Anne of Green Gables: 5 reasons her story is still relevant today

P.E.I.'s most famous redhead will be back on TV screens next week, when YTV's new adaptation of Anne of Green Gables premiers.

P.E.I. icon transcends generations, continues to take on role as literary hero

Ella Ballentine and Martin Sheen will star in the upcoming 2-hour YTV film Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne Of Green Gables. (Ken Woroner)

P.E.I.'s most famous redhead will be back on TV screens next week, when YTV's new adaptation of Anne of Green Gables premiers.

It's been 108 years since L.M. Montgomery's book about Anne Shirley was first published, and the story continues to resonate with modern audiences — with many adaptations of the story for both stage and screen.

"I think the adaptations really keep Anne alive," said Laura Robinson, a visiting scholar at the L.M. Montgomery Institute.

"We often think that it's just a simple little story, but there's a lot going on in the original Anne, so each adaptation draws on some element of the story and pulls it out."

Maritime Noon opened its phone lines asking listeners why Anne of Green Gables has been an enduring story to them.

1. She's an underdog

"She is an outsider who gains acceptance from her community and that's a really compelling story," said Robinson. "I think when we see the orphan who gets adopted, finds a home and triumphs in that community, there's a very happy message there for all of us."

Brenda Gallant, the marketing director of Tourism PEI, said Anne is as relatable a character today as she was in 1908.

"What young girls are dealing with — self-confidence, the fact that she's so adventurous and fun loving — it's all things that we can relate with," she said.

2. She's a feminist

CBC reporter Colleen Jones mentions Anne of Green Gables as a role model in her recent memoir.

"Me, being a child of the 60s, those kids of female role models weren't there," she said. "She didn't need Gilbert [Blythe]. She was willing to help Matthew [Cuthbert]. She was willing to do boys' role jobs, and that spoke to me big time as a young teenager."

"It's arguably the first and greatest Canadian feminist novel," said Campbell Webster, producer of Anne & Gilbert: The Musical. "To make this bold, bold statement — really a feminist statement — is something that continues to need to be heard."

3. She's a hero

"She's one of very few Maritime heroes," said Craig Hubley, from Le Havre, N.S.

Hubley said Anne's narrative shares a lot of threads with other hero stories.

"Think about this — Superman and Batman are both orphans, Wonder Woman comes from an idyllic Island ruled only by women."

4. She connects generations

"I think the reason why Anne sticks around is because of the people in your life who introduce you to Anne," said Allie Breen, from Halifax.

Breen received a copy of the book from her grandmother when she was 10, and told her a story about how her teacher used to read them a little bit of Anne's story every Friday afternoon.

"I just imagined her in a little school house and then me in my bedroom so many years later — 90 years later — reading Anne."

5. She's a P.E.I. icon

"When I first met my husband … he asked me if there was one place I could go where would it be and I said Prince Edward Isle," said Heather Paquette, a longtime Anne fan who now lives in Yarmouth, N.S., but is originally from the U.S.

Paquette made it to P.E.I. for her honeymoon.

Gallant said people from around the world make Anne-inspired visits.

"Many people save up for many years for their trip of a lifetime to come to Prince Edward Island," she said.

"As much as we would like to say everybody around the world knows [P.E.I.], they don't. But yet, when you say Anne of Green Gables, they link it completely and now they know who we are."