Covering the World: What does Anne mean to readers the world over?
Lisa Bennett and Kylie Cardell, Flinders University, South Australia
Before anything else, we both remember Anne wading thigh-deep through the snow. We live in Australia, but Lisa grew up in Canada. For her, snow was miserable and mundane; it was Anne’s heroism and magic that changed the wintry landscape forever. For Kylie, a girl from Brisbane, the romantic scenery of Anne of Green Gables, so lovingly rendered in Montgomery’s novel and pictured so unforgettably in Sullivan’s mini-series, was inconceivably fantastic—Anne’s desperate dash through the frozen landscape of a wintry night to act as nurse-hero to Diana’s baby sister might well have been a scene from science fiction for all its relevance to my reality. Reading through that scene, we are awash with nostalgia, hearts aglow. No matter where we are, Anne is there, different from how she was in our memories, but still doing the same thing she always did: wending her way through the Canadian landscape, unashamedly daydreaming, reciting lines from the literature that had changed her—and our—life.
Whenever—and wherever—we think of Anne, we are home.
Catherine Sheldrick Ross, excerpted from "Reading L.M. Montgomery: What Adult Swedish and Canadian Readers Told Us," by Catherine Sheldrick Ross and Åsa Warnqvist, from the Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies, 2020.
For some Canadian children, especially those who first encountered L.M. Montgomery decades ago when the children’s books they read were mostly written and set elsewhere, Montgomery’s books were special because they depicted a world that was specifically Canadian and offered readers the opportunity to see themselves mirrored in fiction. ... [One reader told me that] “The narrative [Montgomery taught me] is the creation of a world which is similar to our own, but better. And the characters are recognizable going all the way back to fairy tales and all the way forward into popular movies. ... It’s that world in which things are just slightly magicked from one’s own real humdrum existence in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
PEI just seemed like this magical place. You could see the beauty through Anne’s eyes. This is where we all identified with Anne. We were sure that we had that magic sight. ... I believe that this is the Canadian narrative, the Canadian story. It is fundamentally to imagine a better world than the one in which we are currently dwelling.”
Vappu Kannas, Author and Independent Scholar, Finland
The Anne books have been read in Finnish for a hundred years, and even longer in Swedish, the other official language in Finland. The first Finnish translation of Anne of Green Gables was published in 1920 as Annan nuoruusvuodet ("Anne's juvenile years") and four of the sequels followed between 1921 and 1925. Several generations have loved Anne, and the books have been passed on as treasured gifts from mothers to daughters, grandmothers to grandchildren, and godparents, aunts, and friends to other keen readers. Judging from the Finnish readers' letters published in a collection of reading experiences in the early 2000s, Montgomery's books and especially Anne have had a huge impact on Finnish girls and women. Anne has served as a rare model of an independent and well-rounded girl character whose love of books and education has been an inspiration to many, especially girls reading the books during and after the war years. It could be said, then, that Anne has impacted the Finnish culture profoundly at the grassroots level, in the reading moments and the way those moments have shaped the lives and life decisions of the readers.
Sigríður Lára Sigurjónsdóttir and Ásta Gísladóttir, The University of Iceland
Anne of Green Gables has an important place in Icelandic readership. Translated in the early days of Icelandic publishing (in 1933), it comes into a literary landscape where books aimed especially at young readers are scarce, so the Icelandic title, Anna í Grænuhlíð is known to the general public. Some of the early Anne books were republished three times in the 20th century in the same, somewhat shortened, versions. The last ones were published in and after 1988, in connection with the Emmy-winning television series that was also very popular in Iceland. Since 2012, Ástrḱi publishing has been working on new translations of the original text of all the Anne books for a very different readership in the 21st century.
But the Anne philosophy, if you will, and the story of the charming, red-haired firecracker, is still alive and well in Icelandic culture, situated somewhere between Pippi Longstocking and Pollyanna on the spectrum of young heroines.
Dr. Sam Roodi, Fanshawe College, adapted from "Teaching and Reading Anne of Green Gables in Iran, the Land of Omar Khayyam," in Anne Around the World: L.M. Montgomery and Her Classic, edited by Jane Ledwell and Jean Mitchell, 2013.
Anne Shirley has elicited a surprising degree of identification from female Iranian readers and offered them a fictional medium through which their images and aspirations are projected. Anne has captured the hearts and minds of many Iranian readers because she follows her heart against all odds. She does not allow life to make her a victim of circumstances. No obstacles can thwart her imagination and dreams. Iranian readers can identify themselves with Anne and respond exponentially to her world, despite living in a country whose culture and world are essentially different from those of the author of the novel.
Eri Muraoka, granddaughter of the first Japanese translator of Anne of Green Gables, Hanako Muraoka
Anne of Green Gables was first introduced to Japanese readers in 1952, seven years after their defeat in World War II. Anne made a striking appearance as a democratic heroine, suitable for a new era. Since then, she has attracted three generations of readers and is the most popular protagonist among children and adults of all ages. Even though times have changed, and our lives have become affluent, Anne always presents and makes us think about the important things that we should keep in mind: what is authentic happiness for human beings? In today's Japanese publishing world, Anne of Green Gables has gained a firm position and has become a standard. It is our starting point, a set of values that can be shared across generations. And as long as this story continues to be read, it means that we Japanese will never forget our understanding and respect for the culture and people of Canada.
Barbara Gawronska Pettersson and Susan Lynn Erdmann, University of Agder
L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables was published in Norwegian as Anne fra Bjørkely in 1918 and has since been retranslated three more times–in 1940, 1982, and 2014. Although containing only a fraction of the original text, the 1940 translation by Mimi Sverdrup Lunden was particularly popular and was republished in multiple editions throughout the 20th Century, introducing several generations of readers to Montgomery’s work. Many features of Avonlea were immediately familiar to the mid-century readers of Anne fra Bjørkely. Although centralization had begun in Norway during the post-war period, a good part of the population continued to live in smaller towns, and the intimate quality of Avonlea’s social life would have struck a chord in the hearts of many Norwegian readers.
Anne’s nearness to the natural world and her appreciation of natural beauty also resonated with the Norwegian experience. And of course, Anne herself represented qualities like independence, hard work, loyalty, resourcefulness that were admired by post-war readers. With the publication of Kristine Quintano’s complete Anne in 2014, new generations of Norwegian readers are being introduced to a complete version of Montgomery’s classic, ensuring the book’s lasting popularity in Norway.
Dorota Pielorz, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland
Polish reception of Anne of Green Gables (Ania z Zielonego Wzgórza) can be perceived as a fascinating phenomenon. The first Polish translation of Montgomery’s bestseller by Rosalia Bernsteinowa was published in 1911–1912 and was the second rendering of Anne’s adventures in the world (after the Swedish edition, which was a point of reference for Polish Ania). Since then, the red-haired protagonist has been a very important figure in the Polish children’s and youth literary polysystem, but she also played a crucial role in the process of shaping modern Polish culture in general. It is still one of the most important and popular books among children, especially girls, and it certainly can be seen as a children’s classic. Copies of Montgomery’s best renowned novel are often handed down by mothers to their daughters. For more than a century, the ideal of an imaginative, talkative, light-hearted, and exceptionally intelligent, strong, as well as independent, girl has been presented to a Polish audience. It gives them hope and encourages women to strive for emancipation on many different levels. With readers’ and fans’ undiminished interest and developing scholars’ research, Anne’s position as one of the favourite teen protagonists seems to be uncompromised.
Irina Levchenko, University of Vienna
Since she first appeared in Russia in the mid-1990s, Anne has been translated and adapted in a multitude of ways: as a carrier of Christian and traditional family values and as an anarchic girl similar to Pippi Longstocking, as a (simplified) children’s classic and as a bodice-ripper romance. Originally published in a series which consisted of North American girls’ classics such as Little Women and Pollyanna, over the years Anne has continuously been included into various girls’ series by different publishers. Consequently, the novel is largely seen not on its own but as part of the genre.
