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As you’re listening right now… do you know what month it is?
If so, go ahead and say it out loud.
There are twelve months in the year, right? And they line up in a very particular order. January gives way to February, February is replaced by March, and March leads into... which month?
That’s right: April!
And on it goes, all year long.
But in today’s story, we’ll hear what happens when a hard-working young woman experiences the months… out of order.
Our tale is called “The Months of the Year.” Versions of this story have been told in Russia, Greece, and the Czech Republic.
Voices featured on this episode include: Kimberly Schraf, Delores King Williams, Caroline Rillette, Elle Borders, Anne Undeland, Joshua Rush and Ailsa Chang. Joshua stars in "Andi Mack," now in its second season on The Disney Channel. You can also check out his self-produced Instagram series, “News in a Rush.” And you can hear Ailsa co-host All Things Considered on NPR. Story adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir and edited by Executive Producer, Jessica Alpert. Music and sound design by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.
ADULTS! Print THIS OUT so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.
Things To Think About After Listening
Do you have a favorite month of the year? Or a favorite season? Find a piece of paper and something to draw with… and create a picture of yourself enjoying that month or season. Maybe you’re picking spring flowers or swooping down your favorite sledding hill. Perhaps you’re watching 4th of July fireworks or sitting down at the Thanksgiving table.
Once you’re done drawing your picture, share it with someone you love… a family member or friend… then, if you feel like it, share it with us! Ask a grown-up to take a photo of your creation and email it to email@example.com or share it on social media with the hashtag #CircleRound.
Musical Spotlight: The Tank Drum
Also known as a “steel tongue drum,” the tank drum is made from a recycled propane tank! The top of the drum has multiple “tongues” cut into it; arrayed in a circular pattern, they almost look like flower petals. You can play the tank drum with your fingers or with mallets; just hit one of the tongues, and its vibration will resonate inside the drum’s hollow body. The resulting, bell-like tone can be very soft, soothing, even magical - much like the Twelve Months depicted in our story.
NARRATOR: Anna and her younger brother, Otto, lived on a farm... beside a tall, tall mountain.
The siblings had just inherited the farm from their mother and father. Anna was heartbroken to lose her parents, but she vowed she would take extra-special care of her little brother, Otto.
So... day after day, month after month, season after season, Anna... worked.
In addition to cooking and cleaning in the house, she did chores on the farm. In the spring, she’d plant crops and take care of the new piglets, calves and chicks. In the summer, she’d weed the gardens and harvest crops. She’d spend the fall harvesting even more crops. And in the winter, she’d make sure the animals in the barn were warm, dry and fed.
Every now and again, Otto would help out… pulling a weed here, collecting an egg there… but the little boy didn’t have the heart to do anything more. Now that his parents were gone, he was simply too sad.
So Anna did everything she could to cheer him up.
One frosty January morning, as the winter wind raged outside, Anna gathered some eggs and made breakfast.
ANNA: Here you go, little brother! This warm, hearty omelette ought to keep away the winter chill!
NARRATOR: Otto took one bite… and frowned.
OTTO: Thank you, Anna. But this omelette doesn’t taste like the ones Mom and Dad used to make. They’re missing something: those little round pieces Dad used to call ‘fairy bracelets’...?
NARRATOR: Anna smiled at the memory of the tiny, flavorful green rings.
ANNA: Ah! You mean, chopped-up scallions…?
OTTO: Yes! Scallions!
NARRATOR: Anna sighed.
ANNA: Oh, Otto. It’s January! Our herb garden is buried in a foot of snow. We won’t be able to pick scallions until spring arrives in March!
NARRATOR: Otto’s face crumpled. Anna was sure he was about to cry.
ANNA: Okay, little brother, I tell you what. You want scallions? I’ll get you scallions! Wait right here!
NARRATOR: Anna wrapped herself in a shawl, jumped into her boots, and headed outside with a basket. The air was so cold, she could see her breath. As she glanced across the snow-covered fields, her gaze landed on… the tall, tall mountain.
