Ivana Mažuranić married Dr. Vatroslav Brlić on April 18, 1892 in Zagreb (the day of her eighteenth birthday). The wedding was small and modest because the bridegroom was in mourning for his departed uncle, who died suddenly, only a few weeks before the date on which the wedding was settled. After the wedding, Ivana and her husband move to Brod, to the Brlić family house, which Ivana later decorated with the help and advice she received in letters from her mother. Information about Ivana's married life comes mostly from her diary entries and private correspondence – in particular the almost daily letters to her mother in Zagreb, as well as other letters (to members of her family as well as people outside the family) she continued to send throughout her life.
In August 1892, Ivana and Vatroslav set off on their honeymoon trip: they spent two weeks travelling down the coast of Dalmatia and visiting the islands, finally arriving in Dubrovnik and returning to Brod through Bosnia. Ivana sent daily letters to her mother, describing her impressions of the trip.
Ivana's first child – her daughter Nada – was born on January 30, 1893. Her son Ivan was born in 1894; the following year she gave birth to another son, Vladimir, but he died soon after birth. Her private letters and diary entries bear witness to the pain and sorrow caused by her son's death. In 1897 she gave birth to her second daughter Zora; the third daughter, Zdenka, came in 1899. In 1902 her son Nikola was born, but he too died soon after birth. That year also marks the publication of her first book – which the Brlić family financed – The Good and the Naughty. In her Autobiography (1916), Ivana notes her reasons for (not) pursuing a literary career: she points out that, being a woman, she was taught that family, domestic, marital and parental duties always came first. This was in direct conflict with her literary ambitions which, as a result, were for the most part suppressed, with occasional outbursts in the form of her girlhood diary. However, the birth and upbringing of her own children gave Ivana a new stimulus and a “legitimate” reason to write. Her first book was self-published and primarily intended for family members, friends and acquaintances.
During that period of consecutive pregnancies, births and numerous parental, marital and household obligations, Ivana was living in Brod. She corresponded with her mother on a daily basis and took occasional trips to Zagreb (with or without her children) for longer or shorter stays at her parental home.
In the period from 1902 to 1916, when the first edition of Tales of Long Ago – containing six fairy tales (How Quest Sought the Truth, Fisherman Plunk and His Wife, Reygoch, Stribor's Forest, Little Brother Primrose and Sister Lavender, Bridesman Sun and Bride Bridekins) – was published, Ivana led an intense social and family life in Brod, taking occasional trips. In 1907 she accompanied her husband to Pest, where he was a people's representative in the parliament. The humorous memoirs which describe that trip make special mention of the fact that she saw the famous Croatian author and journalist Marija Jurić Zagorka there.
In this period Ivana published five books (The Good and the Naughty, School and Holidays, Images, The Marvellous Adventures of Hlapić the Apprentice and Tales of Long Ago) and gradually became a publicly recognised, mature writer. Her children grew up and her son Ivan was even drafted during World War I. In 1917 Ivana gave birth to her daughter Nedjeljka; the following year her first grandchild – Vesna, the daughter of Ivana's eldest daughter Nada – was born. In 1919, Ivana's mother Henrietta died.
The year 1923 was marked by the death of Ivana's husband Vatroslav and the publication of A Book for Youth. The 1920s were a period of continuous writing, as well as the first translations of her books into foreign languages – mostly due to the efforts of her brother Želimir. In 1924 the collection of fairy tales Tales of Long Ago was translated into English and published in London by Allen & Unwin under the title Croatian Tales of Long Ago. The same publisher would publish J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit about ten years later. The Tales were translated by Fanny Copeland, an English teacher at the University of Ljubljana. It is important to note that in this period Ivana wrote two more fairy tales – Toporko the Wanderer and the Nine Princes and Yagor – which were added to the third edition of Tales of Long Ago published in 1926.
Her books – Tales of Long Ago and The Marvellous Adventures of Hlapić the Apprentice – were translated into numerous languages and met with critical acclaim. Encouraged by such positive reviews, Ivana wrote a letter to her son Ivan, describing where she took the inspiration to write the Tales (the letter would afterwards be published and reprinted on several occasions). The person who made the greatest effort to have Ivana's works translated and published outside of Croatia was her brother Željko, who would remain a great help to her (especially where her literary works were concerned) for the rest of her life.
Ivana's father Vladimir died in 1928.
The beginning of the 1930s was marked by immense public recognition of Ivana's work: in 1929 she became a member of PEN and in 1931 Gavro Manojlović, at that time the President of the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts (abbr. JAZU) nominated her as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature (she did not win the Prize). During this period she was still socially active, she travelled a lot and began work on her adolescent novel Jaša Dalmatin, the Viceroy of Gujarat. The novel was published in 1937, the same year when Ivana became the first female (though, correspondent) member of JAZU. In the meantime, Gavro Manojlović nominated her for the Nobel Prize again in 1935 and (together with Albert Bazal, the new President of JAZU) in 1937 and 1938. Ivana was never awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, nor did she live long enough to find out about her fourth and final nomination (in 1938).
The 1930s were a period of sporadic depression and overall decline for Ivana: she undertook treatment and moved on several occasions, trying to arrange a life for herself and her under-aged daughter Nedjeljka on her modest income (this was increasingly difficult after the death of her husband and father). In 1938 she was admitted to the sanatorium on Srebrnjak (Zagreb), where, on September 21, she took her own life.
Dubravka Zima, 2013