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Re: December 29

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  • holderlin66
    THE TWELVE MONTHS Czech tale of the Holy Nights: ONCE upon a time there lived a mother who had two daughters. One was her own child, the other her
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 29, 2005
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      THE TWELVE MONTHS

      Czech tale of the Holy Nights:

      "ONCE upon a time there lived a mother who had two daughters. One
      was her own child, the other her stepdaughter. She was very fond of
      her own daughter, but she would not so much as look at her step-
      daughter. The only reason was that Maruša, the stepdaughter, was
      prettier than her own daughter, Holena. The gentle-hearted Maruša
      did not know how beautiful she was, and so she could never make out
      why her mother was so cross with her whenever she looked at her. She
      had to do all the housework, tidying up the cottage, cooking,
      washing, and sewing, and then she had to take the hay to the cow and
      look after her. She did all this work alone, while Holena spent the
      time adorning herself and lazing about. But Maruša liked work, for
      she was a patient girl, and when her mother scolded and rated her,
      she bore it like a lamb. It was no good, however, for they grew
      crueller and crueller every day, only because Maruša was growing
      prettier and Holena uglier every day.

      At last the mother thought: "Why should I keep a pretty stepdaughter
      in my house? When the lads come courting here, they will fall in
      love with Maruša and they won't look at Holena."

      From that moment the stepmother and her daughter were constantly
      scheming how to get rid of poor Maruša. They starved her and they
      beat her. But she bore it all, and in spite of all she kept on
      growing prettier every day. They invented torments that the
      cruellest of men would never have thought of. One day--it was in the
      middle of January--Holena felt a longing for the scent of
      violets. "Go, Maruša, and get me some violets from the forest; I
      want to wear them at my waist and to smell them," she said to her
      sister.

      "Great heavens! sister. What a strange notion! Who ever heard of
      violets growing under the snow?" said poor Maruša.

      "You wretched tatterdemalion! how dare you argue when I tell you to
      do something? Off you go at once, and if you don't bring me violets
      from the forest I'll kill you!" said Holena threateningly.

      The stepmother caught hold of Maruša, turned her out of the door,
      and slammed it to after her. She went into the forest weeping
      bitterly. The snow lay deep, and there wasn't a human footprint to
      be seen. Maruša wandered about for a long time, tortured by hunger
      and trembling with cold. She begged God to take her from the world.

      At last she saw a light in the distance. She went towards the glow,
      and came at last to the top of a mountain. A big fire was burning
      there, and round the fire were twelve stones with twelve men sitting
      on them. Three of them had snow-white beards, three were not so old,
      and three were still younger. The three youngest were the handsomest
      of them all. They were not speaking, but all sitting silent. These
      twelve men were the twelve months. Great January sat highest of all;
      his hair and beard were as white as snow, and in his hand he held a
      club.

      Maruša was frightened. She stood still for a time in terror, but,
      growing bolder, she went up to them and said: "Please, kind sirs,
      let me warm my hands at your fire. I am trembling with the cold."

      Great January nodded, and asked her: "Why have you come here, my
      dear little girl? What are you looking for?"

      "I am looking for violets," answered Maruša.

      "This is no time to be looking for violets, for everything is
      covered with snow," answered Great January.

      "Yes, I know; but my sister Holena and my stepmother said that I
      must bring them some violets from the forest. If I don't bring them,
      they'll kill me. Tell me, fathers, please tell me where I can find
      them."

      Great January stood up and went to one of the younger months--it was
      March--and, giving him the club, he said: "Brother, take the high
      seat."

      March took the high seat upon the stone and waved the club over the
      fire. The fire blazed up, the snow began to melt, the trees began to
      bud, and the ground under the young beech-trees was at once covered
      with grass and the crimson daisy buds began to peep through the
      grass. It was springtime. Under the bushes the violets were blooming
      among their little leaves, and before Maruša had time to think, so
      many of them had sprung up that they looked like a blue cloth spread
      out on the ground.

      "Pick them quickly, Maruša!" commanded March.

      Maruša picked them joyfully till she had a big bunch. Then she
      thanked the months with all her heart and scampered merrily home.

      Holena and the stepmother wondered when they saw Maruša bringing the
      violets. They opened the door to her, and the scent of violets
      filled all the cottage.

      "Where did you get them?" asked Holena sulkily.

      "They are growing under the bushes in a forest on the high
      mountains."

      Holena put them in her waistband. She let her mother smell them, but
      she did not say to her sister: "Smell them."

