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10 Things You Might Not Know About Anne of Green Gables

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Lucy Maud (without an e, thanks) Montgomery’s classic bildungsroman, Anne of Green Gables, was published to massive—Harry Potter levels—success in 1908, spawning a whole series of sequels, a bustling tourism industry for the Canadian island where the books were set, and a worldwide enduring love affair with the feisty Anne “with an ‘e’” Shirley.

Montgomery finished Anne in 1905, and it took her six tries to find the novel a publisher. That sixth publisher, the Page Company of Boston, Mass., was very lucky: The original book was a runaway bestseller, selling 19,000 copies in the first five months and sprinting through 10 printings in its first year alone. The following year, it was translated into Swedish, the first of at least 20 different languages Anne would be published in. More than 50 million copies of the book have been sold worldwide, and it is probably still the most widely read Canadian novel in the world. 

The story of how the independent, flame-topped 11-year-old orphan Anne comes to live at the Cuthberts’ farm on Prince Edward Island is by now a well-worn classic, especially—but not solely—if you’re a woman. Anne is clever, spirited, loyal, and imaginative, but prone to dramatic flights of fancy and getting herself into situations; her transformation into the beloved adopted daughter of the elderly brother and sister Cuthbert, the Island’s brightest student, a pretty woman whose carrot-colored locks deepen into a handsome auburn, and a mature caretaker who is willing to put her own dreams on hold for the good of others is at times mawkish, but on the whole deeply satisfying. Even now, the books retain the charm that first set young imaginations alight, as evidenced by how much people continue to celebrate them, more than 100 years after their first printing. 

But even if you’ve read the whole series—the seven sequels and the two related books by Montgomery, all about Anne—there might be a few things about Anne with an e that you don’t know.

1. Anne has fans—and many of them are writers.

Famous curmudgeon Mark Twain loved her, saying she was "the dearest and most lovable child in fiction" since Lewis Carroll's Alice. Margaret Atwood, in an essay that appeared in The Guardian in 2008—the 100th anniversary of the book’s publication—wrote about her love of reading the book as a child and then again, when her own daughter was of Anne-age. Atwood also makes a compelling case that in Anne of Green Gables, the story isn’t so much about Anne’s transformation—or lack thereof, because notwithstanding her new thoughtfulness and auburn locks, she’s still the same girl inside—but about cold spinster Marilla Cuthbert’s. “Anne is the catalyst,” wrote Atwood, “who allows the crisp, rigid Marilla to finally express her long-buried softer human emotions.” 

2. Anne is big in Japan.

In 1939, a missionary from New Brunswick left her copy of Anne with a friend, respected translator Hanako Muraoka. Muraoka secretly translated the book into Japanese, renaming it Akage No Anne (Anne of the Red Hair), but held on to it through the war. In 1952, when Japanese officials were looking for translations of enriching, inspirational Western literature to teach in schools, she brought out her translation and Anne of Green Gables became part of the Japanese curriculum. Japan fell in love with Anne overnight, finding her red hair exotic, her hardworking attitude and kind nature endearing, and her story of winning over the town—not to mention Marilla Cuthbert, the seemingly hard-hearted matron—inspirational. 

National obsession might not even begin to cover it: In 1986, a Japanese businessman made news when he signed a contract to import more than $1.4 million worth of potatoes from Prince Edward Island, solely on the realization that the potatoes came from Anne’s island. There is an Anne Academy in Fukuoka, which teaches Japanese students how to speak English with a Prince Edward Island accent; a nursing school called the School of Green Gables that tries to instill Anne-like qualities in its students; and several national fan clubs. People get married in Anne-themed weddings, thousands of Japanese tourists—many of them adult women with their hair dyed red and tied up in pigtails—visit Prince Edward Island each year, and surveys consistently find that the character is still one of the most beloved of young women across Japan. In 2008, the Canadian and Japanese post jointly sold a sheet of stamps featuring scenes from the 1979 Nippon Animation Anne cartoon; the stamps proved so popular in Japan that they sold 10 million of the 15 million run in the first month of their release.

3. Anne was a hero of the Polish Resistance.

Anne of Green Gables was translated, although not officially, into Polish in 1912. This pirated copy, under the spurious author name “Anne Montgomery,” would become hugely popular and deeply important to Poland over the next 40 years and beyond. During World War II, the Polish resistance issued copies of Anne of Green Gables to its fighters as a reminder of what they were fighting for and to emphasize the values of family, loyalty, and selflessness—all of the things that plucky Anne seemed to embody. After the War and during the Communist occupation, the book was suppressed as subversive, largely due to its themes of resisting authority and the importance and value of the individual. The book was big on the black market; the copies sold there were often patched together from personal copies that hadn’t been confiscated.

