The Ugly Duckling and Magic?

I’m sure that at some time Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Ugly Duckling” has been animated, but I’m not sure if it’s been Disney-fied (maybe it has, I just can’t remember it).  I read Andersen’s original story this weekend and was confronted with some questions about fairy tales in general.

I noticed no magic in this story.  Andersen beautifully describes the countryside and I am sure readers may think of nature itself as magical.  I wouldn’t disagree with them, but that’s not the magic of which I’m thinking.  Casting of spells, magic wands, and fairy godmothers are not included.  Animals talk; however, I consider this more literary device than magic.  Readers need to know what the animals are thinking and how they are acting.  Talking animals is as good of a way to find out as any.

I won’t go into details about the story because it’s familiar.  If by chance someone is not familiar with it, I highly recommend and encourage them to read it.  I have to ask myself the question, though:  what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale?  Does it have to include magic?  And if so, what kind of magic?  Are talking animals enough to consider a story a fairy tale?

One point in the story, perhaps minor, perhaps not, that could be considered magic is how the swan egg got into the duck’s nest in the first place.  Nowhere in the story is that discussed or revealed.  Could swan eggs be magic?  Or did the swan egg simply role down a hill and land in the duck’s nest?

The answers to these questions don’t really have any bearing on my enjoyment of the tale – which I enjoyed very much.  The questions just popped up as I read it.  Any fairy tale experts out there?


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