      Another day she was lolling near the stove, and now she longed for
      some strawberries. So she called to her sister and said: "Go,
      Maruša, and get me some strawberries from the forest."

      "Alas! dear sister, where could I find any strawberries? Who ever
      heard of strawberries growing under the snow?" said Maruša.

      "You wretched little tatterdemalion, how dare you argue when I tell
      you to do a thing? Go at once and get me the strawberries, or I'll
      kill you!"

      The stepmother caught hold of Maruša and pushed her out of the door
      and shut it after her. Maruša went to the forest weeping bitterly.
      The snow was lying deep, and there wasn't a human footprint to be
      seen anywhere. She wandered about for a long time, tortured by
      hunger and trembling with cold. At last she saw the light she had
      seen the other day. Overjoyed, she went towards it. She came to the
      great fire with the twelve months sitting round it.

      "Please, kind sirs, let me warm my hands at the fire. I am trembling
      with cold."

      Great January nodded, and asked her: "Why have you come again, and
      what are you looking for here?"

      "I am looking for strawberries."

      "But it is winter now, and strawberries don't grow on the snow,"
      said January.

      "Yes, I know," said Maruša sadly; "but my sister Holena and my
      stepmother bade me bring them some strawberries, and if I don't
      bring them, they will kill me. Tell me, fathers, tell me, please,
      where I can find them."

      Great January arose. He went over to the month sitting opposite to
      him--it was June--and handed the club to him, saying: "Brother, take
      the high seat."

      June took the high seat upon the stone and swung the club over the
      fire. The fire shot up, and its heat melted the snow in a moment.
      The ground was all green, the trees were covered with leaves, the
      birds began to sing, and the forest was filled with all kinds of
      flowers. It was summer. The ground under the bushes was covered with
      white starlets, the starry blossoms were turning into strawberries
      every minute. They ripened at once, and before Maruša had time to
      think, there were so many of them that it looked as though blood had
      been sprinkled on the ground.

      "Pick them at once, Maruša!" commanded

      June. Maruša picked them joyfully till she had filled her apron
      full. Then she thanked the months with all her heart and scampered
      merrily home. Holena and the stepmother wondered when they saw
      Maruša bringing the strawberries. Her apron was full of them. They
      ran to open the door for her, and the scent of the strawberries
      filled the whole cottage.

      "Where did you pick them?" asked Holena sulkily.

      "There are plenty of them growing under the young beech-trees in the
      forest on the high mountains."

      Holena took the strawberries, and went on eating them till she could
      eat no more. So did the stepmother too, but they didn't say to
      Maruša: "Here is one for you."

      When Holena had enjoyed the strawberries, she grew greedy for other
      dainties, and so on the third day she longed for some red apples.

      "Maruša, go into the forest and get me some red apples," she said to
      her sister.

      "Alas! sister dear, how am I to get apples for you in winter?"
      protested Maruša.

      "You wretched little tatterdemalion, how dare you argue when I tell
      you to do a thing? Go to the forest at once, and if you don't bring
      me the apples I will kill you!" threatened Holena.

      The stepmother caught hold of Maruša and pushed her out of the door
      and shut it after her. Maruša went to the forest weeping bitterly.
      The snow was lying deep; there wasn't a human footprint to be seen
      anywhere. But she didn't wander about this time. She ran straight to
      the top of the mountain where the big fire was burning. The twelve
      months were sitting round the fire; yes, there they certainly were,
      and Great January was sitting on the high seat.

      "Please, kind sirs, let me warm my hands at the fire. I am trembling
      with cold."

      Great January nodded, and asked her: "Why have you come here, and
      what are you looking for?"

      "I am looking for red apples."

      "It is winter now, and red apples don't grow in winter," answered
      January.

      "Yes, I know," said Maruša sadly; "but my sister and my stepmother,
      too, bade me bring them some red apples from the forest. If I don't
      bring them, they will kill me. Tell me, father, tell me, please,
      where I could find them."

      Great January rose up. He went over to one of the older months--it
      was September. He handed the club to him and said: "Brother, take
      the high seat."

      Month September took the high seat upon the stone and swung the club
      over the fire. The fire began to burn with a red flame, the snow
      began to melt. But the trees were not covered with leaves; the
      leaves were wavering down one after the other, and the cold wind was
      driving them to and fro over the yellowing ground. This time Maruša
      did not see so many flowers. Only red pinks were blooming on the
      hillside, and meadow saffrons were flowering in the valley. High
      fern and thick ivy were growing under the young beech-trees. But
      Maruša was only looking for red apples, and at last she saw an apple-
      tree with red apples hanging high among its branches.

