Anne Shirley has been capturing the hearts and minds of people around the world since Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables was first published in 1908. It is estimated that over 50 million copies of been sold worldwide in over 20 different languages. Kevin Sullivan’s film adaptations have increased the universal appeal of Anne and there doesn’t appear to be any signs of it slowing down.
Within months of Anne of Green Gables’ publication in 1908, the book went through a series of editions and different translations around the world. L.M. Montgomery herself was very excited about her novel’s success and made great pains to reply to her international fan mail.
The book received its first authorized translation in 1909 when Karin Jensen-Lidforss translated the book into Swedish (Anne pa Gronkulla translated into Anne of the Green Hills). One year later, it was translated into Dutch and called In Veilige Haven (A Safe Haven). Later, the title got closer to Maud’s original – Anne of the Green House – and this version had two parts.
Anne was translated in Poland in 1912, followed by its appearance in Norway and translation into Danish 6 years later. In 1920, it was translated into Finnish. France took perhaps the most liberties with the novel’s title. When it was first translated in 1925, it was called Anne ou les illusions heureuses (Anne of the Happy Dreams). Later, it was changed to Anne… La Maison aux Pignons Verts (Anne… The House of Green Gables). Japan – which famously holds a huge Anne fanbase – saw its first Japanese version of the book in 1952 and it was called Anne of the Red Hair. Since its immediate success, the book has been available in many different versions and translations in this country.
The Slovak version of Anne became available in 1959, followed by a Portuguese translation in 1972. The book was included in a Portuguese school program called “Children Around the World”. Though Germany had a late start in its recognition of Anne in 1986, it is still becoming popular there. Four times a year a magazine called Am Zee Der Glitzernden Wasser is published for fans of Anne and L.M. Montgomery. Here are some of the other languages Anne now speaks: Icelandic (1933), Hebrew (1951), Spanish (1962), Korean (1963), Turkish (1979) and Italian (1980). In addition, several of Maud’s other works have been translated into different languages, such as Kilmeny of the Orchard and Pat of Silver Bush.
When asked why Anne of Green Gables is so popular around the world, Kevin Sullivan explained that “family, community, and traditions are important to every culture; and most particularly how the foibles of the human condition shape and change all of us…Rich or poor, cruel or kind; all our lives are intertwined because of our humanity.”
Anne Shirley represents the desire in all of us to have a home, a family and to pursue our dreams. These are universal themes that are at the heart of Anne of Green Gables, making it a story that everyone can relate to. Combine that with the beautiful, idyllic backdrop of Prince Edward Island and the world of Anne becomes a veritable dream world.
Anne Shirley is also appealing because like all of us, her life is not always easy. Anne deals with hardship and tragedy throughout her life but she she does not give up. Anne faces adversity with imagination, courage and humour and these traits inspire us to do the same.
Anne Shirley shows us, and constantly reminds us, that no matter how difficult life can get, all things are possible with “enough scope for the imagination”… and of course, love. And these are things that exist in all of us, regardless of where we are in the world.
Kevin Sullivan’s Anne of Green Gables series is currently available in English, French, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Flemish, Polish, German, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian and Japanese.