ANNA: Hmmmm. The snow’s up to my knees here on the farm, but the mountain is covered with trees! Maybe the ground is clear enough for something to be poking its head through the earth...Like... Otto’s scallions…?
NARRATOR: So Anna crunched through the snow toward the mountain. As she entered the woods, she found that, indeed, snow was clinging to the trees’ branches… leaving very little on the ground. Still, it was January, so there wasn’t a live plant to be seen!
Before long, Anna’s teeth were chattering. Just as she was about to give up and head home, she spotted something flickering through the trees.
NARRATOR: Pulling her shawl more tightly around herself, Anna moved toward the light. Soon she smelled woodsmoke, and heard the splutters, pops and crackles... of a fire.
She quickened her stride and found herself in a clearing. In the middle was a massive bonfire, its orange and yellow flames leaping higher than the trees. And sitting around the bonfire… were women! Some very old… some very young. Anna counted twelve women, total.
ANNA: Um, hello! I hope you don’t mind my asking, but may I please warm myself by your fire? I’ve been wandering these woods for hours, and I am chilled to the bone!
NARRATOR: One of the oldest women smiled. She wore a silver velvet robe, and her braided hair was white as snow. On either side of her sat two other snowy-haired women, also decked out in silver.
JANUARY: Of course you may warm yourself, child! Come, come. Join us!
NARRATOR: As Anna settled down in front of the fire, she felt the sensation return to her stiff fingers. She turned to the old woman and noticed she was sitting higher than everyone else... on a throne made of stone!
ANNA: Thank you for this. I wasn’t sure how much longer I’d last in these woods.
JANUARY: You’re very welcome… Anna.
ANNA: You know my name?
JANUARY: We do! We also know you came to the mountain in this bitter cold... to find something. Tell us: what is it?
NARRATOR: Anna smiled sheepishly.
ANNA: Well, this might sound wacky, but I’m looking… for scallions.
JANUARY: Scallions? In January? But scallions don’t grow until March!
ANNA: I know. It was my little brother’s idea. You see, my parents used to put chopped scallions in our omelettes, and Otto’s been so sad since we lost Mom and Dad... (beat) My baby brother is the only family I have left in the world, and I’m so grateful to have him. I can’t bear to see him disappointed.
NARRATOR: The woman on the throne nodded her head.
JANUARY: Ah, yes. There’s nothing in the world like family, is there? I, for one, don’t know what I’d do without my sisters here.
NARRATOR: She gestured around the circle. Anna noticed the twelve women were sitting in four groups. Next to the elders in silver were three slightly-younger women, wearing woolen capes of red and gold. The next three women were even younger... their silken sundresses blue as the sky. The final three wore bright green jumpers; they were girls, no older than Otto.
Suddenly, one of the girls turned to the old woman on the throne.
MARCH: Excuse me, January! May I say something?
JANUARY: Of course, March!
NARRATOR: Anna was confused. “January”? “March”? What kind of names were these...?!?
MARCH: Well, like you said, scallions don’t usually grow until I come around. So…
NARRATOR: The girl motioned toward January’s throne.
MARCH: ...what if I took your place? Just for a moment?
NARRATOR: Suddenly Anna understood. These women… were the months... of the year!
JANUARY: That’s a very generous suggestion, March. But everyone knows February comes before you do.
NARRATOR: January nodded at one of the white-haired women beside her.
JANUARY: February? I know you get the short end of the stick being just twenty-eight days and all. But would you mind if March jumped ahead of you? Just for a little while? Say, fifteen minutes?
FEBRUARY: Of course I wouldn’t mind! I wouldn’t mind at all! (turns to Anna) Anna, we’ve seen you work hard on that farm of yours... whatever the month, whatever the season! You belong to all of us months, and we belong to you. (beat) March? Go ahead! The throne is yours.
