I guess even with her superior imagination, when she wrote her first novel, L.M. Montgomery could not imagine her books, her main characters, and her heritage would one day become a cultural icon of PEI in particular and Canada in general. Not just from the cultural perspective, the Montgomery phenomenon has also created a significant impact on the province’s economy, mainly on the tourism sector.
This is understandable considering the small size of PEI versus the great footprint Montgomery has left on PEI’s and Canada’s short literary history. While there may not be many people around the globe who know where PEI is on the world map, Islanders can be proud that their Islander compatriot has been winning over the hearts of millions of readers internationally with her best selling “Anne of Green Gables”, which has been translated into 15 different languages. Many people around the world have been traveling to PEI only because they wanted to see Montgomery’s home and things that had inspired her to imagine the little red-haired orphaned Anne and her simple but alluring stories.
Canadian people and Islanders are totally entitled to say: “We are proud of her and her heritage!” Not only can they say that, they have been putting great efforts to honour her, her work and preserve her heritage. Parks Canada is well managing a charming group of tourism destinations called L.M. Montgomery’s Cavendish National Historic Site, embracing two segments of a cultural landscape intimately associated with the author, which are the Site of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Cavendish Home, and the Green Gables Heritage Place. While Montgomery’s Cavendish home is the farm of her maternal grandparents where she lived since she was two years old and lost her mother until she was 37, the second place – the Green Gables is the neighbouring farmstead which inspired the setting of the author’s most well-known book “Anne of Green Gables” published in 1908. In this place, you can let a lot of simple familiar things like the hair wreath, the snow shoes, the hat containers, the broken slate, etc. remind you of nice little anecdotes written with the author’s vivid imagination and alluring story telling style.
This Green Gables site alone attracted more than 150,000 visitors this year. According to the final report titled “Economic Impact: Tourism PEI 2004”, visiting the Anne site was ranked number 6 amongst the top leisure activities tourists to PEI do, and Anne of Green Gables was also the sixth highest reason why visitors come to PEI. For some particular tourist markets like Japan, Anne may be among the strongest motivation for traveling here, given a strong connection with Montgomery’s novel. During World War II, a Japanese woman secretly translated the novel into Japanese from its original version in English which was at that time considered the enemy’s language. She protected the book from bombing and was able to publish it after the war. The book became a phenomenal success in Japan, luring a lot of Japanese visitors to Canada and PEI – the book setting and the author’s homeland. It is worth noting that while the book story may become no longer relevant to modern girls today, many Japanese women visiting PEI to re-live their teenage years in Anne’s stories are bringing with them their daughters who can become loyal tourists to PEI and Canada later on! Montgomery’s work attracts not only Japanese but many readers from other countries. The fact that a child immigrant from China, Her Excellency, Adrienne Clarkson, the Governor General of Canada, understood Canadian customs and culture via reading Montgomery’s novels is a case in point. Swedish, Polish readers and all readers from other countries flocking to visit Canada are also because of Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.
L.M. Montgomery has left a huge “fortune” to Canadian people in general, and to PEI people in particular. Her writings have been attracting millions of readers around the world from generation to generation. Her heritage has now been pulling tourists around the world to come to Canada and PEI. With her vivid imagination, an orphaned girl Anne Shirley has become a role model of women’s determination, hard work and success. With Canadian and Islander’s great effort to preserve and glorify her heritage, PEI has now become a cultural tourism destination! We are proud of her, we are proud of PEI!
NQT, Dec 2016