Therapeutic goals: development of awareness of the need for inner beauty, gratitude, respect for nature and other people, development of awareness of the unity of man with nature
Recommended age group: 9+
Type of work: individual, group
Brief content of the work:
It is the story about beautiful Maruška, who is driven out of the house by her stepmother into the forest to fulfill impossible tasks invented by her daughter Holena – namely, to collect and bring her violets in the winter, strawberries and apples. She wanted to get rid of Maruška’s presence in the house, so that she could prioritize her own daughter Holena, who was ugly, over potential suitors. Maruška will gradually be helped to fulfill all the tasks by twelve moons who have supernatural abilities of the forces of nature – rulers of winter, spring, summer and autumn, and if they decide, they can give the gift/miracle of spring, summer or autumn even in winter. When Maruška also brings apples home, Holena asks for more and decides to go pick them herself. When he comes to the twelve-month-olds, he neither greets nor asks them, he turns away questions, curses Maruška and the whole world. When he does not return for a long time, the stepmother goes to look for Holena. Both will never come back. Maruška was left with a house, a garden, and a cow, as well as meadows and fields around the house, and when spring came, there was also a young man who married her “and it was good for both of them in peace, because goodness and love are above all”.
The Czech writer and founder of modern Czech prose Božena Němcová (1820-1862), who also lived in Slovakia for some time, captured this fairy tale based on the original Slovak folktale and adapted in the book Slovenské pohádky a pověsti. The material for Slovak reader was prepared by Pavol Dobšinský (1828-1885), a Slovak evangelical priest, folklorist and collector of folk literature. The fairy tale was published in various variations in countless Slovak and foreign editions.
It was also filmed. In the filmed version from 2012, a more active role is played by the young man Karol, who returned from abroad, where he was successful (available online: https://www.csfd.sk/film/314203-o-dvanastich-mesiacikoch/prehlad/) and invents impossible tasks for the village girls who show interest in him in order to avoid marriage. The stepmother forces Maruška to do the tasks instead of Květa, but luckily Karol finds out. In this version, Maruška has the opportunity to be more in contact/gradually get to know her future groom already during the story, the bachelor in the story plays a comparably active role as Maruška, and compared to the original version, there is more humor and playfulness in it and fewer images of suffering. It proves that even a folk tale can be enrichingly improved and modified even in modern times, if at the same time the wisdom that is hidden in it is preserved to support the continuation of a loving life, beauty and goodness.
Describtion of the possibilites of professional pedagogica/therapeutic work:
Psychoanalyst Bettelheim (2017) states in his book Behind the Secret of Fairy Tales that especially folk tales (pp. 11-14) have the ability to convey to children both obvious and hidden meanings; they help to develop not only mental abilities, but also to clarify feelings, anxieties and desires; relieve unconscious pressure by transferring the unconscious content into consciousness in a safe way through fantasy and thus enabling the child to deal with it, and the child thus receives instructions in a symbolic form on how to deal with problems and at the same time retain the freedom to form their own solution.
Since most of the fairy tales were written mainly for adults, if children were present, their content was presented in a safe symbolic form and thus if it touched them and certainly fascinated them in a certain way as a contact with the forces that are part of all of us and that we have as a human race common, it allowed the content to be primarily felt and rational understanding came only with gradual growth and maturation and when the person was ready for it.
Maruška was beautiful, Holena was ugly. Characters in fairy tales are typical rather than unique. The external beauty or ugliness of a character represents its internal state, which, for example, sheds light on the general human truth that internal beauty is that which “melts into matter”, manifests and transmits through it, manifests and persists beyond, for example, into the next generations. We can also notice the power of nature and higher forces, which under certain circumstances (which we also witness in ordinary life, if we can notice them) can create a “miracle” – that is, even spring, summer or autumn in winter in this fairy tale and through to strengthen the consciousness of unity and respect for nature and for each other and for ourselves.
One of the possible paths that can be taken in bibliotherapy when working with adults, and which is usually met with a happy response, is to work with a favorite fairy tale from childhood. If, for various reasons, it is not like this (even if, in the end, at least a fragment of a favorite fairy tale or story that can be worked with emerges from memory), then it is possible to work with a story that could be it at that time and create such a story. Or it can be any story that the person likes to come back to.
In general, in therapy, it is recommended to have the version that the client remembers told (Verny, Konečný, Šramová 2006-2009). If he does not remember a part, he can be asked to complete the story as he would continue. Or it is also possible to bring the publication in which the fairy tale was published to the meeting and read it and talk about it together.
