P.E.I.’s most famous redhead now 116 years young

Posted on November 12, 2021 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments

Ever wish you could experience what’s on the pages of a good book in real life? When she wrote Anne of Green Gables, author Lucy Maud Montgomery took real life experiences and turned them into her now-famous story. It was inspired by her life on P.E.I. and the beloved Green Gables property described within its pages still stands. Written 116 years ago, the story has had success worldwide in print, film, television, theatre and as a major tourist attraction.

 

Cover of a 1909 edition of Anne of Green Gables and title page from a first edition published in 1908 (Photo credit: Canadian Encyclopedia and flickr)

 

Initial Publishing

Born in Clifton, P.E.I. in 1874, Lucy Maud Montgomery first wrote Anne of Green Gables in 1905. However, finding a publisher proved challenging. After countless rejections, persistence paid off when her first novel was published three years later in 1908 by L.C. Page. It was an instant success. Over 19,000 copies were sold in the first five months and well-known writers such as Mark Twain shared their praise.

The fictional story follows the life of orphan Anne Shirley, sent to live in rural P.E.I. to work on Green Gables farm. While Anne wasn’t the boy that brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert were expecting, her smarts and personality eventually won over her new family and the community as a whole. Her life’s story is detailed throughout eight novels.

 

Anne of Green Gables: The Musical, an annual production since 1965 (Photo credit: Louise Vessey)

 

Story Adaptations

The first adaptation of Anne of Green Gables occurred in 1919 as a silent movie and there have since been over two dozen others across film, television and anime. In 1965, a musical theatre production was produced for Charlottetown’s annual festival, which made the Guinness Book of World Records as “the longest running annual musical theatre production” in 2014. However, 2021 marked the first since 1965 that there was no show (due to pandemic restrictions).

One of the most famous adaptations of the story was a mini series produced by Kevin Sullivan in 1985, which received 10 Gemini Awards, an Emmy and a Peabody Award. Ratings for the series were some of the highest in Canadian history and viewership on CBC was second only to hockey. Sullivan produced three sequels from 1986-2008.

 

A copy of Anne of Green Gables in Japanese (Photo credit: Nagi Usano)

 

Worldwide Reach

By 1925, Anne of Green Gables had been translated into six languages other than English, and today that number is at least 36. One of the most notable international fandoms is in Japan. Hanako Muraoka is credited for translating the novel, which was published in 1952 and became part of the school curriculum. Two animated series adaptations were created in Japan and the country has a nursing school known as ‘School of Green Gables’. According to the Washington Post, fans even travel from Japan to get married on P.E.I.

 

The birthplace of Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery (Photo credit: Tourism P.E.I.)

 

Tourist Attraction

Still in print today, over 50-million copies of Anne of Green Gables have been sold worldwide and attractions related to the story are a major aspect of the province’s tourism scene. Guests can visit the birthplace of Lucy Maud Montgomery, museums, craft stores and more to experience the inspiration behind the 116-year-old tale.

 

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