Where Is Anne of Green Gables Supposed to Be?

From the Netflix and CBC Television series 'Anne with an E'

Prince Edward Island is proud to have been the birthplace of Lucy Maud "L.M." Montgomery and her influential book "Anne of Green Gables." 

And the feeling is mutual. Of her beloved PEI, Lucy had this to say: “You never know what peace is until you walk on the shores or in the fields or along the winding red roads of Prince Edward Island in a summer twilight when the dew is falling and the old stars are peeping out and the sea keeps its mighty tryst with the little land it loves.” 

It might surprise you to learn that Lucy did not want to be confused with her creation Anne Shirley, one of the world's most famous orphans. If there were any character she would like to be compared to, she'd rather it be the eponymous heroine in her 1923 novel "Emily of New Moon." 

With the exception of Peg Bowen on "The Story Girl," the author claimed to have never based her characters on other people in real life. "I have used real places in my books and many real incidents," Lucy wrote in her autobiography. "But hitherto I have depended wholly on the creative power of my own imagination for my characters."

Be that as it may, many parallels can be drawn between Anne and Lucy, who lost her mother to tuberculosis when she was 21 months old and was abandoned by her father to remarry and start anew in Saskatchewan. Practically orphaned, Lucy was raised by her maternal grandparents Alexander and Lucy Woolner Macneill in their homestead at present-day 8521 Cavendish Road. The couple might as well have been siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert in real life.

No more than a farming settlement back then, the township of Cavendish inspired the fictional Avonlea. "Haunted Wood" was a spruce grove just below the homestead while "Lover's Lane" ran through the woods on a neighbor's farm, a "beloved haunt" of hers.

"I spent my childhood and girlhood in an old-fashioned Cavendish farmhouse, surrounded by apple orchards," wrote Lucy. "The first six years of my life are hazy in recollection. Here and there, a memory picture stands out in vivid colours."

On a notebook, a younger Lucy first jotted down the idea for a story about elderly people taking in an orphan girl by mistake. She would revisit these notes in the spring of 1904, and four years later, after a string of publisher rejections, "Anne of Green Gables" was born. 

While the Macneill homestead was no doubt part of Lucy's formative years, the whitewashed, green-shingled farmhouse of her novel lay a little further ahead at 8619 Cavendish Road, Route 6. First built in the 1830s by Grandpa Alexander's cousin David Macneill, the farmhouse was acquired a century later by the Canadian government. 

The Green Gables House in Prince Edward Island National Park. Photo via Natulive Canada

Officials capitalized on the novel's popularity, which only increased after the 1934 RKO movie adaptation, and gradually renovated the 2,400-square-foot, L-shaped property to be more like the house in the novel, green shutters and all. The farm, renamed Green Gables Heritage Place, is the heart of Prince Edward Island National Park. 

Anne's adventures as an orphan resonated with readers worldwide, especially in Japan where thousands of children were left parentless after the Second World War and its nuclear bombings. The novel's unlikely fame in Japan is due to a widely read Japanese translation, “Akage no Anne” (lit. “Red Haired Anne), and the anime adaptation that followed. 

It struck such a chord among the Japanese that a recreation of the green-gabled farmhouse, later known as Canadian World, was built in Ashibetsu on the island of Hokkaido. Hisako, Princess Takamado has also been a patron of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Institute.

In her native Canada, Anne still enjoys widespread reverence. An acclaimed Netflix and CBC Television adaptation, which ran from 2017 through 2019, used many filming locations in Ontario, with some choice scenes shot in PEI, too. The house that stood in for Green Gables was filmed near the Claremont Nature Centre in Pickering, Ontario.

The series got many things right, especially the brilliant title which reflected the author's valiant efforts to stand out among storytellers of the time. "Anne—she was not so named of malice aforethought," Lucy once said, "but flashed into my fancy already christened, even to the all important 'e.'" 

Fan mail could get lost in the semantics, in comparison. To Lucy's amusement, some fans took to writing her letters that addressed her as "Anne Shirley, Green Gables, Avonlea, Prince Edward Island."

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