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Traditional Tales – The Ugly Duckling

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Date: 11/01/2018

Wow! What a Story. I can’t actually believe we’ve grown up with this story, as a person of mixed ethnicity I am astounded about just how many versions of this story, talk about the duckling being ugly with brown feathers, and how at the end it turns into a beautiful swan. “Beautiful and white, with a head so noble and high”, to be precise, yes those are the exact words in some retellings. “Beautiful and White” as if being white gives the Swan extra special bonus points. I can’t help but see the words “brown” and “white” jump out in front of me. Being someone who believes all children can grow up, continuing to see one another, as just another human being before them. Different because of their unique gifts of expression, but with more similarities than they can count, nevertheless all individually amazing. Well, this story or versions of this story has made my jaw drop, eyes well and whole demeanor crumple up…. whilst covering my eyes. ‘Cringe’ is what I think I’m looking for here.

What a way to inspire and uplift our young. Many of which are sitting in circle time with either themselves or their peers, having links to many other countries, ethnicities, and/or skin tones. It’s called being human and we are all a product of our big and beautiful World.

When asked recently to run an interactive storytelling workshop on The Ugly Duckling, for Early Years and Key Stage 1. I did my research, which consists of checking out different versions of a story, to create themed songs, drama games and cross-curricular activities. When I discovered what was there, my mission was on. If I am to tell this story, this traditional tale, you better bet your G wagon, I am going to tell it, in a way, that does not give our children, the future of our planet, a complex about whether or not they are beautiful, or be a catalyst for them to question whether or not their skin tone, is right or wrong.

The obvious approach is to make the “ugly” in the story, more about the actions that are taken to make another individual feel hurt. As for the physicality stuff, well, that will not be a focal point in DramEd’s retelling. My ducklings’ mother won’t disown her baby because of his appearance, just because it slightly differs from the rest of his siblings. I want children to trust their mothers. I want children to trust in the World. It’s safer than we like to make out. Yes, others can be unkind and yes there is beauty growing as an individual. But in my story, “colour” will not be mentioned. It doesn’t have to be, there is no need.

Published by Grace – Educational Entertainer at DramEd.