I read Anne of Green Gables yesterday. Somehow, I had managed to go 23 years before reading the 1908 children’s book; I understand now why it’s such a classic.
Anne Shirley is the kind of character that I’ve always wanted to emulate. She’s a romantic with a crazy imagination, so she renames an avenue “The White Way of Delight” and a pond “The Lake of Shining Waters.” She convinces herself and her best friend that the woods between their homes is haunted, simply because it would be more romantic to imagine ghosts living among the trees, and then she’s too afraid to go there after dark because she actually believes her own stories. While I’m imaginative, I’m not nearly as creative.
Anne has her faults. She’s impulsive and quick-tempered, which leads her to lash out at Mrs. Lynde, the most gossipy and influential woman in town. She holds a grudge against her classmate, Gilbert, who flirts by teasing and pulling hair because he’s 14. Two years after the initial offense of teasing Anne’s red hair, he rescues her from drowning in a river, and offers his friendship. Her pride gets in the way, and she continues their fierce academic competition for 2-3 more years. She doesn’t actually get over her anger until she develops her own crush that I expect will be entertaining in the rest of the series.
I love how children’s books have lessons tucked inside the adventures. Harry Potter was essentially a story about love and friendship overcoming evil. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was about withstanding temptation (and the battle between good and evil). Among other things, Anne of Green Gables was about being content with one’s circumstances.
We are rich… Why, we have sixteen years to our credit, and we’re happy as queens, and we’ve all got imaginations, more or less. Look at that sea, girls – all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds. You wouldn’t change into any of those women if you could. Would you want to be that white lace girl and wear a sour look all your life, as if you’d been born turning up your nose at the world?… I don’t want to be anyone but myself, even if I go uncomforted by diamonds all my life… I’m quite content to be Anne of Green Gables, with my string of pearl beads. I know Matthew gave me as much love with them as ever went with Madame the Pink Lady’s jewels.
I read Anne of Green Gables because I enjoyed Green Gables Fables, and now I think I need to completely rewatch the first season. There’s a second season, but I can’t say much about it since I haven’t read Anne of Avonlea yet.
In the webseries, Anne is a 17 year old foster kid who vlogs because the internet won’t “tell [her] to shut up” or laugh at her “extensive vocabulary.” She’s dramatic, effusive, and kind-hearted- the qualities that make everyone at school want to be her friend. I’m impressed with the actress, Mandy Harmon, for doing the long monologues so well.
I think I enjoy children’s books most when the protagonist learns to appreciate the simple things in life. Goals and ambition are good, but one can never be happy if they’re constantly searching for the next big thing. Anne becomes content with her red hair, and she realizes that she doesn’t need expensive things to be happy. She’s rich because she has intangible things like friendship and imagination.
This idea of intangible riches reminds me of a favorite song by my favorite band, Judah and the Lion. You can be rich even if you’re penniless.
You can be beautiful even if you don’t have the right hair color or body type.
You can be happy even if you don’t have _______.
It’s a good lesson for kids and adults alike.