The tale is a marvelous one, seldom found in such a direct and pure version: a cruelly-used stepdaughter, sent into the forest in January to pick snowdrops for her stepsister's birthday, finds twelve men--three of them old, three middle-aged, three young, three mere boys--gathered around a fire. At her explanation of what she's looking for and why, the youngest of the twelve says to an elder: ""Brother January, let me take your place for just an hour."" But to keep the months in order, ""shaggy February"" makes a quick appearance before young March takes over, and the snowdrifts give way to snowdrops. On the little girl's arrival home, however, her stepmother scolds her for not asking for something valuable out-of-season--like strawberries and pears. The haughty stepsister sets out, and is struck down and frozen to death for her effrontery; the stepmother, going to search for her, is frozen to death too. (""And that's how both of them remained in the forest to wait for the summer."") At the close the stepdaughter, grown and a mother, is in a luxuriant, all-season garden where, say her neighbors, she has ""all the months of the year as her guests."" In Whitney's accomplished translation, the tale is also so well told that even Diane Stanley's posey, awkward pictures don't harm it--and the snow does have a frigid, tingling, all-enveloping feel.