Unfortunately, this diminished not only Anne’s individuality but also her reputation: as within the Russian children’s literary system, girls’ books are often seen as a conventional genre equivalent to what trivial women’s romance novels are in the world of adult literature—a superfluous label that stuck, in part, due to cheap book design. Recent editions offer a welcome change to this pattern on the visual level: quality design and especially full-colour illustrations not only elevate Anne’s status but suggest female freedom and independence. However, these editions still recycle translations which now need a feminist update, too.
Idette Noomé, University of Pretoria
My mother, growing up in the 1930s (when South Africa was a sovereign state in the British Empire), was entranced by Montgomery’s Anne in the Harrap “orangies” editions, including Anne of Windy Willows (not Poplars). The landscape was very different, but Avonlea’s small town and farm life was sufficiently familiar for middle-class English-speaking and some Afrikaans home-language readers to identify with Anne, often read in tandem with Alcott’s Little Women. Many read and lovingly reread the novels, passing them down to daughters and granddaughters. The first two of Sullivan’s 1985 series aired on television (rebroadcast in the 1990s), bringing Anne to new generations. Today, Anne of Green Gables is the only novel in the series freely available, and Montgomery is not well known—English is the lingua franca for commerce and science, but is home language to only about 9% of South Africans, and books are an expensive luxury.
It remains to be seen whether CBC’s Anne with an E (on Netflix) will create new Anne readers (Netflix had 2 million subscribers in the country by December 2020, 3% of the population). Anne of Green Gables and Rillla of Ingleside are taught in one postgraduate Children’s Literature course at the University of Pretoria, where two master’s and one honours dissertation have been completed on Montgomery.
Åsa Warnqvist, Research Manager and Director of the Swedish Institute for Children’s Books
What does Anne mean to Swedish readers? A lot of different things, according to the readers I was in contact with as I explored this very question in my research. Anne of Green Gables was published in Sweden in 1909, the first ever translation. The rest of the series soon followed and most of the volumes have been in print continuously ever since. Through written accounts submitted to me by Swedish readers of all ages, mostly female, I learned that Montgomery’s books spark a strong emotional response connected to many areas in the lives of everyday readers. The books are a repository for memory and for emotional connections. The readers emphasize strong childhood memories connected to reading the books and equally strong experiences of rereading them over a lifetime. The Anne books are part of a female reading tradition in Sweden, creating a bridge between generations. Anne herself and the universality of her experiences make a deep impression. Readers testify to Anne giving them the gift of looking upon nature with the eye of the imagination, and they describe Anne as a role model when making important life choices, such as moving on to higher education, choosing a profession, or a partner. Anne invites readers to immerse themselves emotionally in the stories. It is she who sparks the comfort, reassurance, hope, and empowerment the readers feel when reading the books.
Olga Nikolenko, Professor, Chair of World Literature Department at Poltava V.G. Korolenko National Pedagogical University, and Kateryna Nikolenko, Ph.D. candidate at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv
Canadian literature is an important part of the World Literature course program for secondary schools in Ukraine. While reading books by Ernest Thompson Seton and Lucy Maud Montgomery, Ukrainian students discover the beautiful nature of Canada and immerse themselves in the breathtaking world of friendship, creativity, and adventure. Maud’s novels are especially meaningful when it comes to building character, attitude, and values. Teachers and students alike take great pleasure in reading Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest. These books have become true favorites among other works included in our suggested reading lists. Not only do they speak to the importance of having a peaceful and cozy home filled with “faithful, tender love”—a home where “old dreams hang thick,” as Anne would say—but they also inspire us to appreciate family, friends, and the stories we tell each other in a new way.
Anne’s imagination is something no one can take away from her. “This stray woman-child,” who dreamt the world around her into being, has inspired many a girl in our country to shape and mold reality as she saw fit, to stay free, and to harness the power of her creative mind. And to this day, Anne keeps teaching us to find joy in anything and everything we can. Despite all the challenges and shortcomings of her life, Maud’s heroine exemplifies the beauty and joy of learning, dreaming, staying true to herself and believing in others.
