Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lucy in the Sky

A highly independent Island girl once declared, “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes”.

While the fictional Anne Shirley went on to enjoy happiness and a life full of love and fulfilment, her creator was plagued by depression, coping with her husband's mental illness and restrictions placed on a clergyman's wife and mother in an era when gender roles were highly defined. Last week, her granddaughter revealed that the woman who gave birth to "Anne of Green Gables" perished by her own hand at the age of 67, after a drug overdose.

The following text was found alongside Lucy Maud Montgomery's bed in her Toronto home on April 24, 1942:

"The tenth volume can never be copied and must not be made public during my lifetime. Parts of it are too terrible and would hurt people. I have lost my mind by spells and I do not dare think what I may do in those spells. May God forgive me and I hope everyone else will forgive me even if they cannot understand. My position is too awful to endure and nobody realizes it. What an end to a life in which I tried always to do my best."- Excerpted from Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings. Copyright © 2008 Mary Henley Rubio, to be published by Doubleday Canada and in stores Oct. 25.

When Lucy Maud Montgomery passed away, Nazi Germany was primed to overrun all of Europe and possibly Russia. America was still recovering from the disaster at Pearl Harbour and the Allies were barely hanging on. In the midst of this global carnage, a New Brunswick missionary, Miss Shaw, gave to her friend Hanako Muraoka her prized copy of Anne of Green Gables. first published in 1908. Secretly, the respected Japanese translator rendered Montgomery's text into Japanese, Akage No Anne (Anne of the Red Hair). When World War II ended and officials were looking for uplifting Western literature for the schools, Muraoka brought out her translation which became part of the Japanese curriculum in 1952. Today, there is an Anne Academy in Japan; there are national fan clubs; one nursing school is nicknamed "The Green Gables School of Nursing" and is sister school with the U.P.E.I. School of Nursing. When the National Park house called "Green Gables" caught fire in May 1997, the Japanese responded immediately by sending money to restore and repair the building.

Prince Edward Island's tourism economy generates about $300 million dollars a year with about $100 million (much of it from Japanese tourists) generated by the legacy created through Anne of Green Gables. Despite her many personal challenges and demons, Lucy Maud Montgomery would publish about 500 short stories and poems, and 20 novels, 19 of which are set on P.E.I. "Anne of Green Gables" has been translated into more than a dozen languages. More than 50 million copies have been sold worldwide while Anne of Green Gables-The Musical™ is the longest running musical in Canada and possibly in the world.

If the spirits can carry this message to her somewhere up in heaven, Lucy needs to know that she did more than her best.

At least two grateful nations would agree.

"Some people go through life trying to find out what the world holds for them only to find out too late that it's what they bring to the world that really counts" ANNE SHIRLEY

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