Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Friday, February 8, 2013

Beware The Wrath Of A Freckled Redheaded Girl

"There's a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that's why I'm such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne, it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn't be half so interesting."

"It's all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it's not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?"

"You'd find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair... People who haven't had red hair don't know what trouble is."

"Marilla, isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"

"It's so easy to be wicked without knowing it, isn't it?"

Lucy Maud Montgomery

All of the above are from the works of Lucy Maud Montgomery, who wrote the stories of irrepressible orphan Anne Shirley and the world she lived in through a series of books through the early decades of the twentieth century. She was a Canadian writer, wife of a minister, whose ties to Prince Edward Island come across clearly in her writing, though portions of her adult life were spent in other parts of the country, including not far from where I grew up. Montgomery wrote novels, short stories, and more, leaving behind a wealth of literary material that's still read and loved today.

Anne of course is her signature character, an outspoken, bright, red haired child who first comes into the lives of an older pair of siblings, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Anne has a talent for getting into trouble and a tendency to speak with a dramatic flourish, and the stories follow the bond between this peculiar child and these two older people who aren't sure what to do with her. As the girl becomes a young woman, she experiences life and loss, her spirit irrepressible. It's a character that speaks to people around the world on a profound level, and the books have given life to television adaptations, to an entire industry devoted to this freckled redhead. Go to Prince Edward Island, and you'll find stage productions dedicated to Anne each summer. You'll find the farmhouse, Green Gables, and the places that inspired the Haunted Wood and the Lake of Shining Waters.

Cavendish National Historic Site, Prince Edward Island

As a Canadian icon, Anne seems to have permeated the national conciousness. I've read and loved these books and the world she lived in. It's not that hard to identify with Anne. By extension, it's easy to really get to like her, even when she's inadvertantly getting into mischief. We're as used to the books as we are to the adaptations that starred Megan Follows as the lead. When we think of Anne, we think of that redhead in pigtails, thin as a rake and completely incorrigible. That's the image the books give us, played out faithfully in those adaptations.

When a book is in the public domain, as these books are, anyone can actually publish that book without compensation to the author or their estate. While it's true that the books are in the public domain, the heirs do have rights to protect the image and legacy of Montgomery and her characters, and have organized along those lines for years. And then this week, this new edition has come to light....

This doesn't look like Anne. This is a buxom strawberry blonde with a come-hither look and bedroom eyes, dressed like a cowgirl. This isn't a redhead. This isn't Anne. It looks like an ad for a new television drama. (Complete aside: I can see some marketing chimp right now devising this sentence: coming this fall from CW: the lives, loves, and scandals of three horse racing families in Kentucky Blue Grass, at nine every Thursday. Second complete aside: if Kentucky Blue Grass turns up on the CW, I'm demanding royalties) 

This makes one wonder about how many different ways you can spin it for adult entertainment. Anne of Avonlea becomes Anne Does Avonlea. And it puts an entirely new angle on the friendship between Anne and Diana Barry, her kindred spirit and "bosom friend". I can just see what Vivid Entertainment would do with this.

You can imagine that fans of that redhead orphan are quite annoyed. The heirs of Montgomery are displeased too, but it might be that the notion of using this is a way of getting around the whole getting permission from the heirs by going with a radically different image for a cover than what the reader would expect. Or whoever's behind the publication of this edition picked up a stock image by googling Sexy Cowgirl (which, of course, you're going to do, now that I've mentioned it, aren't you?) and figured they could go with a cheap stock image, having had never read the book themselves in the first place.

The social network is ablaze with irritation about this story. Readers take Anne Shirley quite seriously, and they're not happy. At Amazon, terms like disappointing, offensive, joke, ridiculous, hilariously horrifically inaccurate, bad taste, and trashy are being used to describe the cover. And that's just on the first three pages of comments. The venom is unleashed, and the rage is growing. Where will it stop? Perhaps when the idiot who made the bone headed decision to go with this cover is unmasked and tried before a jury of redheaded annoyed Anne Shirleys for crimes against literature. With a redheaded Anne as the judge. And as the prosecutor.

Then we can have the boneheaded  idiot dropped into the Lake of Shining Waters.


  1. There'll no doubt be more editorial cartoons about this... so check back as the weekend goes along!

  2. I saw the new cover.
    Anne of Green Gables (Fifty Shades of Red).
    Jane x

  3. Fifty Shades of Red... why didn't I think of that?

  4. Lol! Why didn't you think of that?? Well, I certainly don't like that cover. I grew up being absolutely obsessed with the entire series. I love Anne...the real one!

  5. Bravo, bravo! Though, 'Gilbert' can come dig me out of this snow bank ANYTIME.

  6. Annie Oakley would blow a hole in these history altering fools. Too many young ladies named Anne. I always confuse Anne Seton and St. Anne too.

