The Twelve Months
Alexander Chodsvko - Slav Fairy Tales
There was once a widow who had two
Helen, her own child by her dead husband, and
Marouckla, his daughter by his first wife. She
loved Helen, but hated the poor orphan because
she was far prettier than her own daughter.
Marouckla did not think about her good looks,
and could not understand why her stepmother
should be angry at the sight of her. The hardest
work fell to her share. She cleaned out the rooms,
cooked, washed, sewed, spun, wove, brought in
the hay, milked the cow, and all this without any
Helen, meanwhile, did nothing but dress herself
in her best clothes and go to one amusement after
But Marouckla never complained. She bore
the scoldings and bad temper of mother and sister
with a smile on her lips, and the patience of a
lamb. But this angelic behavior did not soften
them. They became even more tyrannical and
grumpy, for Marouckla grew daily more beautiful,
while Helen's ugliness increased. So the stepmother
determined to get rid of Marouckla, for
she knew that while she remained, her own daughter
would have no suitors. Hunger, every kind of
privation, abuse, every means was used to make
the girl's life miserable. But in spite of it all
Marouckla grew ever sweeter and more charming.
One day in the middle of winter Helen wanted
"Listen,'' cried she to Marouckla, "you must
go up the mountain and find me violets. I want
some to put in my gown. They must be fresh
and sweet-scented-do you hear?''
"But, my dear sister, whoever heard of violets
blooming in the snow?'' said the poor orphan.
"You wretched creature! Do you dare to disobey
me?'' said Helen. "Not another word. Off
with you! If you do not bring me some violets
from the mountain forest I will kill you.''
The stepmother also added her threats to those
of Helen, and with vigorous blows they pushed
Marouckla outside and shut the door upon her.
The weeping girl made her way to the mountain.
The snow lay deep, and there was no trace of any
human being. Long she wandered hither and
thither, and lost herself in the wood. She was
hungry, and shivered with cold, and prayed to die.
Suddenly she saw a light in the distance, and
climbed toward it till she reached the top of the
mountain. Upon the highest peak burned a large
fire, surrounded by twelve blocks of stone on
which sat twelve strange beings. Of these the
first three had white hair, three were not quite
so old, three were young and handsome, and the
rest still younger.
There they all sat silently looking
at the fire. They were the Twelve Months of the Year. The
great January was placed higher than the others.
His hair and mustache were white as snow, and in
his hand he held a wand. At first Marouckla was
afraid, but after a while her courage returned, and
drawing near, she said:
"Men of God, may I warm myself at your
fire? I am chilled by the winter cold.''
The great January raised his head and answered:
"What brings thee here, my daughter?
What dost thou seek?''
"I am looking for violets,'' replied the maiden.
"This is not the season for violets. Dost thou
not see the snow everywhere?'' said January.
"I know well, but my sister Helen and my
stepmother have ordered me to bring them violets
from your mountain. If I return without them
they will kill me. I pray you, good shepherds, tell
me where they may be found.''
Here the great January arose and went
over to the youngest of the Months, and, placing his wand
in his hand, said:
"Brother March, do thou take the highest place.''
March obeyed, at the same time waving his wand
over the fire. Immediately the flames rose toward
the sky, the snow began to melt and the trees and
shrubs to bud. The grass became green, and from
between its blades peeped the pale primrose. It was
spring, and the meadows were blue with violets.
"Gather them quickly, Marouckla,'' said March.
Joyfully she hastened to pick the flowers, and
having soon a large bunch she thanked them
and ran home. Helen and the stepmother were
amazed at the sight of the flowers, the scent of
which filled the house.
"Where did you find them?'' asked Helen.
"Under the trees on the mountain-side,'' said
Helen kept the flowers for herself and her
mother. She did not even thank her stepsister for
the trouble she had taken. The next day she
desired Marouckla to fetch her strawberries.
"Run,'' said she, "and fetch me strawberries
from the mountain. They must be very sweet and
"But whoever heard of strawberries ripening in
the snow?'' exclaimed Marouckla.
"Hold your tongue, worm; don't answer me.
If I don't have my strawberries I will kill you,''
Then the stepmother pushed Marouckla into
the yard and bolted the door. The unhappy girl
made her way toward the mountain and to the
large fire round which sat the Twelve Months.
The great January occupied the highest place.
"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire?
The winter cold chills me,'' said she, drawing near.
The great January raised his head and asked:
"Why comest thou here? What dost thou seek?''
"I am looking for strawberries,'' said she.
"We are in the midst of winter,'' replied
January, "strawberries do not grow in the snow.''
"I know,'' said the girl sadly, "but my sister
and stepmother have ordered me to bring them
strawberries. If I do not they will kill me. Pray,
good shepherds, tell me where to find them.''
