In 2017, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s timeless novel, Anne of Green Gables, celebrated its 110th year since publication. The novel, which spawned an entire series, plus many adaptations on screen and stage, introduced the world to the plucky, red-headed orphan Anne Shirley. In the years since the novel was first published, Anne continues to captivate hearts and imaginations worldwide.
Anne of Green Gables is one of Canada’s most loved literary works, with an incredible fan following all around the world. In celebration of Montgomery’s classic story, here are 41 plucky facts about Anne of Green Gables!
Anne of Green Gables Facts
1. Island Born
Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, was born in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, Canada, on November 30th, 1874.
2. Nom de Plume
Montgomery often wrote under the pseudonym “Joyce Cavendish” to hide her writing from friends and family. She chose to publish Anne of Green Gables under the name L.M. Montgomery so that writers would not be able to discern her gender. Other women writers who masked their gender include Charlotte Brontë, who published Jane Eyre as Currer Bell, and J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame.
3. Maud With No “E”
Unlike the titular Anne, who insisted on her name being spelled “Anne with an E,” Montgomery herself preferred the opposite. She spelled her name “Maud” and wrote in her diary, “I never liked Lucy as a name. I always liked Maud—spelled not ‘with an e’ if you please.”
4. Young Adult Fiction in the 1900s
L.M. Montgomery was inspired by other children's’ books of the era, such as Little Women and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She decided to try her hand at writing her own novel for young readers in 1905.
5. Drawing Inspiration From Real Life
Montgomery’s tale of an elderly couple trying to adopt a boy but receiving a girl was inspired by a real-life newspaper article about the same situation. Some critics also point to Montgomery's own upbringing. While Montgomery was not orphaned or adopted by a brother and sister, she was a precocious young girl raised by an elderly couple.
Tragically, Montgomery lost her mother when she was just a baby. Her father felt that he could not care for the infant in his grief, so he placed young Montgomery with her maternal grandparents. At age seven, she moved to live out the rest of her childhood with her paternal grandparents.
6. False Start
Montgomery sent her draft of Anne of Green Gables to five publishers—but all of them rejected the manuscript. In 1906, she stashed the manuscript in a hatbox for a year, when it was unearthed during spring cleaning. She decided to try again, and resubmitted the book.
7. Runaway Success
Anne of Green Gables was picked up for publishing by L.C. Page Co. in 1907 and became an immediate success. Upon release in 1908, the book sold 19,000 copies during its first five months on the shelf. The publisher requested a sequel, Anne of Avonlea, almost immediately. When Montgomery's contract expired and she changed publishers, however, the relationship between Montgomery and Page deteriorated, leading to a long and costly courtroom dispute.
8. Wagging Tongues
The instant success of Anne of Green Gables made L.M. Montgomery become something of a literary celebrity, and as such a popular subject of gossip. In a far cry from the picturesque world of Green Gables and Avonlea, Montgomery faced numerous struggles. Over the years, her husband succumbed to a nervous breakdown, her son Chester was engaged in illicit activities, and Montgomery found herself relying on prescription medicine amidst battling severe depression.
9. Enduring Influence
Since Anne of Green Gables’ publication over a century ago, the book has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and been translated into 36 different languages. Montgomery's precocious redhead won over Matthew and Marilla, and then proceeded to endear herself to millions of readers all around the world.
10. The Whole Story
The story of Anne Shirley didn’t end with the first novel. The narrative of her life continued over eight more books. While the earlier books describe Anne's adolescence and early adulthood, later books concern her marriage and family, with the final novel Rilla of Ingleside, exploring the life of Anne's daughter Rilla. You could call it an early spin-off!
11. Posthumous Publishing
A ninth book, The Blythes Are Quoted, was delivered to Montgomery's publisher in 1942, the day following her passing. However, for unclear reasons, the novel was not published in its entirety until 2009—a whopping 67 years later. One scholar suggests a possible reason for the delay of the book: the novel carried a heavier tone and opposed any form of armed confrontation. In 1942, many countries were attempting to keep spirits up during WWII. Because of this, a dour, anti-conflict novel may not have sold too many copies.
12. Reluctant Author
L.M. Montgomery wasn’t immediately interested in continuing the story of Anne Shirley. After her publisher immediately requested a sequel, she wrote in a letter, “I’m awfully afraid if the thing takes, they’ll want me to write her through college. The idea makes me sick. I feel like the magician in the Eastern story who became the slave of the ‘jinn’ he had conjured out of a bottle.”
For better or for worse, Montgomery was proven right. Publishers demanded sequel after sequel so that readers could follow Anne through college—and beyond.
13. A Seat at the Table
Anne of Green Gables garnered some impressive praise: the famous American writer Mark Twain described Anne as, “The dearest, most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice." The iconic author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn was speaking, of course, of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This must have been a wonderful compliment to Montgomery. Reading Alice inspired her to write Anne!