      "Shake the tree at once, Maruša!" commanded the month.

      Right gladly Maruša shook the tree, and one apple fell down. She
      shook it a second time, and another apple fell down.

      "Now, Maruša, run home quickly!" shouted the month.

      Maruša obeyed at once. She picked up the apples, thanked the months
      with all her heart, and ran merrily home.

      Holena and the stepmother wondered when they saw Maruša bringing the
      apples. They ran to open the door for her, and she gave them two
      apples.

      "Where did you get them?" asked Holena. "There are plenty of them in
      the forest on the high mountain."

      "And why didn't you bring more? Or did you eat them on the way
      home?" said Holena harshly.

      "Alas! sister dear, I didn't eat a single one. But when I had shaken
      the tree once, one apple fell down, and when I shook it a second
      time, another apple fell down, and they wouldn't let me shake it
      again. They shouted to me to go straight home," protested Maruša.

      Holena began to curse her: "May you be struck to death by
      lightning!" and she was going to beat her.

      Maruša began to cry bitterly, and she prayed to God to take her to
      Himself, or she would be killed by her wicked sister and her
      stepmother. She ran away into the kitchen.

      Greedy Holena stopped cursing and began

      to eat the apple. It tasted so delicious that she told her mother
      she had never tasted anything so nice in all her life. The step-
      mother liked it too. When they had finished, they wanted some more.

      "Mother, give me my fur coat. I'll go to the forest myself. That
      ragged little wretch would eat them all up again on her way home.
      I'll find the place all right, and I'll shake them all down, however
      they shout at me."

      Her mother tried to dissuade her, but it was no good. She took her
      fur coat, wrapped a cloth round her head, and off she went to the
      forest. Her mother stood on the threshold, watching to see how
      Holena would manage to walk in the wintry weather.

      The snow lay deep, and there wasn't a human footprint to be seen
      anywhere. Holena wandered about for a long time, but the desire of
      the sweet apple kept driving her on. At last she saw a light in the
      distance. She went towards it, and climbed to the top of the
      mountain where the big fire was burning, and round the fire on
      twelve stones the twelve months were sitting. She was terrified at
      first, but she soon recovered. She

      stepped up to the fire and stretched out her hands to warm them, but
      she didn't say as much as "By your leave" to the twelve months; no,
      she didn't say a single word to them.

      "Why have you come here, and what are you looking for?" asked Great
      January crossly.

      "Why do you want to know, you old fool? It's no business of yours,"
      replied Holena angrily, and she turned away from the fire and went
      into the forest.

      Great January frowned and swung the club over his head. The sky grew
      dark in a moment, the fire burned low, the snow began to fall as
      thick as if the feathers had been shaken out of a down quilt, and an
      icy wind began to blow through the forest. Holena couldn't see one
      step in front of her; she lost her way altogether, and several times
      she fell into snowdrifts. Then her limbs grew weak and began slowly
      to stiffen. The snow kept on falling and the icy wind blew more
      icily than ever. Holena began to curse Maruša and the Lord God. Her
      limbs began to freeze, despite her fur coat.

      Her mother was waiting for Holena; she kept on looking out for her,
      first at the window, then outside the door, but all in vain.

      "Does she like the apples so much that she can't leave them, or what
      is the matter? I must see for myself where she is," decided the
      stepmother at last. So she put on her fur coat, she wrapped a shawl
      round her head, and went out to look for Holena. The snow was lying
      deep; there wasn't a human footprint to be seen; the snow fell fast,
      and the icy wind was blowing through the forest.

      Maruša had cooked the dinner, she had seen to the cow, and yet
      Holena and her mother did not come back. "Where are they staying so
      long?" thought Maruša, as she sat down to work at the distaff. The
      spindle was full already and it was quite dark in the room, and yet
      Holena and the stepmother had not come back.

      "Alas, Lord! what has come to them?" cried Maruša, peering anxiously
      through the window. The sky was bright and the earth was all
      glittering, but there wasn't a human soul to be seen. . . . Sadly
      she shut the window; she crossed herself, and prayed for her sister
      and her mother. . . . In the morning she waited with breakfast, she
      waited with dinner; but however much she waited, it was no good.
      Neither her mother nor her sister ever came back. Both of them were
      frozen to death in the forest.

      So good Maruša inherited the cottage, a piece of ploughland and the
      cow. She married a kind husband, and they both lived happily ever
      after."
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