Slovakia's Gift


Defining an entire country is no easy task. Dictating the collective voice of all your countrymen, distinct and diverse as they may be, and even just conveying what ‘America’, ‘Slovakia’, or ‘China’ really brings to the world is a daunting challenge. So perhaps before we trek onwards into understanding all of what encompasses a country we should extract and enjoy from their thriving cultures that unique gift they present to the world. Slovakia’s litany of beautiful and colorful folklore is a truly wonderful literary confection on the surface but resonates deep in its core a strong and indomitable spirit. Slovakia, being a relatively small nation land locked by several other powerful European countries, for centuries had been repressed and controlled by larger nations spending a good portion of their history plagued by poverty and hard times.

Through these experiences the Slovak people emerged as an independent state in 1993 holding deep rooted values in hard work and perseverance, morals that lie at the center of “The Twelve Months”, a Slovak fairytale. The main character Marouckla is a pretty girl under the thumbs of her cruel stepmother and stepsister. Despite the circumstances she’s thrown into, from the mountain of housework she performs by herself daily to the impossible requests of her sister, she plows forward undeterred. This story completely and wholly parallels the history of the Slovak Republic- living under a continuous state of adversity and hardship from a ‘mother’ nation yet somehow still drawing the strength to persist in such circumstances.
The cyclic scene of the story also seems to serve as a metaphor for the persisting disposition of Slovaks. It goes as follows- in the dead of winter the stepsister makes an impossible request for violets or fruits that do not and can not grow in the winter, Marouckla is forced outside in the cold to find them and asks for help from the Twelve Months who grant her aid by changing the season so that these plants may sprout. The author using exceptionally poetic descriptions of the changing season: “…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” also conveys how the oppressed Slovaks, even in dire and nearly impossible environments can bloom and thrive like the flowers and fruits of Marouckla.

This event occurs three times before the sister sets out herself to sate her greed for more apples, the last item Maroukla brought back. She does not return. She dies lost in the unforgiving cold terrain along with her mother who follows after to search for her. In a horrific turn of poetic justice the tyrants of Marouckla’s life die by the hands of Slovakia’s unyieldingly weather. The story seems to convey that Slovakia is strong in their own way despite the various state of rule under larger nations. Undoubtedly their rulers could not have survived and flourished in the face of equivalent tribulations they themselves faced. The strength and power in this story was not shown through aggressive and amazing feats of battle or violence, but rather an enduring and steady perseverance. This is the pride of Slovakia, the unbending resolve that uplifted them into their long awaited independence.

“The Twelve Months” is without a doubt a staple of Slovak literature if you’re looking to find a taste of the true essence of their nation. Through a beautifully written anecdote, strong in universal morals and with a supremely satisfying ending Slovakia makes their history and culture simultaneously known. Their past has developed a national acknowledgment of the value of hard work and indominable spirit. The idea can be nicely summed up with a well known Slovak proverb- no work, no cake. Nothing worth having comes easy and I doubt anyone has a better sense of this than Slovakia. They as a nation strived together through hard times and the rewards they reaped were great and well worth the while. Still gratitude for their independence- something Americans often take for granted- resonates through the hearts and minds of every Slovak alike. Mutually they all hold a reverence for their unique art, literature, and culture. My hope is that these manifestations of their history and spirit captivate you as it did me.

  1. Home
  2. Slovakia at a glance
  3. Symbol- Juraj Janosik
  4. Proverb- No work, no cake
  5. Literature
  6. Project Extension
  7. Slovakia's Gift
  8. I Believe
  9. Martina and Herena
  10. Bibliography
  11. Miscellaneous