NARRATOR: As soon as March climbed onto the stone throne, the bonfire blazed even higher. Trees burst into bud, birds broke into song, and the clearing went from being coated with snow… to being covered with emerald-green scallions.
Anna was too stunned to move.
MARCH: Well? Don’t just stand there, Anna! We’ve got fifteen minutes, so pick those scallions!
NARRATOR: Anna stuffed as many scallions as she could into her basket.
ANNA: I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this. Thank you!
NARRATOR: Now that March had melted all the snow, Anna was able to sprint back home, swift as a deer. But the moment she reached the door, the winds picked up again, and the snow fell so thick, it was like somebody tore open a massive feather-bed.
ANNA: Otto! Oh, Otto! I’ve brought you your scallions!
NARRATOR: Otto came running to the kitchen.
OTTO: Scallions?!? But I thought you said they wouldn’t be ready until March! Where did you find them?
NARRATOR: Anna smiled.
ANNA: Under the trees on the mountain. Let’s just say I had a little help. (beat) Now, how about some ‘fairy-bracelet’ omelettes?
NARRATOR: The next morning, Anna made a batch of yogurt, using fresh milk from Otto’s favorite cow. But when she offered her brother a bowl at breakfast… his eyes filled with tears.
OTTO: Thank you, Anna. But remember how Mom and Dad used to put a strawberry on top of our yogurt? They said it was just like a clown’s nose.
NARRATOR: Anna grinned.
ANNA: So they did. But little brother… strawberries aren’t in season until June!
ANNA: Yes, June! But, I tell you what, kiddo.
NARRATOR: Anna turned her eyes toward the mountain.
ANNA: I’ll see what I can do.
NARRATOR: What do you think will happen? Will Anna find the strawberries Otto seeks?
We’ll find out… after a quick break.
NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Months of the Year.”
When we left off, Otto had asked his older sister, Anna, for strawberries. It was January… and strawberries weren’t in season until June. But just the day before, Anna had stumbled upon the twelve months: a group of women... old and young... and they took a liking to her.
So, after Otto requested his strawberries, Anna threw on her shawl and boots, grabbed a basket, and trekked up the mountain.
Again, the Twelve Months were gathered around their bonfire, with January sitting on the high stone throne. Anna gave a little wave.
ANNA: Hello! Yes, it’s me... again. Kind women, may I please warm myself by your fire?
NARRATOR: January motioned for Anna to sit down.
JANUARY: It’s nice to see you again, Anna. But what brings you back? Don’t tell me you’re hunting for something else now…?
ANNA: How’d you guess? Strawberries! My little brother wants strawberries.
JANUARY: Strawberries?!? Oh, Anna. Strawberries can’t grow in the snow! But, I understand. June? Why don’t you take my throne for a little while?
NARRATOR: One of the women in sky-blue sundresses jumped to her feet.
JUNE: It would be my honor, January!
NARRATOR: The moment June took the throne, the flames of the fire flared higher, and once again, the snow melted away. Leaves danced in the trees... bumblebees zipped through the air... and bright green plants covered the ground… all of them bursting with red, ripe strawberries!
JUNE: Okay, Anna! Here are your strawberries! Pick them fast!
NARRATOR: Anna plucked as many strawberries as she could, and placed them in her basket.
ANNA: I appreciate this so, so much. Thank you! Thank you, all!
NARRATOR: Anna raced home, sweating in the summer sun. As soon as she reached the door, the sun gave way to clouds, and snow drifted down from the sky.
ANNA: Otto! Oh, Otto! I’ve brought you your strawberries!
NARRATOR: Otto came skipping to the kitchen.
OTTO: Strawberries? Really? Did you find them under the trees on the mountain again?
NARRATOR: Anna smiled.
ANNA: Maybe… Now, how about a ‘clown nose’!
NARRATOR: Anna and Otto were about to dig into their yogurt and strawberries... when they heard a knock on the door.
It was a woman. She said she was... their aunt.
