The Lady’s Slavic Fairy Tales
Successfully passing down cultural folktales is vital for a society that wishes to continue through the ages. Hans Christian Anderson and the Grimm brothers were wildly successful at making sure native tales would not be forgotten. Geoffrey of Monmouth firmly established the British King Arthur in the popular imagination.
Croatia had its own passer-of-tales in Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić, a housewife-turned-author who committed the old Slavic folktales to paper along with other stories she wrote for her children.
Brlić-Mažuranić was born in 1874, and like many upper-class young woman of her time was educated at home and prepared for a life at home, one which she took up at age 18 when she married Vatroslav Brlić and moved to Slavonsky Brod.
Life as an upper-class spouse wasn’t always wonderful. Ivana gave birth to six children, but only four of them survived their childhood. It was for these children that she committed her first stories, written in French, to paper.
Her first book – The Marvelous Adventures and Misadventures of Hlapić the Apprentice, was published in 1913. In 1916 she published Croatian Tales of Long Ago, which was based on Slavic folktales.
Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić not only continued writing, but she was nominated four times for a Nobel Prize in Literature, and she was the first woman accepted to the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts.
For all her remarkable achievements and cultural contributions, Brlić-Mažuranić still fell victim to intense depression. In the fall of 1938 she was admitted to a sanatorium, where she committed suicide on 21 September 1938.
Brlić-Mažuranić’s children’s books have been translated into nearly all the European languages, as well as Turkish, Japanese, Bengali, and Parsi. Her legacy includes museums and a cast of childhood characters so beloved of Balkan childhood that they were even used as thematic decorations in the 2019 Advent displays in the town she spent her adulthood, Slavonsky Brod.
“I prefer my misfortune to all the happiness of this world,” Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić.