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Anne of Green Gables goes blond on new U.S. cover


Remember when Anne of Green Gables leaned back on the barnyard fence, ran a hand through her shimmering blond hair and tossed off a sexy pout …

Well, maybe you should join the dozens of other outraged readers of the 1908 Canadian classic who have let Amazon.com know, via posts on the Internet retailer’s website, that the most recent edition of L.M. Montgomery’s iconic coming-of-age text — in the public domain since 1993, and therefore publishable by anyone, without permission of the original copyright holder — got it all wrong in the cover art department.

The new book, released in November under the auspices of Amazon’s CreateSpace self-publishing operation and attributed to Lucy Maud Montgomery — the author disliked her full name, preferring Maud or her initials as a byline — features a buxom young woman on the cover, loaded down with flaxen locks. This Anne is a far cry from the skinny, pigtailed red-headed heroine of Montgomery’s famous series of books.

Amazon and CreateSpace personnel have not responded to the Star’s request for comment.

The disparity between the conventional notions of how Anne should look — though they have altered radically over the years since the perky P.E.I. native made her literary debut — and this new sexpot “has certainly created a lot of buzz,” said a spokesperson at the Charlottetown office of The Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority Inc., the agency set up in 1998 to control and administer the commercial use of images, likenesses, objects and events in the Anne books.

The AGGLA is jointly owned by the Province of Prince Edward Island and Ruth Macdonald and David Macdonald, Montgomery’s heirs.

Apart from acknowledging its awareness of the rogue likeness in the Amazon catalogue, the agency would not comment until “a full meeting of the (Montgomery/Macdonald) clan has taken place,” the spokesperson said.

By using an image so completely at odds with the traditional idea of Anne, and with Montgomery’s own description of her protagonist, the unnamed creator of the self-published edition may have cleverly bypassed the need to be licensed by the AGGLA for the cover illustration, a shrewd way of saving a few dollars, says Toronto-based Montgomery scholar Irene Gammel.

“This is pushing things too far for the sake of making a few more bucks out of Anne,” she told the Star.

“It’s legitimate to update the packaging of a text to make it accessible to new readerships, but it’s another matter to miss the point of a novel,” added Gammel, whose Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up a Literary Classic was published in 2008 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the publication of the coming-of-age novel .

“Montgomery’s iconic Anne is a high-spirited redhead with freckles and a pointed chin, whereas this new Anne is a languid blond with dark roots, a round face and a come-hither look.

“Montgomery’s Anne is skinny, whereas this cover shows a big bosomy vixen in a cowboy outfit. The drive with Matthew down the White Way of Delight is replaced with a roll in the hay.

“It seems weird to package Anne like a soft-porn star.

“Since the red hair and the freckles are as important to Montgomery’s Anne as her personality, the new ‘face’ of Anne seems also inappropriate because it’s more about her appearance than about her character, which is so integral to the novels.

“This marketing ploy may well backfire.”

Anne of Green Gables continues to be an extremely popular text and the Anne industry continues to flourish, Gammel added.

“Like Little Women and Heidi, the novel has become a literary classic, and has been translated into over 35 languages.”

As a result, there are countless different covers for dozens of different editions in markets around the world where Anne has been adopted.

“They have transformed Anne to make her fit their own cultures,” Gammel said. “These international cover images reflect different cultural values but they still respect some of the core aspects that we typically associate with Anne as high-spirited young girl, a reader, a dreamer, an eternal optimist.”

TORONTO STAR

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