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Friday, September 02, 2011

The Ugly Duckling

We picked up this book at a shop recently - D saw it and asked for it and I usually don't say no to buying books :). D read through it a couple of times and then it's joined the piles of her other books to be read again when she suddenly remembers it. S on the other hand was fascinated by it, and made me read it again and again (and yet again :)), and everytime I read this book I was sent off on this trail of thought.

This was such a common book/story when we were growing up - I am sure nearly every child would have read it or heard it at one time or the other. And neither we nor our parents saw any major connotations to it. But as a parent of today, I saw hidden meanings in every page, kept wondering if it was appropriate, kept thinking about the impressions it creates -  First of all the title itself has the word "Ugly" which we would tell our children is a no-no to use in front of other people. In the copy I had, every time they referred to the duckling, they didn't forget to use the prefix too - The ugly duckling did this, the ugly duckling did that! The duckling is not liked by anyone as long as it is ugly. Once it transforms into a swan, it immediately finds happiness with others like itself. Isn't this giving the impression that only beautiful people get their due?

I have decided that I am over-thinking it and have consigned these thoughts to the back of my mind, but it was still so irritating to me. Why have we managed to make even one of the simplest and most relaxing aspects of parenting like reading a bedtime story into such a complicated exercise?


  1. I would have had the same reservations and apprehensions about reading such a story to my child. While, at this age, they may just as well be fascinated with the story and not read too much into it, I feel maybe somewhere it might make an unwanted impression of beauty. It may or may not but with many other visual exposure too that the T.V. brings viz-a-viz ads and the irritating concept of beauty, I think we are justified in having such apprehensions.
    Sadly, even the relatively relaxed aspects of parenting doesn't come without its share of side-effects nowadays :-( call it over-analyzing or over-parenting..but we are an anxious bunch of parents. More the information, more is the fear of going wrong and all the while we know that there is no such thing as perfect or right parenting, isn't it?
    a mini-post here..:-)

  2. I know. I catch myself thinking before doing anything related to N these days :( Be it toys, books or friends. Even something simple as playing in the play area is so stressful at times Coz I keep on trying to teach him what's right what's not. If I see him doing something wrong I feel I have to point it out then and there. I wonder how our parents did it, seemed so easy then - we turned out pretty ok, didn't we?

  3. I agree with uma (and u) in calling it over-analyzing...all of us do it. I totally get what u are saying abt the book and its implicit or explicit messages. Haven't read the book to the kids ever so never thought abt it. I had written a similar post abt how we view fairy tales these days here:
    Maybe you can discuss it with D next and ask her what she thinks about the book?

  4. Uma, Simran, Aparna
    - Thanks so much for chiming in with your thoughts, to give me company and keep me from thinking I'm going a bit crazy on this stuff sometimes :).

    Uma, mini-posts always welcome :).

    Simran, your last sentence is the one constantly in my mind to remind me that maybe we're over-thinking it most of the time.

    Aparna, sooo loved your blog entry, left a comment there too. Will surely talk to D about what her thoughts were - thanks for that suggestion.

  5. A lot of stories and nursery rhymes don't stand up to our modern, politically correct standards. I still read them to my kids though. I figure they didn't scar me so they'll survive them too :)

  6. Thanks for dropping in Rohini :).

    That's the reasoning I try to follow most of the time, but damn these niggling doubts at the back of my mind which don't settle down that easily .. sigh :(.

  7. enjoyed ths writeup aparna...

  8. My bedtime story last night was on why the ears are where they are & the eyes are where they are & not the otherway around. Good time! Love bed time stories!!

  9. Thanks Nisha and Ashok for dropping in!

  10. Hi!
    "The Ugly Duckling" is a story that everybody can relate to at some point in their life. Your views and apprehensions are totally justified.
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