The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen is one of those stories that is cliched and worn. The end of the story, when the duckling becomes a beautiful swan, should not surprise anyone. But before condemning "The Ugly Duckling", we have to consider why it is cliched and worn. All cliches have a source, and in this case it is..."The Ugly Duckling".
Almost everyone knows the story of "The Ugly Duckling" (if you don't, read it here). It begins with a duck's eggs hatching, and all of the ducklings being perfectly adorable little darlings except the last one, who is incredibly ugly. The ugly duckling lives a miserable life on the farm, hated by all of the other animals because of its appearance. One day, geese come and invite the duckling to go with them. Before the duckling can do anything, a hunting party come and the duckling runs until he comes to a peasant's hut. There an old woman looks after it for a while, in the hope of eggs, but when no eggs come, the duckling can no longer take the abuse of the cat and hen and neglect of the old woman and swims away. Autumn comes, then winter, and life gets harder and harder for the ugly duckling, until one day he flys to the farm where he was born, expecting and welcoming death. But instead, young children flock to see him, and the other birds bow before him. He then cries out “I never dreamed of so much happiness when I was the Ugly Duckling!” and the story is over.
Unlike many of Hans Christian Andersen's stories, this has a happy ending. The ugly duckling endures a year of hardship to become the most beautiful and respected bird in the farm, and we assume he "lives happily ever after". Perhaps the reason is Andersen could probably relate to this story. He himself was an ugly duckling, and never felt happy with the literature he produced. So maybe he wanted this character, his character as it were, to end of living happily ever after. Or maybe Andersen had the story end this way not because he wanted the duckling to be happy, but because he wanted to show the duckling was in fact a swan. Being an ugly duckling does not guarantee one will every be free of ugliness. But even if the swan never becomes visible, it is still there. It could be Andersen just wanted to say this.