The United Kingdom
Jennifer H Litster, Independent Scholar, Edinburgh
“Anne of Green Gables” is British royalty. Specifically, according to the apocryphal schoolboy, one of the six unfortunate wives of Henry VIII. A jest, yes, and one that delighted L.M. Montgomery, yet it holds a kernel of truth. Anne Shirley’s importance in our literary upbringing earns her a place with Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves in the British cultural lexicon. Anne sits on the nursery bookshelves with The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1899), Peter Pan (1904), and The Wind in the Willows (1908). Its imaginative, loquacious, earnest heroine is as much a Sara Crewe or Alice or Mary Lennox as she is a Rebecca, Pollyanna or Jo. Following Montgomery’s newlywed footsteps around England and Scotland, biographer Mary Rubio met no one who hadn’t heard of Anne. Of appeal the world over, Montgomery’s 1908 bestseller has a special seat at the British table because of our shared past.
My doctoral research examined the impact of Scotland—the home of her forebears—on Maud Montgomery. The heart of Anne’s Avonlea beats to a Scottish tune—the Cuthbert cows marching to Scott’s Marmion, the thrills and crinkles sparked by the poetry of Campbell and Thomson, the midnight ride of Tam O’Shanter haunting the spruce wood over the brook. Scottish thistle, Canadian skunk cabbage, English rose—a blend that still smells sweet whatever the name, Queen Anne.
The United States
Emily Woster, University of Minnesota Duluth
Anne of Green Gables has never been out of print in the U.S. "Anne of Green Gables," the girl, is in the pantheon of "classic" (children’s) book characters. For American readers, Anne resides on the shelf near Jo of Orchard House (Little Women), Laura of the Little Houses (the Little House series), and Francie of Brooklyn (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn). But beyond the lists and the canon—and even more importantly—Anne is central to millions of readers' coming-of-age experiences. Readers who, with very little prompting, will delightedly share how they were gifted the book by mothers and aunts, grandmas and friends. Readers who come from all regions and backgrounds who speak and write movingly about the effect that Anne had on their first reading and the way she stays with them throughout their lives. There are as many kinds of Anne readers as there are "different Annes." Something about the story of a plucky, talkative girl who inspires change and joy in those around her speaks to readers across boundaries of time, place, and circumstance. Anne might be "of" Green Gables, but she is "for" all of us.
Doreley Carolina Coll, University of Prince Edward Island, excerpted from "Reading Anne of Green Gables in Montevideo,” in Anne Around the World: L.M. Montgomery and Her Classic, edited by Jane Ledwell and Jean Mitchell, 2013.
When I first read Anne of Green Gables as an eleven-year-old in Montevideo, Uruguay, it gave me a sense of pure joy. On cold south-Atlantic nights, in my mother’s bedroom, the only one with a fireplace, I could cuddle under thick quilts with my book, to be transported in no time to Marilla’s kitchen, the smell of fresh-baked bread, and the “Snow Queen” in all her luminous and fragrant splendour. … But what really captured my imagination was Montgomery’s description of the ice cream available at the Sunday school picnic. … Ice cream at a picnic? Surely the Prince Edward Island described in Anne was an enchanted place! What may be surprising for Montgomery scholars is to find the cheerful, imaginative Anne appropriating and disseminating the [powerful place] of the red-haired woman in Western literature and art through her influence on the Uruguayan teacher, educator, and writer Armonía Somers.
As a teacher, Armonía Somers was the person responsible for including Ana de las tejas verdes in the Uruguayan curriculum. ... The fictional world of Armonía Somers, the writer, was distinctly influenced by Montgomery’s heroine. … Armonía Somers’s powerful influence as a pedagogue and her decision to share her love of L.M. Montgomery’s work shaped my childhood. ... In her novels set in Prince Edward Island, Montgomery revealed the limitations of conformist society more gently [than did Armonía Somers] expanding “scope for imagination” beyond rigid expectations based on gender and class. … [T]heir heroines’ fiery tresses generate the sparks good literature creates, and kindle in readers of many places and many times imagined visions of how the world may be.