Just as Anne herself became a kind of emblem of individualism and hope, so too did the author, whose works were celebrated well beyond the Anne canon. In 1982, Montgomery's only book set entirely outside of Prince Edward Island and one of the few to be pitched to an adult audience, The Blue Castle, was turned into a musical in Krakow, no mean feat during the Communist privations.

4. Anne is big business.

While the sales of the books may have slowed somewhat with age, Anne is still big business to all those kindred spirits who love her so. Cavendish, which Montgomery re-imagined as Avonlea in the books, sees more than 125,000 Anne fans on pilgrimage each year (an estimated 20 percent of them are from Japan), and Green Gables, a farmhouse that had actually belonged to Montgomery’s cousin but certainly looks the part, is a National Historic Site (it abuts an 18-hole golf course; such is the course of modernity). Prince Edward Island, which jointly owns the trademarked term “Anne of Green Gables” with Montgomery's heirs, remains a veritable wonderland of Anne-themed tchochkes. Anne fans can buy Anne tea sets and Anne candies; Anne tea towels and potholders, cookbooks and aprons; Anne note cards and pencils; CDs featuring music from the several Anne musicals; and Anne light switches. There are Anne buttons and magnets, Anne bookmarks, Anne puzzles, Anne stained glass night lights; for the kids, an Anne straw hat to wear just like their favorite heroine, Anne porcelain dolls to be creeped out by, and Anne plush dolls to cuddle. Carry it all home in your new Anne tote bags, just because you can. Virtually anything that you could put Anne on, someone has. 

5. Anne is who LM wished she could be.

In some senses, Montgomery was rewriting her own past in Anne of Green Gables. Montgomery wasn’t exactly an orphan in the strictest sense of the word—her mother died when she wasn’t even 2 years old, and her father left her to be raised by her severe, Presbyterian maternal grandparents in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island. But she felt like one in the spiritual, emotional sense: Sensitive and book-loving, Montgomery did not find a lot of love with her grandparents, nor did she find it when she was later sent to live with her father’s new family after he remarried. When Anne declares, "Nobody ever did want me," it’s not hard to hear Montgomery’s voice. 

Despite her fame, success, and rich inner life, at least part of Montgomery’s life was a series of misadventures in love and unhappiness, including refusing to marry the farmer she loved because she believed he wasn’t educated enough for her, and eventually marrying a Presbyterian minister who sank into a debilitating depression. When she died in 1942, her family gave it out that it was heart failure that killed her. In 2008, however, her granddaughter disclosed that the 67-year-old writer had deliberately overdosed on drugs, leaving behind a note asking for forgiveness. (For more about Montgomery’s complicated life, check out this.) 

6. Montgomery dreaded the Anne sequels.

The success of Anne of Green Gables was, as they say, a blessing and a curse for Montgomery. Even as early as 1908, a year before the first Anne sequel, Anne of Avonlea, came out, Montgomery wrote to a friend that she dreaded the thought of revisiting Anne and that the whole idea of a sequel was her publisher’s: “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.”

College?! Montgomery continued to write Anne well through college, marriage, childbirth, and beyond, and it seems that by Anne of Ingleside, the sixth book, at least, she was more or less all right with it—she wrote that it was like “going home.” 

7. Anne Shirley played Anne Shirley.

Anne has been reinvented dozens of times over. In 1919, the book was adapted to the screen in a now-lost silent film; in 1934, Hollywood tried again, this time with a 16-year-old girl called “Anne Shirley” in the title role. Shirley was actually born Dawn Paris—a pretty good stage name already —but film studio RKO was never one to pass up a publicity stunt, so they asked the contract player to change her name to her character’s. Funnily enough, her name had already been changed once before, by her stage parents: She went from Dawn Paris to Dawn O’Day by the age of three.

8. More Annes on screen.

Anne of Green Gables has been adapted for the screen—both small and large—many other times since 1934, including the 1979 Nippon Animation anime version of Anne of Green Gables, hugely popular in its own right. But it’s the 1985 Canadian-produced TV mini-series starring Megan Follows as the red-haired orphan and Colleen Dewhurst as stern Marilla Cuthbert that is probably the most famous. The film broke Canadian broadcast history when it premiered, establishing a record viewership that wouldn’t be broken until Canadian Idol in 2003, and the program has since been translated in 30 different languages and broadcast in more than 140 countries. The last Anne film came in 2008; the made-for-TV Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning starred Barbara Hershey as a middle-aged Anne reeling from the death of husband Gilbert in World War II and lost in her troubled memories of her childhood.