We notice patterns of behavior that are in the fairy tale, symbols and what they mean (individually and generally), what are the key moments, boundaries, polarities, what or who is missing (mostly it is expressed in the beginning of the fairy tale), who/or what is taboo (shadow), what is the “order” in the fairy tale and where is it broken, what rituals (ritual sentences) are in it, what are the dynamics in it – what drives the story forward, what are the obstacles and how are they dealt with, what are the consequences/ results/conclusions, what could be the solution and what or who helps the solution, how external and internal values are integrated, what are the resources that help the protagonist’s transformation, etc. (ibid).
The most important question when working with adults, and we emphasize that it is different when working with children and it would be premature, but when reanalyzing favorite fairy tales from childhood with adults, we help self-reflection, deepening self-awareness and further personal growth with the question “How could it be related or is it related to your life?” (for detailed information on how to further work with the answer, we recommend studying in detail, for example, Janette Rainwater’s publication Take Life in Your Own Hands from 1993 and complete at least one psychotherapy training designed to prepare future therapists). The stated question is intended to enable an additional understanding of the connection between the individual and general meaning of individual symbols, processes or patterns, which are important to him in the fairy tale as messages for his life. These, in a symbolic form, result from the fairy tale and in further therapeutic work enable decisions as to whether they are still important for the person in life, or whether it would be possible to consciously modify them and create new ones.
For example, it is possible to create an dialogue with important character from a fairy tale and thus create completely new story, or deal with different circumstances under which the fairy tale was read/listened to/watched and with whom, on what occasion and if it was a pleasant memory, strengthen and anchor these experiences through group sharing. Similarly, the group can also discuss which of fairy tales, they still return to and what interests them even today. It is also helpful if you manage to notice how they remembered the story differently, for example compared to the version read repeatedly years later. When working in a group, we make sure there is enough time so that everyone can always finish their version of fairy tale in its entirety first, and only then we provide space for sharing associations to the topics from others. The rule is, that the person who is speaking, is sharing his experiences, associations, etc. towards the therapist (telling it to their therapist) and not directly towards the person in the group who read the fairy tale or story or shared their experience.
During the meeting as well as at the end of the sharing, we create a time space for taking notes on what was just experienced and shared, what the participants noticed, what interested them, what they would like to remember, etc. (at least 10 minutes).
It is also possible to suggest writing a letter to the main character or other important character or object from the fairy tale. Or work with an important illustration from the book where the fairy tale was published (what or who is depicted in it, what is this picture about, etc.
Description of experience from own work with a literary work:
The fairy tale About twelve months from the book with illustrations by Ľudovít Fullu is my favorite fairy tale from my childhood. I could have been around 7-10 years old when someone read it to me, I don’t remember if it was my mother or grandmother, but it is quite possible, since I loved books since I was little, that I read it myself.
When I returned to it now, years later, on the occasion of teaching bibliotherapy at the university, and coincidentally during the last Christmas holidays, I had the opportunity to see its filmed version, it provided me with extremely useful insights both into what shaped my life in the past and in what way I would be grateful if he would move on.
Some events happened to me in it and indeed in my life, such as volunteering to fulfill difficult tasks ? on the one hand and, as it were, a reward for it in the form of strawberries in December. As a child from a relatively poor family of a teacher and a man of letters, I was really quite young in adulthood, at a time when it was not common in Slovakia (90s of the 20th century) she had the opportunity to eat strawberries in December ?. And just like in a fairy tale, it came true for me in a country far to the north (Sweden)?. To this day, I am extremely grateful for that experience, because it allowed me to experience that miracles are really possible, to admit that sometimes you don’t even need to travel to faraway countries for this, and they seem to form themselves and come to you. Then, when that happens, they are already so obvious to us that we don’t even perceive them as a miracle anymore. Some time has passed since this personal small and at the same time great miracle (strawberries in winter in Sweden) and since the beginning of the new millennium it is quite common that if you want it, you can buy strawberries quite easily and at a relatively reasonable price, even in December and on Slovakia ?. But maybe we just deviated from the main topic of the fairy tale ?. Because other miracles also happened.
After re-reading the fairy tale in the same version as it was in my childhood, I found that at that time I was more focused on the images of suffering as a necessary starting point for “deserving” “help/rescue/rewards”. Today I know that it is no longer necessary. And so, or mainly because of that, I was able to notice the very last and most important two sentences at the end of the tale as well as the message hidden in them, “and it was good for both of them to rest in peace” , because goodness and love are above all”, because in the deeper dimension of human existence, it is true that good is repaid to good, if it is meant truly sincerely, is pure and is not accompanied by hidden aggression or something similar that is not yet sufficiently recognized internally, i.e. j. this is true kind-hearted and loving goodness. It is essentially the starting point, what a person (even subconsciously) really believes. And not only in relation to oneself, but also in relation to others and the environment.
