Dotty, the New “Ugly Duckling”

Fairy Tale Analysis

     The author of the Ugly Duckling, Hans Christian Andersen’s life before his success was a series of failures. He had to give up to be an actor “with the onset of puberty”, so later he entered in a Latin school to be a writer, but his school life was also filled with “a hellish experience” and “a dismayed defeatism and a severe lack of self-confidence” (Søerensen). Andersen’s earlier childhood seemed not very bright either. In the article, The Underduckling: Hans Christian Andersen, Andersen was “what would now be called a freak. He was tall and thin and clumsy; he seldom played with other children” (Lurie). Thus, it can be said that Andersen reflected his childhood memories in his work, and what the Ugly Duckling experiences in the story–all the inadequacy, rejection, loneliness and bullying from the other ducks–could be parts of his old story. In the same way, Lurie also points that the Ugly Duckling is “an allegory of Hans Christian Andersen’s own life–the unattractive, awkward, lowborn hero becomes a swan without any effort on his part” although actually “he [Andersen] transformed himself into a swan only partially, and by long and exhausting effort” (Lurie). The contemporary fairy tale, Fly! Little Penguin Dotty, was written in order to update this point, which emphasizes the importance of individual effort to develop abilities and appearances.

       To introduce the piece, Fly! Little Penguin Dotty is a didactic story that helps children learn the positive attitude about their personal growth in our competitive society today. This story shares the same stake and moral from the Ugly Duckling by Andersen, but new characters and environmental setting were used in order to deliver its main message more clearly. For example, in the Ugly Duckling the ugly duck simply realizes the fact that he is originally a swan, but in this fairy tail Dotty trains himself and gains flying ability in addition to the nicer feathers, and these points differentiate himself from the other penguins. This part effectively updates the Ugly Duckling by showing the process of Dotty’s success, which overcomes his disadvantages through effort and even changes how his penguin friends think about him.

       Nevertheless, Fly! Little Penguin Dotty still fits on the history of the classical fairy tale in terms of metamorphosis. According to Marina Warner, metamorphosis an important method that spins the flow of stories by providing dramatic changes on the characters:

fairy tales usually restore the victims of metamorphosis to their original form. Or they transfigure to be them to be far more beautiful than before. The restoration leads to recognition: when the beast guise falls away, the true prince appears. In every case, the outer form has hidden the inner man…Heroines also suffer degrading disguise when they conceal their true identity under ashes and dirt, or shroud themselves in a wooden cloak, a coat of rushes, or the hide of a donkey or a bear. (36-38)

What happens to Dotty in Fly! Little Penguin Dotty is also similar. Dotty’s great development throughout the story is very distinguishable like what the heroines show in the fairy tales that Warner mentioned above. Being misundertood as a duck is like Dotty’s situation at the first half of the story, so Dotty is not able to show his hidden abilities yet. Coming back to the actual position–from an ugly duck to a gorgeous swan–is like Dotty’s becoming the best swimmer and an only flying penguin in his kindergarten. Therefore, Fly! Little Penguin Dotty clearly adapts metamorphosis in order to reveal the characters’ hidden fact and turn around the plot.

       In addition, Fly! Little Penguin Dotty is recognizably a fairy tale because it includes various educational elements, such as colour concept and how to play safely in the water, which are helpful for four to seven years old children; however, the morals that this story deliver are not only for children but also adults: improve yourself through your effort, do not limit yourself as the others see you, and find out your identity based on what you do instead of your born-in conditions. According to Pamela Orosan-Weine, the Ugly Duckling is one of children stories that “deal with universal dilemmas of human life and have been told to youngsters for ages to warn them of the struggles they face within themselves, and to guide them in mastering the fundamental predicaments in life, including their internal conflicts and external struggles” (18). When Andersen’s first fairy tale book was published, he had also said that his book was “intended to publish were not only written for children, but were written the way H. C. Andersen would have told them to a child” and “Andersen’s fairytales address adults as well as children” (Hansen 163). Likewise, although Fly! Little Penguin Dotty used vocabulary and language for four to seven years old children’s level, its morals are suitable for all age groups.

       In short, Fly! Little Penguin Dotty, enhances the core message of the Ugly Duckling, written on the basis of Andersen’s difficult childhood that he had gotten over. The main character Dotty passes through the process of metamorphosis, and this setting has a significant role throughout the story as many classic fairy tales show. Fly! Little Penguin Dotty helps four to seven years old children readers learn how to describe colours and provides safety guidance for swimming, while the morals of the plot deliver several self-care messages for teens to even adults, which are about self-confidence through personal growth and independent training.

Works Cited

Andersen, Hans Christian. “The Ugly Duckling.” Folk & Fairy Tales. Ed. Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek. Peterborough: Broadview, 2009. 161-68. Print.
Hansen, Susanne Mørup. “Hans Christian Andersen – Told for Children.” Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 13.3 (2005): 163-77. Taylor & Francis Group. Web. 7 Apr. 2018.
Lurie, Alison. “The Underduckling: Hans Christian Andersen.” Boys and Girls Forever: Children’s Classics from Cinderella to Harry Potter. New York: Penguin, 2003. 1-11. Rpt. in Children’s Literature Review. Ed. Tom Burns. Vol. 113. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resource Center. Web. 7 Apr. 2018.
Orosan-Weine, Pamela. “The Swan: The Fantasy of Transformation versus the Reality of Growth.” Configurations 15.1 (2007): 17-32. Project MUSE. Web. 7 Apr. 2018.
Søerensen, Peer E. “Hans Christian Andersen.” Short Story Criticism. Ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 249. Detroit: Gale, 2018. Literature Resource Center. Web. 7 Apr. 2018.
Warner, Marina. “With a Touch of Her Wand.” Once upon a Time. New York: Oxford Univ, 2016. 19-43. Print.