9. Canada’s longest running musical

A musical based on Anne of Green Gables—titled, obviously, Anne of Green Gables: The Musical—was first staged in 1965, as part of the very first Charlottetown Festival, and has been every year since. Now in its 51st season, the producers claim that the musical is the longest running annual musical in the world; at least 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. 

10. Anne with an e—but without the red hair?

So, Anne’s face has been on everything from the small screen to tea towels to stamps, and each incarnation of the red-haired orphan seems to have a similar look: Straw-hatted child or Gibson girl young woman. Except this one: In 2013, a self-publishing firm, taking advantage of the fact that the books are in the public domain, put out a boxed set of the first three Anne books. On the cover, however, was not a red-haired orphan or even a red-haired “modern gal”, but a sexy blond farm girl. Fans are, understandably, not pleased. 

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The Charming English Fishing Village That Inspired Dracula
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Whitby as seen from the top of the 199 Steps
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The train departed King's Cross at 10:25 a.m. on July 29, 1890. Bram Stoker settled wearily into the carriage for the six-hour journey to Whitby, the fashionable and remote seaside village in North Yorkshire. The sooty sprawl of London gave way to green grids of farmland and pasture, and then windswept moors blanketed in heather and wild roses.

Stoker needed this holiday. The 42-year-old manager of London's Lyceum Theatre had just finished an exhausting national tour with his employer, the celebrated but demanding actor Henry Irving. The unrelenting task of running the business side of Irving's many theatrical enterprises for the past decade had left Stoker with little time for himself. When the curtains fell at the end of each night's performance, he may have felt that the energy had been sucked out of him.

Now he looked forward to a three-week getaway where he would have time to think about his next novel, a supernatural tale that harnessed the sources of Victorian anxiety: immigration and technology, gender roles and religion. In ways he didn't foresee, the small fishing port of Whitby would plant the seeds for a vampire novel that would terrify the world. Stoker started out on an innocent and much-deserved vacation, but ended up creating Dracula.

A photo of Bram Stoker
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As Stoker emerged from the train station in Whitby, the sounds and smell of the sea would have restored him after the long trip. He loaded his trunk into a horse-drawn cab for the journey up the West Cliff, where new vacation apartments and hotels served the crowds of holidaymakers. He checked into a flat at 6 Royal Crescent, a half-circle of elegant Georgian-style townhomes that faced the ocean.

He often felt invigorated by the seashore: "He's finally on a holiday, away from the hustle and bustle of London, the Lyceum Theatre, and Henry Irving's dominance over him," Dacre Stoker, a novelist and the author's great-grandnephew, tells Mental Floss. "The ocean and the seaside play into Bram's life, and, I believe, in stimulating his imagination."

Stoker's wife Florence and their 10-year-old son Noel would join him the following week. Now was his chance to explore Whitby on his own.

The East Cliff with Tate Hill Pier in the foreground
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"A curious blend of old and new it is," wrote a travel correspondent for the Leeds Mercury. The River Esk divided the town into two steep halves known as the West and East Cliffs. Down a tangle of paths from the brow of the West Cliff, Stoker found himself on the town's famed beach, where people gathered to watch the many vessels at sea or walked along the gentle surf. At the end of the beach was the Saloon, the nucleus of Whitby's social whirl.

"The enterprising manager engages the best musical and dramatic talent procurable, whilst on the promenade a selected band of professional musicians gives performances daily," wrote Horne's Guide to Whitby. Holidaymakers could purchase a day pass to the Saloon and enjoy afternoon tea, tennis, and endless people-watching.

Next to the Saloon, the West Pier featured a long promenade parallel to the river and a three-story building containing public baths, a museum with a collection of local fossils, and a subscription library. Shops selling fish and chips, ice cream, and Whitby rock lined the winding streets. Visitors could watch all kinds of fishing vessels discharging their daily catch, and even hop aboard a boat for a night's "herringing" with local fishermen.

Whitby's East Cliff had a more mysterious atmosphere. Across the town's single bridge, tightly packed medieval cottages and jet factories leaned over the narrow cobbled streets, "rising one above another from the water side in the most irregular, drunken sort of arrangement conceivable," the Leeds Mercury reported.

Above the ancient Tate Hill Pier, a stone stairway of 199 steps (which pallbearers used when they carried coffins) led up the cliff to St. Mary's parish church and its graveyard full of weathered headstones. Towering over the whole scene—and visible from nearly any spot in town—were the ruins of Whitby Abbey, a 13th-century pile of Gothic arches that had been built upon the remains of a 7th-century monastery.

