Introduction
Introduction

Introduction

This website is dedicated to Anne Shirley, a character penned by Lucy Maud Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908, followed by seven other books accompanying Anne’s journey through life from girlhood to womanhood. This website is my own commentary on (primarily) the books, with occasional departures into Kevin Sullivan’s 1985 and 1987 miniseries, where Anne was portrayed by the actress Megan Follows.

If you understand why I’ve put a photo of Lavender (Lavendar?) here, you’re definitely in the right place! This blog is for those who love Anne Shirley books and know them well. Just checking!

In late 1980s, a tumultuous tempest struck the quiet life I was leading in Gdansk, Poland, in the final years of the communist era. Anne Shirley entered my life without a warning, like an uninvited guest one simply has to allow in or one’s conscience would be eternally unclean. Anne was to reshape my ethics, my sense of fairness and would inspire me towards understanding, forgiveness and striving for kindness while seeking the same in others. Then there was, evidently, Anne’s imagination and her search for potential, for what could be, be it in the natural world or in the communities surrounding her. Anne is a poet, an artist and a dreamer. She is strong, but her strength is relentlessly and fearlessly in the service of love. She “flies on the wings of anticipation” putting her entire heart into her hopes and visions of beauty and romance. She makes herself vulnerable (there lies her true strength) accepting that it is an open heart, not negativity and rejection, that will find kindred spirits. Her notion that there are so many kindred spirits in the world speaks volumes about her bright, positive outlook on life. She’s invincible.

Anne is my ethics; the kind of person she strives to be I wish to be. “Inspirational” is a much overused word, flat and shallow. “Uplifting” seems more apt, connoting both tender support and a helping hand of a friend towards becoming a kinder, more truthful, more loving individual. This is laid out in the “lessons of tenderness” paragraph in Anne of Avonlea, where Anne reflects on how she herself had learned from her school pupils while simultaneously teaching them the virtues of grace, truth and courtesy, placing them over a teacher (herself) transferring facts and knowledge.

For two years she had worked earnestly and faithfully, making many mistakes and learning from them. She had had her reward. She had taught her scholars something, but she felt that they had taught her much more . . . lessons of tenderness, self-control, innocent wisdom, lore of childish hearts. Perhaps she had not succeeded in “inspiring” any wonderful ambitions in her pupils, but she had taught them, more by her own sweet personality than by all her careful precepts, that it was good and necessary in the years that were before them to live their lives finely and graciously, holding fast to truth and courtesy and kindness, keeping aloof from all that savored of falsehood and meanness and vulgarity. They were, perhaps, all unconscious of having learned such lessons; but they would remember and practice them long after they had forgotten the capital of Afghanistan and the dates of the Wars of the Roses.

Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 28

I can hardly imagine – and feel – a more beautiful and life-affirming philosophy. Tenderness lessons. Will it be any surprise to you to learn at this point that Anne Shirley was my inspiration (there, I used it again!), if not the sole than a major one, for me to become a teacher over 20 years ago. I spent 19 years in a variety of classrooms guided by the very similar Anne-ish principles all the way throughout.

This year, I am writing a book for my 6-year-old daughter – to be gifted to her when she is older. Focusing on themes such as forgiveness, kindness, loyalty and imagination in the first four books of the series, I am hoping to share with my daughter how I found Anne a role model to live by, what principles guide me, and to encourage her to consider Anne’s Tenderness Lessons to aid her in her own life. These values and virtues are timeless. Blessedly, Lucy Maud’s prose has immortalised Anne in the pages of the books, suspending her in time, in place and in the heart. My work on the book is already proving raw and poignant, heartfelt and harrowing, frequently raking up the moments of “depths of despair” from my own past, but invariably – lovingly – offering emotional assistance such as in the form of Mrs Allan advising Anne not to berate herself for her Jonah’s Day months after the fact. My mere re-reading of the first four books in the series brought up pain indeed, but coupled it with hope and the beginnings of a greater understanding of who I am. Much of it is enchanting and some daunting in its emotional power. Yet, it needs to be done. If Anne is willing to be vulnerable in the pursuit of love, friendship and kindness as she so admirably is with Katherine Brooke in Anne of Windy Poplars, then so can, and should, I.

As I continue the process of writing, I will write short posts here on the emerging themes and my reflections on the power of Anne’s character. These will sometimes take the form of videos to be shortly hosted on a new YouTube channel linked to this site.

I hope you will join me on this contemplative, emotional journey.

3 Comments

  1. Congrats on your first post! I’m curious to know how you first came across the books – for me, it was in my school library. Maybe a tale for another time? I really liked the line “She is strong, but her strength is relentlessly and fearlessly in the service of love.” It reminded me of an article I read recently which addressed the problems many people have with the direction that Anne’s life took after she was married: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/its-okay-that-anne-shirley-never-became-a-writer/

    Here’s to more grace, vulnerability and tenderness.

    1. Thank you Kriti. You’re right – how I’ve come across the books might be for another, lengthier tale, or blog post. But briefly, it was a matter of my parents suggesting “Anne of Green Gables” to me a classic literature item. Little did they know the impact the book would have on me. The other books in the series were quite difficult to get at that time – there were not in libraries, and it took another year to get “Anne of Avonlea” and “Anne of the Island” alone.

      Thank you for sharing the article – very interesting. I agree with the writer that “there is a certain romance in dreams forsaken in the name of sacrifice”. More than that: I think sacrificing (dreams, advancement, career, etc.) for love is the meaning of life (or one of its meanings). At the end of the first book, Anne making the sacrifice for the sake of Marilla’s health and love for her– there is nothing more admirable than that. I think it’s also evident in what I cited from “Anne of Avonlea” in this first post: inspiring wonderful ambitions in her pupils is not as important as fostering truth, courtesy and kindness.

      As you say, here’s to grace, vulnerability and tenderness. You’ve put succinctly into one line what I just attempted in express in several!

      1. Just wanted to add – sacrifice without resentment is so hard, especially in an age where we’re told to pursue our passions and ambitions at the cost of everything else. Perhaps the key is, like for Anne, to truly *want* to make that sacrifice, to arrive at that conclusion oneself, willingly, and accept it gracefully. Not easy, and therefore, as you say, admirable.

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