THE TWELVE MONTHS
A SLAV LEGEND
BY ALEXANDER CHODZKO (ADAPTED)
THERE was once a widow who had two daughters, 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 help.
Helen, meanwhile, did nothing but dress herself in her best
clothes and go to one amusement after another.
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 some
"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
dis-  obey me?" said Helen. "Not another word. Off with you! If you do
not bring me some violets from the mountain forest I will
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
an-  swered: "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
"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 Marouckla.
 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
"Run," said she, "and fetch me strawberries from the
mountain. They must be very sweet and ripe."
"But whoever heard of strawberries ripening in the snow?"
"Hold your tongue, worm; don't answer me. If I don't have my
strawberries I will kill you," said Helen.
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
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 highest place."
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
"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 delicious fragrance.
"Wherever did you find them?" asked Helen crossly.
"Right up among the mountains. Those from under the beech
trees are not bad," answered Marouckla.
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 near.
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 Marouckla.
"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 kill me."
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 place."
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
"That is enough," said September; "hurry home."
Thanking the Months she returned joyfully. Helen and the
stepmother wondered at seeing the fruit.
"Where did you gather them?" asked the stepsister.
"There are more on the mountain-top," answered Marouckla.
"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 home."
"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
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 the
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 benumbed limbs.
 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 her cries.
Day after day Marouckla worked, and prayed, and waited, but
neither stepmother nor sister returned. They had been frozen
to death on the mountain.
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.
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