"I think [Stoker] was struck by the setting. He's thinking, 'This is perfect. I have the ships coming in, I've got the abbey, a churchyard, a graveyard'," Dacre Stoker says. "Maybe it was by chance, but I think it just became that perfect scene."

Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey
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In Dracula, chapters six through eight kick the narrative into frightening action. By then, real estate agent Jonathan Harker has traveled to Transylvania to negotiate Dracula's purchase of a London property and become the vampire's prisoner. His fiancée Mina Murray, her friend Lucy Westenra, and Lucy's mother have traveled to Whitby for a relaxing holiday, but Mina remains troubled by the lack of letters from Jonathan. She confides her worries and records the strange scenes she witnesses in her journal.

On the afternoon of his arrival, according to a modern account compiled by historians at the Whitby Museum, Stoker climbed the 199 Steps to St. Mary's churchyard and found a bench in the southwest corner. The view made a deep impression on Stoker, and he took note of the river and harbor, the abbey's "noble ruin," the houses "piled up one over the other anyhow." In his novel, Mina arrives in late July on the same train as Stoker, mounts the 199 Steps, and echoes his thoughts:

"This is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town, and has a full view of the harbor ... It descends so steeply over the harbor that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have been destroyed. In one place part of the stonework of the graves stretches out over the sandy pathway far below. There are walks, with seats beside them, through the churchyard; and people go and sit there all day long looking at the beautiful view and enjoying the breeze. I shall come and sit here very often myself and work."

The churchyard gave Stoker a number of literary ideas. The following day, Stoker chatted there with three leathery old Greenland fisherman who likely spoke in a distinct Yorkshire dialect. They told Stoker a bit of mariner's lore: If a ship's crew heard bells at sea, an apparition of a lady would appear in one of the abbey's windows. "Then things is all wore out," one of the sailors warned.

Stoker ambled between the headstones that sprouted from the thick carpet of grass. Though most of the markers' names and dates had been erased by the wind, he copied almost 100 into his notes. Stoker used one of them, Swales, as the name of the fisherman with a face that is "all gnarled and twisted like the bark of an old tree," who begins talking with Mina in the churchyard. Mina asks him about the legend of the lady appearing in the abbey window, but Swales says it's all foolishness—stories of "boh-ghosts an' barguests an' bogles" that are only fit to scare children.

St. Mary's churchyard
St. Mary's churchyard, which Mina calls "the nicest spot in Whitby."
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For the first few days in August, Stoker was occupied by the summer's social calendar. He likely enjoyed dinner with friends arriving from London, and went to church on Sunday morning. On the 5th, Stoker's wife and son joined him at 6 Royal Crescent. The next several days may have been spent at the Saloon, promenading on the pier, and making social calls, as it was the custom for newly arrived visitors to visit with acquaintances in town.

But Whitby's infamous weather had the ability to turn a sunny day somber in an instant. August 11 was a "grey day," Stoker noted, "horizon lost in grey mist, all vastness, clouds piled up and a 'brool' over the sea." With Florence and Noel perhaps staying indoors, Stoker set off for the East Cliff again and chatted with a Coast Guard boatman named William Petherick. "Told me of various wrecks," Stoker jotted. During one furious gale, a "ship got into harbor, never knew how, all hands were below praying."

The ship was the Dmitry, a 120-ton schooner that had left the Russian port of Narva with a ballast of silver sand. The ship encountered a fierce storm as it neared Whitby on October 24, 1885, and aimed for the harbor.

"The 'Russian' got in but became a wreck during the night," according to a copy of the Coast Guard's log, which Petherick delivered to Stoker. The crew survived. In a picture taken by local photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe just a few days after the storm, the Dmitry is shown beached near Tate Hill Pier with its masts lying in the sand.

'The Wreck of the Dmitry' (1885), by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
The Wreck of the Dmitry (1885), by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
Courtesy of the Sutcliffe Gallery

Petherick's account gave Stoker the means for his vampire's arrival in England, the moment when the mysterious East disrupts the order of the West. Mina pastes a local newspaper article describing a sudden and ferocious storm that hurled Dracula's ship, the Demeter from Varna, against Tate Hill Pier. The Coast Guard discovered the crew had vanished and the captain was dead. Just then, "an immense dog sprang up on deck and … making straight for the steep cliff … it disappeared in the darkness, which seemed intensified just beyond the focus of the searchlight," the article in Mina's journal reads. The dog was never seen again, but townsfolk did find a dead mastiff that had been attacked by another large beast.