14. Sassy Ladies Praising Sassy Ladies
Anne of Green Gables continues to captivate and inspire famous fans to this day. For example, writer, actress, and comedienne Mindy Kaling told the L.A. Times in an interview that the novel was among her favourites and that she would love to live in the world of the Anne novels. You know, Mindy, PEI isn't fictional. It's a real place that you can visit! Nevertheless, as of press, Kaling still resides in New York.
15. Royal Following
Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, and her husband, Prince William, are rumored to be huge fans of Montgomery's book as well. The pair met with actors of the long-running musical version of the novel in Charlottetown during their Canadian tour in 2011. Hmm. Canada is still technically shares a monarch with Britain. Maybe one day Anne will be made a Dame.
16. From One Island To Another
Anne of Green Gables is a classic in Canada, home of Lucy Maud Montgomery. But another island adores the plucky orphan: Japan! In 1939, a missionary from New Brunswick left her copy with her friend, translator Hanako Muraoka. Muraoka read the book and fell in love. She decided to secretly translate the novel, retitling it Akage No Anne (Anne of the Red Hair).
17. Prized Possession
When Muraoka first worked on the book's translation, Japan was in conflict with America, and English was perceived as the "language of the opposition." As a result, Muraoka kept her translation work hidden. When Tokyo underwent air strikes in 1945, Muraoka fled to an air-raid shelter, but made sure to bring precious cargo. She carried her copy of the novel and, of course, her precious translation of Anne of Green Gables.
18. Changing Times
Muraoka’s translation was a huge successful in post-conflict Japan. The novel was even added to the Japanese school curriculum as an example of wholesome, enriching Western literature. On a sadder note, as an orphan, Anne's story would have been relatable to many young children who had lost family members during the conflict.
Anne’s hardworking nature and kind attitude also made her an appealing character, and her charming of the hard-hearted Marilla Cuthbert inspired young readers to be persistent and open-hearted. Anne's popularity was also due to her “exotic” red hair, which captivated the attention of her beau Gilbert Blythe, as well as her Japanese readers—even if Anne herself wished for raven tresses.
19. Economic Boost
In 1986, Anne of Green Gables was already a successful cultural export of Prince Edward Island. But how many books can say that they helped their setting's agricultural industry? A Japanese businessman signed a contract to import 1.4 million pounds worth of potatoes from PEI solely because the vegetables came from Anne’s island home. People show their love in many different ways. Some write fan fiction, some order potatoes.
20. Stamp of Approval
In 2008, Japan and Canada co-released a set of commemorative stamps featuring scenes from a 1979 Nippon Animation cartoon of Anne of Green Gables. The stamps were so popular that they sold out only one month after their release.
21. Subversive Story
Japan wasn’t the only nation taken with Anne Shirley. In 1912, rogue Polish publishers illicitly replicated and translated Montgomery's charming novel—for reasons you might not anticipate. During WWII, the novel was printed by the Polish resistance and held as a bastion of loyalty, selflessness, and family values. The book was considered subversive and was banned during the Communist occupation after the conflict.
22. Anne on the Silver Screen
With her wild red hair and uproarious hijinks, Anne was destined for the silver screen, making her first appearance in a silent film from 1919. To the disappointment of many Anne fans, sadly the original film was destroyed—but for those who really want to see the first movie incarnation of the precocious heroine, you're in luck: still photographs from the movie managed to survive.
23. Getting it Wrong
Montgomery didn't exactly love the first depiction of her plucky heroine: she complained that the actress who played Anne was, “very dainty, very pretty, and utterly unlike my gingerly Anne.” Clearly, the movie's director and producers didn't think to ask Montgomery for her input ahead of time. Maybe it's a good thing that the actual film doesn't exist anymore?
24. Getting it Right
By far the most famous and adored adaptation of Anne of Green Gables is the Canadian miniseries, produced in 1985. The four-part miniseries starred Canadian actress Megan Follows, who was praised for her iconic performance. For many fans, Follows is the Anne. Thee series also won critical acclaim, including an Emmy and a Peabody.
25. International Following
The CBC miniseries, starring Megan Follows as Anne Shirley, was almost as famous internationally as the novel it was based on. The series made Canadian broadcast history when it premiered, with a record viewership that wouldn’t be broken until Canadian Idol in 2003. The four-part series has since been translated in 30 different languages and broadcast in more than 140 countries.
26. Anne for a New Era
The most recent adaptation of Anne of Green Gables made a splash in 2017. Co-produced by CBC and Netflix, the eight-part miniseries, titled Anne with an E, stars young Irish-Canadian actress Amybeth McNulty as the titular Anne. Billed as a darker, grittier retelling of the classic, Anne with an E certainly presented new elements to the story. Indeed, the showrunner, Moira Walley-Beckett, is known for her work on AMC’s drug noir drama Breaking Bad.
