to him.  

Each yellow duckling jumped in the pond and swam behind Mama Duck. The Ugly Duckling jumped in and started to paddle, too. 

“He’s a good swimmer,” Mama Duck thought.

The Ugly Duckling tried to play with his brothers and sisters. But they yelled, “Go away, you're ugly and grey. And your legs are too long!”

One day, one of the yellow ducklings said to the Ugly Duckling, “We don’t like you and wish you would go away!”

Then they all quacked, “Go away, go away, go away!!”

The Ugly Duckling was sad. “Maybe I should just go,” he thought to himself. 

That night, the Ugly Duckling flew away to the other side of the pond. He met two grown-up ducks.

“Can I stay with you, please?” asked the Ugly Duckling.  

“All right”, said one of the ducks, “but just keep out of our way.”

“Woof! Woof!”  Suddenly a big hungry dog started chasing the two ducks. They flew up in the air, and some feathers fell down on the ground.  

The poor Ugly Duckling was frightened. The dog sniffed and sniffed at the Ugly Duckling then turned away.  

“I am so ugly that even a big hungry dog doesn’t want me,” thought the Ugly Duckling with a tear in his eye.  

The white duckling cries while sitting on a pond. A dog sits on the bank of the water.

Soon he found a new pond. He looked up and saw a flock of big white birds flying by. They were the most beautiful birds he had ever seen!   

He stayed at that pond all by himself for a long time.  

Then winter came and the cold wind and the dark clouds made the poor Ugly Duckling very sad and lonely.

He had to go into the cold pond to fish, but it was getting hard to swim. The lake turned to ice. One day he felt the water freezing around him and trapping him in the water.

The duckling sits on a frozen pond in the snow.

“Oh, I’m so tired!” he thought, paddling hard. The ice got thicker and thicker.

Suddenly two big hands picked him up. 

“You poor little thing!” said a farmer. He took the Ugly Duckling back to his warm farmhouse.  

For the rest of that winter, the kind farmer looked after the Ugly Duckling. 

The duckling sits on a pillow in front of a fire. The farmer sits in a chair.

Then spring came. 

“Time for you to go to the pond to swim again, that’s what you were born to do,” said the farmer. He took the young bird back to the pond where he had found him and set him down on the water.

“I feel so strong now!” said the young bird to himself, and flapped his wings.  

Just then a flock of those same beautiful birds he had seen before landed on the water.

“I know I’m ugly,” he said to them, “so I will go away.” A great big tear rolled down his cheek. 

But when he opened his eyes, he saw a reflection in the water. It looked just like one of those beautiful white birds. Why was it so close to him? He jumped back. And the reflection jumped back, too.

He stretched out his long neck and the reflection stretched its neck, too.

“We wish you would stay,” said one of the beautiful birds.  

“Yes, stay with us!” said another, “we can all be great friends.”

Three white swans wear party hats.

Then he knew just what had happened!  He wasn’t an ugly grey bird with funny long legs any more. He was a beautiful swan after all!

Suddenly, all the other swans flapped their wings and took off into the sky. 

“Come with us,” one called back. 

So he flapped his beautiful white, swanny wings as fast as they could go and joined his new friends.

The End


We’re used by millions. Backed by dragons. And now is your chance to invest (from just £10) as we enter the $275bn global licensing market.

Find out more

Can you read this story for free?

Yes! You can read this modern retelling for free. Our story retellings closely follow the original storylines and add modern twists in the illustrations.

Is there a version of this story read aloud?

You can choose to experience this story read aloud or you can read it yourself.

Is this a good bedtime story?

This is a great example of a bedtime story. It’s nostalgic for parents and has a happy ending for kids. That’s if they make it to the end of the story before falling asleep!

Why do we write bedtime stories for kids?

When we first decided to create a bedtime story for kids, we knew we wanted it to be fun, engaging and high quality.

We wanted Sooper Books to bring children's publishing into the 21st century. We strongly believe that nighttime stories for kids need to fit seamlessly into modern family lives which is why our free stories are all online.

It began when we started writing stories for our own family. Then our friends and wider families asked for copies and we started to share Sooper Books with other children.

At Sooper Books we write, curate and narrate stories for kids so they can enjoy the best quality content, enchanting stories and magical adventures. With our stories we work towards promoting a positive attitude to reading and instill a love of books in children from an early age.

About Sooper Books

Our 5-10 minute online kids bedtime stories, fairy tales, funny rhymes and fables all come with award-winning audio.

From short stories for kids to multiple story episodes in our original series collections, our content is sure to make your little ones’ eyes sparkle with delight.

At Sooper Books, children can explore the magical world of fairies and witches, brave knights, talking animals and more. Our stories for kids feature an array of characters such as lovable princesses, funny frogs, gentle giants and wise wizards.

So whether you're specifically looking for a fairy tale or a rhyme, or maybe you just need some short bedtime stories for kids. Take the stress out of bedtime by reading one of our kids stories today!