WOMAN: Oh, I can’t believe my poor, dear brother is gone! I would have gone to the funeral, but one thing led to another and I couldn’t make it. Still, I hope I’m not too late to collect my inheritance - (interrupts herself as she sees the strawberries) Wait a minute! Are those strawberries in your bowls? And such red, ripe ones, too!
NARRATOR: The woman arched an eyebrow at Anna.
WOMAN: Wait a minute. How did you find strawberries this miserably frigid time of year?
NARRATOR: Anna had never seen this woman before, but her heart leapt at the thought of having even more family out there in the world.
So, she told the woman everything.
WOMAN: Hmmmm. And did the twelve months give you anything else?
ANNA: Just some scallions. That’s all I asked for! That’s all Otto wanted. And all I want is for my little brother to be happy.
NARRATOR: The woman scowled.
WOMAN: What an opportunity you wasted! You got to meet all twelve months, and you could have asked them for anything! Anything! Crunchy carrots and cucumbers… sweet apples and pears… Treasures like these would bring in a fortune during the winter. You could have sold them and made a mint!
NARRATOR: The woman bolted toward the door.
WOMAN: I’m going to that clearing on the mountain, and I’m coming back with a bounty! A harvest! A cornucopia!
NARRATOR: Anna and Otto watched the woman hurry toward the mountain and disappear into the trees.
As she walked through the thick, dark forest, the woman shivered. Eventually, she saw the light flickering through the trees, and came upon the clearing where the twelve months sat around their fire.
Without a friendly greeting… or even a “please, may I...”... she strode right up to the bonfire, plopped down with her back to the twelve months, and began rubbing her hands.
January spoke up.
JANUARY: And who might you be…?
NARRATOR: The woman turned around.
WOMAN: Oh, I am but a poor wanderer, here to get your help.
NARRATOR: January raised a snow-white eyebrow.
JANUARY: Oh? And what is it you want… “poor wanderer”?
WOMAN: Well, I was thinking... March could give me some scallions, and June could offer strawberries… the really red, really ripe ones? And then July could give me fresh cucumbers, and the most tender mushrooms! From August, I’m thinking apples, maybe some sweet pears. And from September, I don’t know, ripe walnuts, maybe? As for October -
JANUARY: (interrupting) Enough! Don’t you know that summer cannot come before spring... and spring cannot come before winter? Right now I am sitting on the throne, and I intend to rule here until my time is up!
NARRATOR: The woman claiming to be Anna and Otto’s aunt rolled her eyes.
WOMAN: (rolling her eyes) Oh, please! You know what? I didn’t come here to talk with a white-hair like you, anyway. Winter isn’t good for anything except snow and frost. I want the summer months; they’re the most valuable. With all the bounty they produce, they hold the most earning power!
NARRATOR: January frowned.
JANUARY: Ohhhh. So you want power, eh...? I’ll show you... power!
NARRATOR: January waved her arms. Immediately, the sky filled with clouds, the air filled with snow, and the bonfire… and all twelve months… disappeared. The woman found herself alone in a wild storm!
NARRATOR: The icy wind whistled and whipped her ears as she tried weaving her way out of the forest. Eventually, she wound up in a village on the other side of the tree-covered mountain, and never wandered near the woods again.
Back at the farm, Anna and Otto stayed cozy and warm that winter. And when spring came, both siblings tended to the chores. In summer, too… and fall… and winter.
And though Anna never saw the women around the bonfire again… every month, she would think of them, and thank them for their gifts.
For the way March, April and May brought the earth back to life.
For the sun that June, July and August sent to warm everyone’s faces.
For the fruits and vegetables ready for picking in September, October and November… and the sparkling snow ready for playing and sledding, in December, January and February.
And after Anna’s adventure on the mountain… the farm she shared with Otto seemed especially… charmed. When other places were swelteringly hot, the farm was that much cooler. When elsewhere it was freezing cold… and the wind raged and moaned... at the farm it was milder… and calm.
Because maybe what February said is true:
When you belong to all of the months… they belong to you.
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