Mina describes the funeral for the Demeter's captain, which Stoker based on scenes from an annual celebration he watched on August 15 called the Water Fete. In reality, thousands of cheerful spectators lined the quays as a local band and choir performed popular songs and a parade of gaily decorated boats sailed up the river, with banners fluttering merrily in the breeze, according to the Whitby Gazette's report. But through Mina, Stoker transformed the scene into a memorial:

"Every boat in the harbor seemed to be there, and the coffin was carried by captains all the way from Tate Hill Pier up to the churchyard. Lucy came with me, and we went early to our old seat, whilst the cortege of boats went up the river to the Viaduct and came down again. We had a lovely view, and saw the procession nearly all the way."

The final week of Stoker's holiday elicited some of the most important details in Dracula. On August 19, he bought day passes to Whitby's museum library and the subscription library. In the museum's reading room, Stoker wrote down 168 words in the Yorkshire dialect and their English meanings from F.K. Robinson's A Glossary of Words Used in the Neighborhood of Whitby, which later formed the bulk of Mr. Swales's vocabulary in his chats with Mina.

One of the words was "barguest," a term for a "terrifying apparition," which also refers specifically to a "large black dog with flaming eyes as big as saucers" in Yorkshire folklore, whose "vocation appears to have been that of a presage of death," according to an account from 1879.

"I do think Stoker meant for that connection," John Edgar Browning, visiting lecturer at the Georgia Institute of Technology and expert in horror and the gothic, tells Mental Floss. "Moreover, he probably would have meant for the people of Whitby in the novel to make the connection, since it was they who perceived Dracula's form as a large black dog."

Downstairs, Stoker checked out books on Eastern European culture and folklore, clearly with the aim of fleshing out the origins of his vampire: Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, a travelogue titled On the Track of the Crescent, and most importantly, William Wilkinson's An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldovia: with Various Observations Relating to Them.

The library building where Stoker discovered Dracula
The library building where Stoker discovered Dracula
Courtesy of Dacre Stoker

From the latter book, Stoker wrote in his notes, "P. 19. DRACULA in Wallachian language means DEVIL. Wallachians were accustomed to give it as a surname to any person who rendered himself conspicuous by courage, cruel actions, or cunning."

The Wilkinson book gave Stoker not just the geographical origin and nationality for his character, but also his all-important name, redolent of mystery and malice. "The moment Stoker happened upon the name of 'Dracula' in Whitby—a name Stoker scribbled over and over on the same page on which he crossed through [the vampire's original name] 'Count Wampyr,' as if he were savoring the word's three evil syllables—the notes picked up tremendously," Browning says.

By the time Stoker and his family returned to London around August 23, he had developed his idea from a mere outline to a fully fledged villain with a sinister name and unforgettable fictional debut.

"The modernization of the vampire myth that we see in Dracula—and that many contemporary reviewers commented upon—may not have happened, at least to the same degree, without Stoker's visit to Whitby," Browning says. "Whitby was a major catalyst, the contemporary Gothic 'glue', as it were, for what would eventually become the most famous vampire novel ever written."

Bram Stoker visited Whitby only once in his life, but the seaside village made an indelible mark on his imagination. When he finally wrote the scenes as they appear in Dracula, "He placed all of these events in real time, in real places, with real names of people he pulled off gravestones. That's what set the story apart," Dacre Stoker says. "That's why readers were scared to death—because there is that potential, just for a moment, that maybe this story is real."

Additional source: Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition, annotated and transcribed by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller

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This Harry Potter Candle Melts to Reveal Your Hogwarts House—and Smells Amazing
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As it gets darker and colder outside, the thought of lighting a candle in your room and curling up with a good book becomes more appealing. A sorting hat candle from the Muggle Library Candles Etsy store makes the perfect companion to whatever Harry Potter book you happen to be re-reading for the hundredth time this season. According to the Cleveland news outlet WKYC, the candle slowly reveals your Hogwarts house as it burns.

From the outside, the item looks like a normal white candle. But when lit, the outer layer of plain wax melts away, allowing the colorful interior to poke through. The candles come in one of four concealed colors: red for Gryffindor, blue for Ravenclaw, yellow for Hufflepuff, and green for Slytherin. The only way to know which house you’re destined to match with is by purchasing a candle and putting it to use. According to the label, the scent evokes “excitement, fear, and nervousness.” The smell can also be described as lemon with sandalwood, vanilla, and patchouli.

Due to its viral popularity, the Fort Worth, Texas-based Etsy store has put all orders on hold while working to get its current batch of shipments out to customers. You can follow Muggle Library Candles on Instagram for updates on the sorting candle, as well as other Harry Potter-themed candles in their repertoire, like parseltongue and free elf.

[h/t WKYC]

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