Nordic Swan and the Ugly Duckling [Bronze]

Dublin Core


Nordic Swan and the Ugly Duckling [Bronze]


Animal sculpture--20th century


Nordic Swan and the Ugly Duckling:
Hans Christian Andersen Fountain
(The Swan and the Ugly Duckling), 1962
Bronze, cast c. 1987

In Grateful Memory of Arnold Butterworth

This sculpture represents Fredericks' interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen's popular story, The Ugly Duckling. Unlike Fredericks' portrayals of other literary subjects such as the Lion and Mouse and Don Quixote, this sculpture illustrates not one moment in the story, but two. Below is the unhappy duckling that was laughed at and driven from place to place because of his ugliness. Above, is the beautiful swan he grew to be. Fredericks emphasized the difference between the young and mature bird. For example, the earthbound duckling is awkward and heavy, with stubby wings and tail. In contrast, the swan soars overhead in an open form which appears almost weightless. Fredericks simplified the swan's form and smoothed its textures to emphasize the elegance of the animal in flight. Fredericks originally conceived and designed this sculpture for the Danish Village retirement home in Rochester Hills, Michigan.

A bronze cast of this sculpture can be found in Skaelskor, Denmark where Hans Christian Andersen lived and penned "The Little Mermaid," "The Ugly Duckling," and many other children's stories.


Fredericks, Marshall M., 1908-1998




Use of this image requires permission from the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum




University Center (Mich.)

Sculpture Item Type Metadata

Physical Dimensions

53" h


Bronze full-scale

Catalog Number


Object Location

Main Exhibit Gallery


1988 January, 24 Gift to Museum and SVSU Board of Control


From Jennifer Lentz (Collection Documentation Intern 1991-1992)
Memo dated October 29, 1991:

"RE: The Swan and the Ugly Duckling
There is a cast at the Flint residence in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. It is outside near a pond or lake."

Abbreviated version of Andersen's story:
"The Ugly Duckling" written by Hans Christian Anderson in 1844
Once upon a time nine ducklings hatched. Eight were pretty, fluffy, and yellow. But the 9th duckling didn't look like the others. "You are not like the rest," said his mother. The other yellow ducklings taunted him and said to him "Ugly Duckling! Go away!" He then stayed away from his 8 brothers and sisters. Once the mother duck took her ducklings to visit another duck family on the other side of the lake. They teased the ugly duckling. "You can't be a duck!" "I am a duck!" cried the ugly duckling and then he ran away. He hid in some tall grass and soon it got dark. He was scared and lonely and went to sleep. The next morning he went to look for food. Other wild ducks asked him "What kind of bird are you?" "I am a duck." They teased "You can't be a duck!" He was so upset by them he ran away from the wild ducks and soon came to another lake and decided to stay there. He stayed there all winter. It was very cold and windy. One day he saw some swans flying south. They called to him. "Come with us!" "I'm coming," he cried "Wait for me!" He flapped his wings and tried to fly but wasn't very good at it and the swans couldn't wait. So he stayed by the lake and grew and grew. In the spring his wings had grown big and strong and he was able to fly. He flew to a riverbank and met up with some swans. They asked him to join their group. He said "you don't want me I'm just an ugly duckling." "A duckling?" they said. "No, you are a swan, a beautiful swan, just like us!"

Molly Barth copy:
The next piece is The Hans Christian Anderson Swan and Ugly Duckling Fountain. These are bronze casts. You all know the story of the ugly duckling--how ugly he was and then he saw himself as he matured and turned into one of those magnificent, white, beautiful birds that he had admired so much when he was younger. Then he realized that what he saw was himself reflected in the water--he had turned into a magnificent swan. In addition to the swan on the top of the pedestal there is a little songbird in the reeds. This is Fredericks' version of the story. Swan's are mute. They hiss and snap, but they don't sing. The songbird is singing the song of the ugly duckling. Fredericks initially conceived and constructed the Ugly Duckling and the Swan for the Danish Village, a senior citizens' retirement home in Rochester, Michigan. Casts are also in Greenville, Michigan, and in Scalscoria, Denmark (1984), where Hans Christian Anderson lived and wrote "The Little Mermaid," "The Ugly Duckling," and his many other popular children's stories.

From Archives, written by Melissa Ford:
Marshall Fredericks frequently used the figure of a swan in his sculptures. Many cultures feature swans in their mythology and folklore. Swans have come to symbolize fidelity and purity and are associated with music, poetry and divination. Fredericks often employed the swan as a symbol of resurrection and eternal life in his sculptures. Wings of the Morning, Freedom of the Human Spirit, and Indian and Wilds Swans as well as several other works feature swans.
It seems that Fredericks' possessed a deep love and appreciation for these beautiful and graceful creatures. Besides sculpting swans, Fredericks played an integral role in a swan nesting project during the 1960s. As a civic gesture to his hometown of Birmingham, Michigan, Fredericks presented two pairs of swans to the city. The Australian Black and White Mute swans made their home in Quarton Lake located in the heart of the city. Unfortunately, several of the birds did not fare well in their new surroundings had to be replaced by the city of Birmingham.
During the 1970s, in order to protect the swans and encourage nesting, the parks department constructed a bird sanctuary in the middle of the lake. This tiny floating island, constructed of several government surplus "life rafts", was approximately thirty-five feet in diameter and covered in a vegetative screen of wild grasses and rushes. Each winter, the swans would be removed from the lake and provided with shelter by the parks department until spring when they would return to the water. The swans would then spend the rest of spring, summer and early fall on Quarton Lake being enjoyed by passing residents and visitors.
As Fredericks' home in Birmingham overlooked Quarton Lake, it is quite plausible that one of these birds served as a real life inspiration for the swans often found in Marshall Fredericks' work.




Fredericks, Marshall M., 1908-1998, “Nordic Swan and the Ugly Duckling [Bronze],” Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, accessed April 12, 2024,