The great January arose, crossed over to the
Month opposite him, and putting the wand in his
hand, said: "Brother June, do thou take the
June obeyed, and as he waved his wand over
the fire the flames leaped toward the sky. Instantly
the snow melted, the earth was covered
with verdure, trees were clothed with leaves, birds
began to sing, and various flowers blossomed in
the forest. It was summer. Under the bushes
masses of star-shaped flowers changed into ripening
strawberries, and instantly they covered the
glade, making it look like a sea of blood.
"Gather them quickly, Marouckla,'' said June.
Joyfully she thanked the Months, and having
filled her apron ran happily home.
Helen and her mother wondered at seeing the
strawberries, which filled the house with their
"Wherever did you find them?'' asked Helen
"Right up among the mountains. Those from
under the beech trees are not bad,'' answered
Helen gave a few to her mother and ate the rest
herself. Not one did she offer to her stepsister.
Being tired of strawberries, on the third day she
took a fancy for some fresh, red apples.
"Run, Marouckla,'' said she, "and fetch me
fresh, red apples from the mountain.''
"Apples in winter, sister? Why, the trees have
neither leaves nor fruit!''
"Idle thing, go this minute,'' said Helen;
"unless you bring back apples we will kill you.''
As before, the stepmother seized her roughly
and turned her out of the house. The poor girl
went weeping up the mountain, across the deep
snow, and on toward the fire round which were
the Twelve Months. Motionless they sat there,
and on the highest stone was the great January.
"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire?
The winter cold chills me,'' said she, drawing
The great January raised his head. "Why comest
thou here? What does thou seek?'' asked he.
"I am come to look for red apples,'' replied
"But this is winter, and not the season for red
apples,'' observed the great January.
"I know,'' answered the girl, "but my sister
and stepmother sent me to fetch red apples from
the mountain. If I return without them they will
Thereupon the great January arose and
went over to one of the elderly Months, to whom he
handed the wand saying:
"Brother September, do thou take the highest
September moved to the highest stone, and
waved his wand over the fire. There was a flare
of red flames, the snow disappeared, but the fading
leaves which trembled on the trees were sent
by a cold northeast wind in yellow masses to the
glade. Only a few flowers of autumn were visible.
At first Marouckla looked in vain for red apples.
Then she espied a tree which grew at a great
height, and from the branches of this hung the
bright, red fruit. September ordered her to
gather some quickly. The girl was delighted and
shook the tree. First one apple fell, then another.
"That is enough,'' said September; "hurry
Thanking the Months she returned joyfully.
Helen and the stepmother wondered at seeing the
"Where did you gather them?'' asked the
"There are more on the mountain-top,''
"Then, why did you not bring more?'' said
Helen angrily. "You must have eaten them on
your way back, you wicked girl.''
"No, dear sister, I have not even tasted them,''
said Marouckla. "I shook the tree twice. One
apple fell each time. Some shepherds would not
allow me to shake it again, but told me to return
"Listen, mother,'' said Helen. "Give me my
cloak. I will fetch some more apples myself. I
shall be able to find the mountain and the tree.
The shepherds may cry `Stop!' but I will not
leave go till I have shaken down all the apples.''
In spite of her mother's advice she wrapped
herself in her pelisse, put on a warm hood, and
took the road to the mountain. Snow covered
everything. Helen lost herself and wandered
hither and thither. After a while she saw a light
above her, and, following in its direction, reached
There was the flaming fire, the twelve
blocks of stone, and the Twelve Months. At first she
was frightened and hesitated - then she came
nearer and warmed her hands. She did not ask
permission, nor did she speak one polite word.
"What hath brought thee here? What dost
thou seek?'' said the great January severely.
"I am not obliged to tell you, old graybeard.
What business is it of yours?'' she replied
disdainfully, turning her back on the fire and going
toward the forest.
The great January frowned, and waved his
wand over his head. Instantly the sky became
covered with clouds, the fire went down, snow
fell in large flakes, an icy wind howled round the
mountain. Amid the fury of the storm Helen
stumbled about. The pelisse failed to warm her
The mother kept on waiting for her. She looked
from the window, she watched from the doorstep,
but her daughter came not. The hours passed
slowly, but Helen did not return.
"Can it be that the apples have charmed her
from her home?'' thought the mother. Then she
clad herself in hood and pelisse, and went in
search of her daughter. Snow fell in huge masses.
It covered all things. For long she wandered
hither and thither, the icy northeast wind
whistled in the mountain, but no voice answered
Day after day Marouckla worked, and prayed,
and waited, but neither stepmother nor sister
returned. They had been frozen to death on the
The inheritance of a small house, a field, and
a cow fell to Marouckla. In course of time an
honest farmer came to share them with her, and
their lives were happy and peaceful.