27. Too Perfect
Much like the L.M. Montgomery’s criticism of the first Anne of Green Gables adaptation, fans were outraged by some promotional ads for 2017’s Anne with an E. While Amybeth McNulty portrayed Anne Shirley as a plain and gawky antiheroine, fans were quick to notice that Netflix had altered images of McNulty to appear more "attractive."
McNulty’s freckles were removed with Photoshop, her face was made thinner, and her teeth straightened. The ad campaign was widely lambasted, with fans saying that it was Anne’s imperfections that made her so special.
In 2013, an enterprising self-publishing firm took advantage of the fact that Anne of Green Gables had fallen into the public domain and issued a boxed set of the first three Anne novels. Their work also garnered wide outrage: the version of “Anne” that graced the cover was not a red-haired orphan, but a buxom and notably blonde farm girl.
One wonders, did they even read the book before publishing it?
29. Singing Shirley
A musical based on Anne of Green Gables was first staged in 1965 as part of the Charlottetown Festival in Anne's home of Prince Edward Island. The musical has run every year since then, and in 2014, the Guinness World Records recognized the production as Canada’s longest-running musical. In case you didn't know, Canada really likes Anne of Green Gables.
30. A Life of Its Own
Now in its 63rd season, producers claim that Anne of Green Gables: The Musical is the longest-running annual musical in the world! Over 2.3 million people have seen it in Charlottetown, and even more have seen Anne and Gilbert dance across stages in London, New York, and Japan.
Anne of Green Gables was adapted for the large and small screen 23 times, but only once was the heroine, Anne Shirley, played by an actress with the same name. In 1934, the Hollywood film studio RKO chose an unknown 16-year-old actress named Dawn Paris to star in their film.
The studio, never one to pass up a good publicity stunt, asked the young actress to change her name to that of her character, and she remained Anne Shirley for the rest of her career.
32. Pricy Publication
In 2009, a first-edition copy of Anne of Green Gables sold at Sotheby’s auction for $37,000. The book would have originally sold for $1.50.
33. In Real Life
Anne of Green Gables may be a work of fiction, but it draws from real life. The idea of a young female orphan adopted by an elderly couple who hoped for a boy was based on a true story. Similarly, a real house inspired Green Gables. Montgomery's cousins, the MacNeil family owned a white farm with rich green paint on the the gables.
34. Literary Pilgrimage
Today, Green Gables, located in Cavendish, PEI, is one of Canada’s most celebrated landmarks. The house is a designated National Historic Site, and receives thousands of visitors every year — including many Japanese women with their hair dyed red and plaited into pigtails! For Japanese fans who want to visit Anne's home but can't swing the trip to Canada, part of the Canadian World theme park in Japan recreates Green Gables.
35. Get the Look
If you want to cosplay as Anne Shirley but don't want to dye your hair fire-engine red, don’t fret! The Green Gables Heritage Place has your back. When you visit Anne's home, you can go to the gift shop where they sell straw hats festooned with fake red braided pigtails and bangs. Unsurprisingly, these are a top seller with fans of Anne.
36. Can’t Get Enough
The Anne series is just one of Montgomery’s series of novels. She also wrote the popular three-volume Emily of New Moon series, as well as two Story Girl novels, and two novels about Pat of Silver Bush. Most of her work concerns small-town life on Prince Edward Island in the early 20th century.
From 1990 to 1996, CBC broadcast a television series loosely based on the setting and characters of Anne of Green Gables. Called Road to Avonlea, the show chronicled life in a small Prince Edward Island town, with characters sourced from Montgomery’s other works. The show ran for 91 episodes across six seasons, and featured a young Sarah Polley.
38. Sister Schools
A nursing school in Okayama, Japan bears the name "The School of Green Gables," as a tribute to the novel. The school is a “sister school” to the University of Prince Edward Island's School of Nursing — a fitting tribute to a character so kind and caring to others.
39. Great Lady
The world began to celebrate Lucy Maud Montgomery’s contributions to Canadian literature early in her career. In 1935, she was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
40. Out Loud
If you’d prefer to listen to the story of Anne Shirley out loud, you can find Anne of Green Gables on audiobook. The novel was recorded and released in 2016, narrated by another one of Canada’s sweethearts, Rachel McAdams.
41. Anne With a Vlog Camera
In the 2010s, a curious phenomenon took YouTube by storm. Companies and independent artists started making webseries adaptations of classic novels like Pride and Prejudice, Peter Pan, and Jane Eyre. A young troupe of Canadian and American writers and actors teamed up to create Green Gables Fables, a successful adaptation of Anne that sees the plucky redhead grapple with high school and first-year university while uploading energetic videos to her YouTube channel.