The Twelve Months
Once upon a time in a small Russian village there was a widow who had two daughter Marfusha, her own daughter and Nastenka the daughter of her deceased husband from his first marriage. The widow loved Marfa, but hated her husband’s daughter since Nastya was a lot more beautiful and bright than the widow’s own child. Nastya was forced to do the hardest job through the house. She cleaned, cooked, spun, milked the cow, gathered the brushwood in the forest, did the laundry at the icy cold river and did everything else that her stepmother told her to do. The lazy Marfusha spent her days lying on the hot brick oven sleeping days and nights.
A few miles away, there was a kingdom that was ruled by a young girl. The girl was very spoiled since both of her parents died when she was little and she became a queen at the very young age. No one dared to argue with her or teach her the things that she did not like. One day, she wanted to learn about four seasons, and her old teacher was telling her about spring and what beautiful things it brings, than the old wise man mentioned the sweet scented flowers that only grow in the early spring, the beautiful and delicate snowdrops. The young princess became so obsessed with an idea of having those magic flowers at her palace that she ordered her guards to make an announcement that whoever finds the snowdrops and brings them to the princess’ palace will be immediately rewarded with a basket full of gold and silver. As soon as Nastenka’s stepmother and step-sister heard the news they got excited. The foolish women did not know that it is impossible to find any kind of flowers in the middle of December. They immediately ordered poor Nastya to go into the forest and bring them back the basket full of the majestic snowdrops.
Poor orphan did not dare to disobey and went into the severe cold toward the forest. She knew that it was impossible to find the flowers, so she walked farther and farther into the woods until she saw a small fire straight ahead. Nastya approached the fire and saw a dozen of men by it. Some men were very old and dressed in the far coats, mittens, hats and boots, others were very young and played flute. The brave maiden asked the men to let her approach their fire in order to warm up. The men turned out to be the twelve months of the year. The oldest one of them was December. His hair, mustache and beard were white as snow. The month of December asked Nastya, “What did bring you here, sweetheart?” The little girl shared with the men her story. She said that her stepmother did not allow returning home without flowers. After listening to her story, the month of December passed his magic wand to the young man called month of April. As soon as the younger brother took the wand, the meadow around them started clear from the melting snow and the sweet scented snowdrops started growing everywhere. Miraculously the only place that had flowers, green grass and no snow was the area around the fire. The severe cold with blizzards and snow storms was outside the meadow, which was just a few feet away. The April asked the girl to hurry and gather the flowers quickly until the snow started to melt everywhere outside the area. Nastya managed to gather a whole basket of flowers. As soon as she finished the month of December took back his wand and the whole meadow was covered by snow again. Nastenka thanked the brothers, but before she left back home, one of the younger months gave her a ring and told her to whenever she would need their help to throw the ring and call on them. The maiden thanked the brother April and went home.
Both her stepmother and her step-sister were speechless when their saw the magnificent snowdrops in Nastenka’s basket. Next morning, they took it and went straight to the queen’s palace, where they met the young princess and got their reward for the flowers. However, the young queen asked them where they found so many flowers in the middle of winter, since she wanted them to lead her to that mysterious place at that very moment. The wicked women kneeled in front of her and confessed that they do not know the exact place since it was Nastenka who found the flowers. The queen then ordered the old woman to find out where her step-daughter managed to find the snowdrops. As soon as step-mother and Marfusha returned back home, they begged Nastenka to show them the path to the area where she found the snowdrops. When the orphan girl refused to do so, the two wicked women decided to trick her and pleaded to her to bring more snowdrops otherwise the queen’s axe man will execute them.
The naïve kind hearted girl believed them and went into the forest to get the flowers. Marfusha went a few minutes later to spy on her sister in order to find out about her secret. When Nastenka almost arrived to the spot where she saw the fire, she managed to spot her step-sister and was very disappointed with her and her mother actions. However, Nastya could not walk back since the young queen’s sleigh was very close, the queen and her guards were following the marks on the snow that Marfusha left for them. Nastya tried to run in the opposite direction but was soon caught up by the queen and her guards. The young queen came out of her carriage and offered a huge reward to Nastya if she would only point the area where she found the snowdrops. Nastya refused. Then the queen found found her ring and threw in onto the ice. Nastya repeated the month April’s magic words and asked the twelve months to show up. Suddenly the two older brothers flew down to the earth, took Nastenka and carried her away.
Next, Nastya’s step-mother, her step-sister Marfusha, the young queen and several of her guards felt really warm, they saw the climate change from freezing to warm and from warm to hot. They enjoyed the summer in the middle of December. It was very hot and humid and everyone took their fur coats, boots, hats and mittens off. However, as soon as they did that, the blizzard appeared from out of nowhere and storm carried all of their winter coats and boots away. Right after storm, it started snowing again and in a few seconds the whole opening was covered with snow not any different than the forest around it. The oldest month December suddenly showed up riding a beautiful painted wooden sleigh with Nastya sitting on it. She was so beautiful in her new silver far coat, great boots, patterned mittens and a hat that there was no such a pen that could describe it. The three sunning white horses pulled her sleigh. The brother December was so happy to see Nastenka again that he offered to fulfill everyone’s wish as his gift for an upcoming Christmas. The young queen that was shivering in her summer dress wished that she would be taken back home to her warm palace, the guards wished the same thing. When it was Marfusha’s turn, she asked for a new dog fur coats for herself and her mother since she was freezing in her dress. Her mother was upset since Marfusha did not ask for a fox coat, but settled just for the dog one. They put the coats on and started arguing and coursing at each other when suddenly they turned into the barking dogs.
The month of December advised Nastenka to take both dogs home and let them to guard her house. When the young queen told the poor maiden to share a space in her sleigh and take her to the palace, Nastenka refused. The queen did not know how to ask since she never asked anyone about anything before. But the old brother December decided to help the young queen and taught her on how to ask. The girl tried again to ask nicely. Nastenka did not only agree to give her and her guards a ride, but provided them all with the warm far coats and boots. Since then the young queen and Nastenka became the best friends. The maiden lived peacefully in her step-mother’s hut, the two dogs served her well by helping to watch after the household. The twelve months sometimes came to visit Nastenka all together. Later on, the orphan got married with a hard working farmer and they lived happily ever after.