When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge toured Canada in 2011, their itinerary included a stop at Prince Edward Island, the setting of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables novels.
Anne of Green Gables was first published in 1908, and in the 108 years that have passed since, its wonderfully original heroine has worked her way into the hearts of countless readers — Duchess Catherine included.
When siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert contact an orphanage hoping to adopt a boy who can help Matthew on their farm, they in fact wind up with Anne Shirley, an orphan girl with red hair and a truly remarkable imagination. They are both charmed by the chatty, unladylike girl in spite of themselves, and decide to keep her.
The stories were adapted into a well-regarded miniseries in 1985, in which Megan Follows starred as Anne and Jonathan Crombie played her school rival–turned–love interest Gilbert Blythe. There’s currently a reboot in the works from creator, writer, and executive producer Moira Walley-Beckett, whose TV resume includes Breaking Bad and Flesh and Bone.
In honor of Anne’s birthday — born in 1865, she would celebrate her 151st on March 5 — we’ve put together a glossary of her favorite sayings, most deeply held beliefs, and most cherished fantasies, all of which make her uniquely Anne. If you’re a true kindred spirit, read them below.
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Anne with an ‘e’
First things first: The spelling of the name Anne without an ‘e’ at the end — and perhaps even more importantly, the pronunciation of the name Anne when mentally spelled without an ‘e’ by the speaker — will not be tolerated. “It makes such a difference,” Anne insists. “If you’ll only call me Anne spelled with an ‘e’ I shall try to reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia.” Which brings us to:
“Will you please call me Cordelia?”
“I would love to be called Cordelia. It’s such a perfectly elegant name,” Anne says upon being introduced to Marilla, who has no patience for the practice of making up names for oneself, however elegant. When Anne is alone, however, she imagines her east gable room to be filled with mahogany furniture and silken cushions, and herself having beautiful dark hair and being called the Lady Cordelia Fitzgerald. Alas, when she looks in the mirror she’s only Anne of Green Gables — “but it’s a million times nicer to be Anne of Green Gables than Anne of nowhere in particular, isn’t it?”
The “scope for imagination”
Anne measures the value of a place not by any physical metric as much as by its “scope for imagination;” conveniently, Avonlea has it in spades (with the exception of a few particularly lovely spots, which she is delighted to report can’t even be improved by imagination). “Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about?” she asks Matthew on their first drive to Green Gables. “It’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”
The “depths of despair”
Anne has a bit of a tendency for melodrama, and when at her lowest, she claims quite pathetically to be in the “depths of despair.” Marilla cannot identify with the feeling, having never felt so low herself (and never even imagined it!), so Anne quite helpfully explains, “It’s a very uncomfortable feeling indeed. When you try to eat a lump comes right up in your throat and you can’t swallow anything, not even if it was a chocolate caramel.”
A “kindred spirit” and “bosom friend”
Soon after meeting Matthew Cuthbert, Anne declares him a “kindred spirit,” and so introduces one of her most deeply held values. “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think,” Anne observes after finding Diana’s prickly old Aunt Josephine to be one. “It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
The title of “bosom friend,” however, is much less freely given; “an intimate friend,” as Anne explains the concept to Marilla, “a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul.” She finds such a friend in Diana Barry, who does not quite have as much imagination as Anne but makes up for it with her beautiful jet-black hair. “It’s bad enough to have red hair myself, but I positively couldn’t endure it in a bosom friend,” Anne tells Marilla. Speaking of which:
The eternal plight of the redhead
“Now you see why I can’t be perfectly happy. Nobody could who had red hair,” poor Anne tells Matthew upon their first meeting, resigned to her fate. “It will be my lifelong sorrow.” She insists that having red hair makes it much more difficult to be good, telling Marilla, “People who haven’t red hair don’t know what trouble it is,” and even tries to end her suffering by dyeing her hair black, to utterly disastrous (i.e. green) results. But the worst thing to come of it is her behavior when other people bring it up; when Gilbert Blythe calls her “Carrots” in a preteen attempt at flirting, she breaks her school slate over his head and refuses to acknowledge him for years.
The need for puffed sleeves
While Anne despairs that she can never change her hair and says prayers thanking God for her pretty nose, the wardrobe of her dreams is something that she could conceivably have — if only Marilla would let her. “It would give me such a thrill, Marilla, just to wear a dress with puffed sleeves,” she pleads, but Marilla will not make her one, because she finds them ridiculous. Matthew to the rescue: Once he notices that Anne isn’t dressed like the rest of her friends, he buys her a dress with the loveliest, puffiest sleeves she could ever hope for.
The personification of nature
Anne feels a great affinity for the natural world, and imagines the various flora of Avonlea to be her friends. She ponders whether a rose is glad to be a rose (determining it must be, especially since it’s pink), empathizes sincerely with the trees at the orphanage, and expresses a belief that amethysts are “the souls of good violets.” She comes up with romantic names for spots around Avonlea — like the White Way of Delight, the Lake of Shining Waters, and Dryad’s Bubble — to the point where a map of the place resembles that of a fairyland.
So happy birthday, Anne! We hope you celebrate with a very fine tea served on the rosebud china, and that you wear the puffy-sleeved dress of your wildest fancies while you do it. We do believe that birthdays offer a wonderful scope for the imagination.