Since its inception, Lucy Maud (L.M.) Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables has captivated readers, becoming a cherished part of countless childhoods and a nostalgic part of countless adulthoods. Inevitably, many fans have wondered about the story’s creative genesis. Who were the real people and events that eventually became the saga of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, Gilbert Blythe, Diana Barry, and the rest of the gang? Is Anne of Green Gables true or fiction?
As is the case with almost all legendary fictional characters (like Juana Maria, the inspiration for Island of the Blue Dolphins), Anne is, of course, a little bit of both. According to various accounts of L.M. Montgomery’s life, Green Gables and its inhabitants are more than a magical and ingenious channeling of imagination; they’re a composite portrait of the author, the people and places she knew, and the people and places she never knew but only read about. Read on to find out how Anne came to be spelled with an E and how an orphan named Ellen inspired an orphan who was (“tragically!”) not named Cordelia.