Spirit and Fire and Dew

“You needn’t get in such a fever over it. Do learn to take things calmly, child.”

For Anne to take things calmly would have been to change her nature. All “spirit and fire and dew,” as she was, the pleasures and pains of life came to her with trebled intensity. Marilla felt this and was vaguely troubled over it, realizing that the ups and downs of existence would probably bear hardly on this impulsive soul and not sufficiently understanding that the equally great capacity for delight might more than compensate. Therefore Marilla conceived it to be her duty to drill Anne into a tranquil uniformity of disposition as impossible and alien to her as to a dancing sunbeam in one of the brook shallows. She did not make much headway, as she sorrowfully admitted to herself. The downfall of some dear hope or plan plunged Anne into “deeps of affliction.” The fulfillment thereof exalted her to dizzy realms of delight. Marilla had almost begun to despair of ever fashioning this waif of the world into her model little girl of demure manners and prim deportment. Neither would she have believed that she really liked Anne much better as she was.

Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 22

L. M. Montgomery


It is possible, within one’s own head, to play both Marilla and Anne in the same story. But sometimes trying to pretend to be the sort of person you aren’t can just cause you to just be bad at being the sort of person you are. So the answer, then, lies not in changing our selves, but in learning how to keep stuff from piling up on top of those selves such that they become twisted and obscured until we can’t even recognize them any more.

Elizabeth of Kikel Gables


“Anne came running in presently, her face sparkling with the delight of her orchard rovings; but, abashed at finding herself in the unexpected presence of a stranger, she halted confusedly inside the door….
‘Well, they certainly didn’t pick you for your looks, that’s sure and certain,’ was Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s emphatic comment. Mrs. Rachel was one of those delightful and popular people who pride themselves on speaking their mind without fear or favour. ‘She’s terrible skinny and homely, Marilla. Come here, child, and let me have a look at you. Lawful heart, did anyone ever see such freckles? And hair as red as carrots! Come here, child, I say.’
Anne ‘came there,’ but not exactly as Mrs. Rachel expected. With one bound she crossed the kitchen floor and stood before Mrs. Rachel, her face scarlet with anger, her lips quivering, and her whole slender form trembling from head to foot.
‘I hate you,’ she cried in a choked voice, stamping her foot on the floor. ‘I hate you–I hate you–I hate you–‘ a louder stamp with each assertion of hatred. ‘How dare you call me skinny and ugly? How dare you say I’m freckled and redheaded? You are a rude, impolite, unfeeling woman!”
‘Anne!’ exclaimed Marilla in consternation.
But Anne continued to face Mrs. Rachel undauntedly, head up, eyes blazing, hands clenched, passionate indignation exhaling from her like an atmosphere.”

-Anne of Green Gables
by L.M. Montgomery


We are reading aloud after dinner and before bed most nights at this point. We just finished the Hobbit (for the second time), and I decided I wanted to introduce E to Anne Shirley, even though I wasn’t sure she could stack up against the beloved Bilbo and dwarves and dragons. We read the above last night, and as usual chatted for a few minutes after the chapter concluded about what happened. In Educationese they call this “building reading comprehension”. Doesn’t that sound fancy?

K: Wow! There were some people being really rude to each other just then!
E: Yeah, I guess so.
K: What do you think of Anne?
E: I don’t know.
K: Do you find her relatable? I have been that mad before. That lady was being so mean! But she definitely screamed in her face. Oh, dear.
E: I guess so.
K: Ok, well, I like her.
E: ……*Raises eyebrows*

Later on, as I was checking on her in her dark bedroom, she spoke up cautiously, with her eyes sounding wide.
“Mama? I think I like Anne. I think I like her because she’s…well….she’s, um, kind of like me! ”
I smiled. “Yes! I could see that.”
“You know, because she talks a lot, and I talk a lot, and she has a great scope for imagination and I do too. And, well, you know……” She trailed off. I recognize that trail-off. This is who I am. Is it ok?
“I think that’s true. That must be why I like her so much.”