The main character’s inner kindness, outwardly manifested towards older people in general (twelve-month-olds), or relative distance – within the possibilities that were available to her at the given young age of the main character and under the given circumstances – also towards people who are reactively younger (stepsister, stepmother), in which it can be said unequivocally – in the standards of human existence, that they did not deserve it, and which, however, is apparent in the original and filmed version, acquires a meaning and in a wider time-space context, on a transcendental level, a completely different value. And there it multiplies.
However, this does not mean that a person should “let everything be liked” that happens to him with others. But to admit the possibility of choice, that it could be otherwise and if we made a mistake, we don’t have to continue in the mistake. Allow yourself to approach the solution of life situations perhaps even harder and more unambiguously, if it is necessary to actively change a situation that is, for example, not pleasant, but constantly maintaining the inner understanding that the person “doesn’t know how to do it right yet”, ” it’s still just learning” and so on, which allows one to maintain kindness, understanding and kind actions towards oneself and others without unnecessary internal aggression, accusations or reproaches towards oneself or the other person and with forgiveness.
And finally, there is still a developed part of lightness, joy and playfulness, which was created in the film adaptation of the fairy tale. Which for me is a wonderful challenge for the next few days as an opportunity for “now”, which I am very happy about.
Bettelheim, Bruno. 1975, 1976. Za tajemstvím pohádek [Behind the secret of fairy tales.] (Translated into Czech by Lucie Lucká 2000, 2017). 1st ed. Prague: Portal 2017. 392 p. ISBN 978-80-262-1172-3
Kotrbová, Kvetoslava. 2022. Terapeutické listy v biblioterapii. [Therapeutic letters in bibliotherapy.] pp. 68-82. In Problems of Education and Teaching in the Era of Digital Society. Collection of Scientific Articles. European Scientific e-Journal, 1-16. Ostrava: Tuculart Edition. Available online: http://tuculart.eu/ftpgetfile.php?id=276
Kotrbová, Kvetoslava, Sturcz, Attila, Solárová, Zlatica. 2022. Terapeutický potenciál Dostojevského poveidky Sen smiešneho človeka. [Therapeutic potential of Dostoyevsky’s short story The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.] pp. 343-345. In Philologia – journal of the Institute of Philological Studies of the Pedagogical Faculty of the Comenius University in Bratislava, volume 32, no. 2, 392 p. Available online: https://www.fedu.uniba.sk/fileadmin/pdf/Sucasti/Ustavy/Ustav_filologickych_studii/Philologia/Philologia_2022_2/PHILOLOGY_2_2022_TLAC.pdf
Rainwater, Janette. 1993. Vezměte život do vlastních rukou. [Take your life into your own hands.] (Translated into Czech by Alena Hnídková). 1st ed. Prague: Grada, 2013. 234 p. ISBN 80-7169-026-0
Verny, Ivan, Konečný, Pavel, Šramová, Zlata. Práca s rozprávkami. [Working with fairy tales.] In Integrácia procesovej práce v systemických štruktúrach. Dlhodobá jednorazová vzdelávacia aktivita sústavného vzdelávania zdravotníckych pracovníkov v rokoch 2006-2009 (výcvik). [Integration of process work in systemic structures. Long-term one-time educational activity of continuous education of health workers in 2006-2009 (training)]. Slovak Psychotherapeutic Society, Trenčín (unpublished lectures, archive of the author of the article).
The recommendation created by:
PhDr. Kvetoslava Kotrbová, PhD., MPH, Workplace: Faculty of Education, Comenius University in Bratislava (Slovakia), Last uptdate: January 15th 2023.
The recommendation from Slovak to English translated by: Mária Trechová, Workplace: PRO SKIZP – Association for support of Slovak Chamber of Physicists, Laboratory Diagnosticians, Language Speech Therapists and Therapeutic Educators, c. a. Bratislava, Slovakia
It has not undergone language editing!
Recommended citation procedure:
Kotrbová Kvetoslava. 2023. Professional reference of the literary work About twelve moons – a Slovak folk tale. In Biblioterapia.sk. Bratislava: PRO SKIZP – Association to support the development of the Slovak Chamber of other healthcare workers. Available on: …. Link
The contribution was created thanks to support from the European Union Erasmus+ program, Key action 2 – Cooperation between organizations and institutions, KA210 – Small partnerships for cooperation in the field of education and training. Project name “Prototype of online teaching aid for bibliotherapy”, project number 2022-1-SK01-KA210-VET-000082483. It represents the opinion of the author and the European Commission or author is not responsible for any use of the information contained therein.