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Honk the Ugly Duckling

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    Hans Christian Anderson is distinguished by a high-reaching aspiration to break through the rigid class structure of 19th century Europe. Numerous of his tales addressed the struggle of the poor within the rigid social structure of the time. Being a plebian and a social pariah himself, Hans without a doubt identified with the unfortunate. From his desolate and ungraceful youth to his dreary adulthood, Hans remained an outsider.

    This emotion of solitude appears in some of his sadder tales such as The Ugly Duckling wherein a young swan tries to be accepted into a duck family. This tale reflects Hans’ childhood state of affairs as an adopted child in Jonas Collin’s household and his efforts to get along with the family. Talk about the family structure, and it is never shared in the story. Rather, the structure is distorted by the imagery of the ugly duckling that is outcaste and disliked by the others. Thus, depicting that the different and the unique are always viewed with doubt.

    But in the play Honk! which is the illustration of the Ugly Duckling, when 'Ugly' becomes the hero, rather that a thing of distrust. When he comes honking into the world, just after his four handsome yellow siblings, he is big and shambling and short sighted and he is wearing an untidy, gray school uniform with a badge on his blazer bearing the initials "UD". He is branded from the word go, and subjected to bullying. He is enticed away by protestations of friendship from a cat, and by the time his mother catches up with him he is prepared to emerge as a swan.

    This adaptation adds lots of ostentatious sinecure to the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about the duckling with the identity crisis. No sooner has the geek, bespectacled Ugly cast off his eggshell when he becomes the "yolk" of the duck yard, ignored by all but his devoted mother, Ida, who tells him to "hold your head up high." Lured away by the sinister Cat, who smells culinary possibility in the confused bird, Ugly soon becomes pointlessly lost. At the end, after a quagmire of musical adventures and appropriate encounters with crazy characters, Ugly discover the meaning of his mysterious exuviates.

    Despite awkward animal costumes, the play costume by Skip Epperson and Maria Crush have intelligently gone minimalist, relying on accessories and body language to suggest each creature's personality. Thus, giving way to Hans feeling as he infrequently avails the opportunity to illustrate feelings in the children’s book, regardless of the comprehension level. Thus, in the play Ugly wears a British schoolboy's uniform and cap. A swan family is radiant in wraparound sunglasses, elegant white coats and black tights, an extraordinary contrast to the barnyard ducks in their multicolored commoner garb and boots. While, adults may find Honk's message of forbearance and difference heavy-handed, but the show may seem too long to small children.

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    Hans writing of the fairy tales have, as far known a meaning of solitude. Defining them, fairy tales outline elements of experience related to personal concerns, such as emotional development, collateral with problems of self-identity, giving voice to common experiences shared by one and all. It is part of their omnipresent appeal. Yet, they can also be solely tuned to the perspectives of difference, as well.

    In that, the story of "The Ugly Duckling," as such, is perhaps a restorative metaphor, par excellence, charting a course through the difficulties faced by individuals from many different groups. The endeavors and drudgery of "The Ugly Duckling” may be chiefly well suited to serve as a mirror for the experiences of gay identity formation in men. Hans is the single-most productive writer of fairy tales, ever. His stories have fascinated young and old for over 160 years. Like "The Ugly Duckling" many of Anderson's fairy tales mirror the life experiences of gay men. Of course, for Anderson was a gay man himself. So there is no such of a question of the conventional family structure, but a new formed structure where there is acceptance of a change in the family and a transition from traditional to the neoteric.

    "Some little children came into the garden with corn and pieces of bread which they threw into the water, and the smallest one cried out, 'There is a new one! A new one has come! And he is the prettiest one of them all! And the old swans bent their heads and did homage before him. The lilacs bent their boughs right down into the water before him, and the bright sun was warm and cheering. He rustled his feathers and raised his slender neck aloft, saying with exultation in his heart, 'I never dreamed of so much happiness when I was the Ugly Duckling!"

    Thus, "The Ugly Duckling" gives say to a strong vision, symbolically representing the complete range of problems and possibilities intrinsic in the understanding and treatment of gay men. Legion in the gay community suggests that the solution begin where the fairy tale as a matter of fact ends. By bringing back and reintegrating a tradition to be found everywhere present the possibility is that gay men will encounter the limitless sense of joy which comes from an increased sense of self, a deeper and more concluded experience of life, and, along with it, a decrease in the self-destructive comportment still apparent in segments of the gay community today. Surely, just like the temporal that share the food of fairyland, one can return transformed to such a mundane life again. Thus, Honk gives a comparison when it addresses to the adult audience and gives long duration for the children like the Ugly Duckling.


    • Anderson, Hans Christian, Andersen's Fairy Tales, transl. by Mrs. E.V. Lucas and Mrs. H.B. Paull New York: Grosset & Dunlap. Publishers, 1973
    • Moses, Tai. The Prodigal Duck, Cabrillo Stage's 20th anniversary show dishes up a feast of barnyard puns, 2001

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