  7. Boy, the story ain't what the cover says, folks!

    Someone's going to pick up a copy with this new cover on it and be so disappointed, they'll either throw it across the room or demand their money back!

  8. Read about this earlier today and couldn't believe it. It's so ludicrous! Her read hair was a defining characteristic of her character and her story. And I understand not wanting to get sued for using even a like image of some random redhead; but then just use a picture of a farmhouse or something. Yeesh!

  9. I never read the "Anne Of Green Gables" books but I watched the Megan Follows series with my daughter.
    Side note...
    When ever I travel always buy stamps, for my postcards and for me to save and frame. (must blog the Liechtenstein story)
    On one trip to the Japanese post office, I found Anne of Green Gables, Japan Canada Joint Issue Stamp Booklet for sale. Who knew ?
    This series of books are very much loved in Japan and as I understand there are special tours one can book to Prince Edward Island.
    I have always wanted to travel to Prince Edward Island.

    cheers, parsnip

  10. Can I confess I never read this growing up?! Unbelievable! This will serve as my official introduction and incentive to do something about that!:)

  11. @Krisztina: I find myself wondering if whoever is behind this happens to be regretting it right now.

    @Jessica: Gilbert might need help with the snow!

    @Eve: there are lots of Annes!

    @Cheryl: gives a whole new meaning to don't judge a book by the cover.

    @Carla: you'd think that would have occurred to them.

    @Parsnip: I've been over to the island a couple of times, and it's a beautiful province. And yes, the Japanese particularly seem to get drawn to the story. I remember going to Green Gables and seeing a busload of tourists, speaking Japanese...

    @LondonLulu: you'll like it!

  12. I love the Anne books, that cover is just a travesty! Even worse than when they reissued Jane Austin's books with 'chick-lit' covers!

  13. It always amazes me how thoroughly a publisher can screw up. I remember being told the marketing chimps and cover designers are not required to actually read the books...but to mess with a classic? Inexcusable!

  14. I wish I had been introduced to these books when young. I'm not sure why I wasn't. I grew up dyslexic and I suppose it was difficult for me to get interested in reading books of any kind.

    That being said, I'm so glad that William posted about this, and I hope to read these books some day for the enjoyment.

    Oh, and I shared this. If other people see this they might also get on the bandwaggon. (^;'

  15. I recently read an article about something similar to this. A publisher came out with anniversary edition of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar but the cover art is the exact opposite of what the book is about. Made a lot of people angry. Don't know why publishers do stuff like this.

  16. Wow.... Googling "Sexy cowgirl" is quite an experience. But when it comes to books for young people, I prefer my Dorothy Gale blonde and my Anne redheaded.

  17. @Barbara: somewhere along the line yesterday I saw a cover for a Jane Eyre modern update. Really pointless...

    @Norma: it really is!

    @Lorelei: they're good books to get into!

    @Auden: I suspect it's terminal stupidity.

    @Mark: some things are just meant to be the way they're meant to be.

  18. My theory about most things is ..that if it ain't broke, don't fix it''s just so annoying when much loved institutions are 'brought up to date' whatever that means!!

  19. Oh my stars the cover of the new edition is terrible! Terrible! LOL!!!

    This parallels the hoo-haa over Sylvia Plath's 50th anniversary editon of The Bell Jar - have you seen the cover of this anniversary edition!?!? But it's not as blatant as the new Anne. Here she definitely does Avonlea!! LOL!

    Take care

  20. No matter what they do, I'll never be able to picture Anne as a buxom blonde. Never! Its total sacrilidge!

    Hugs and chocolate,

  21. I couldn't believe this when I heard about it earlier this week...what a travesty! Yes, the very picture of Anne (with an e) is that of red hair...I mean, what's next? Will Gilbert have a mohawk? When the movie first came out with Megan Follows as Anne, the actress didn't have red hair...this girl, they might argue, has a bit of strawberry in her blonde hair, but certainly not enough...

    It's just wrong...and hopefully it won't be posted. Maybe they'll get drunk on vodka instead of cherry cordials...

  22. @Grace: it's profoundly annoying!

    @Old Kitty: I've looked that up. It does look strange...

    @Shelly: torches and pitchforks are going to be handed out by anyone coming along on the manhunt for this despoiler of a literary icon...

    @Beth: I could see that happening. It seems the book has been removed from Amazon.

  23. Interesting cover choice. Not at all what I remember from my childhood. LOL

  24. I've been following this on the social media. Anne, without the red hair?

  25. Anne was so much of my growing up. I still want to visit P.E. Island and visit her house. So, when I saw what some jerks turned Anne into, I felt my blood pressure rise. Tsk! Tsk! Anne's scared territory.

  26. @Kelly: unless we all had sheltered childhoods!

    @Nas: it's a travesty!

    @Tracy: I suspect the person who started it is hiding right now, hoping they're not named publicly...

    @Kittie: there are some things you just don't do!


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