Anne Shirley Is My Spirit Animal

Anne Gables

By Rochelle Tallmadge


Growing up as a skinny, talkative redhead, I never felt normal. I was a late-bloomer. When all my friends looked 16, I looked 12. I was ALWAYS writing sentences because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut (I WILL NOT TALK IN CLASS… I WILL NOT TALK IN CLASS…).  And I definitely didn’t feel pretty.


I boldly announced to my mother’s hairdresser one day when I was 9, that when I grew up I would dye my hair black. All the old ladies in the salon cried out in exclamations of dismay.  -But what do old ladies know, anyway?


“There is no such thing as a pretty, skinny redhead,” I thought.  I was surrounded by pretty blonde “Lisa’s” and “Sarah’s”; darling brunette “Laura’s” and “Marcie’s”. I was a just homely redheaded “Rochelle”. What kind of name is Rochelle?!?


“Please,” I thought, “Just call me Cordelia. Or Michelle. Just not ROchelle. Better yet, call me Scarlett.”


See, from the age of 7, I had worshiped Scarlett O’Hara, the heroine of Gone With The Wind. She was selfish and nasty. But she was brave and beautiful. And brunette. My parents were worried about my misguided hero-worship. Let’s be honest: no mother wants her daughter emulating a boyfriend-stealing, slave-slapping lead character.


But luckily for my parents, sometime in the mid ‘80’s, a new girl came to town and she was everything they’d been looking for in a protagonist. She was my spirit animal.  Anne Shirley.


Anne Shirley was the creation of L.M. Montgomery in 1908. But I could have sworn she was just the re-incarnation of myself.  Skinny, talkative, goofy and with bright red hair. The only thing she had that I didn’t was an exotic past spent in orphanages (You can’t win ‘em all).


The mini-series, Anne of Green Gables, based on the popular books, was released on PBS and in Downton-like fervor, my friends and I would wait with eager anticipation each week for the next installment from Canada (England isn’t the only place for romantic period dramas).


She hated her name. She hated her hair. She loved all things romantic and beautiful. She had a killer imagination. All of the girls at my high school loved her. Including me. But I didn’t just love her, I was her. For the first time in my life, someone admirable and lovely was like me!


I devoured the books. There wasn’t just one; but there were eight. EIGHT!! And each got better than the one before. Anne had success and gained beauty and admirers. Her hair turned a right handsome auburn.


I had hope that perhaps I, too, could grow out of my awkwardness. Was it possible to be a pretty redhead like Anne turned out to be? Was it possible to find a charming, dazzling, kind boy like Gilbert Blythe? Could I grow up to be successful and lovely too? Oh, I had hope!! For the first time in my young life, I had hope!


Over the years, I have read the Anne of Green Gables series at least a dozen times. It always transports me to a fairy-land of beauty and grace. I watched the television series more times than I could count.


When I grew up, my hair turned a right handsome auburn (In fact, I’ve never dyed it!). I’m not quite as goofy looking as I started out to be. I’m also not quite as skinny anymore…  And I met the loveliest boy who even knew the lines from the Anne of Green Gables mini-series! I knew he must be the one! His name wasn’t Gil. But it was Greg, and that was pretty close.


When we had been married for about twelve years, he took me to Prince Edward Island, where Anne Shirley lived in her beloved Green Gables. We walked through the Haunted Wood and we gazed over the Lake of Shining Waters. He held my hand on the red beaches of the ocean shore and bought me raspberry cordial (And lobster. Because, hello? Lobster!).


The best thing about Anne of Green Gables is that you don’t have to be an ugly, awkward redhead to love it. Everyone loves it! It is the perfect book for girls of all ages. My pretty blonde daughters can enjoy it every bit as much as I do! There is something in it for everyone to relate to.


And if you haven’t read it yet (or seen it!), run (don’t walk) to the nearest library (or Amazon). Your life is about to change for the better. It’s everything that is dreamy and lovely.


Have you read it? Are you as love-struck by Anne as I am?  If you read it on my recommendation, please let me know what you thought! Who is the protagonist that you most relate to?

Happy Reading!

Author profile

Rochelle likes teenagers a LOT. She teaches a class of 25 of them every morning in seminary. And she lives with 4 of them. She loves her husband. She's a happy person. The End.

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  • Tay
    April 18, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Anne got me through childhood and any mockery of my red hair. She taught me that losing my temper could be got over and that grudges were pointless and men of dreams are just dreams. 🙂 oh Roy Gardner. I honestly still turn to her for parenting tips. I learned that being ok with myself was a huge deal and that being jealous doesn’t have to take over my whole self. She was formative to my childhood and adolescence and I’ve named my only daughter after her. If I were to have another girl, ID name her after marilla. She was full of wisdom and wonderful imperfections. Love everything you said. We are kindred spirits.

  • Michelle Lehnardt
    April 18, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    I love Anne so much. I felt like I was that outspoken little girl! And my best friend was Diana! But no one ever called me skinny, or redheaded (though I asked a hairstylist about dyeing my hair red!) Thanks for the happy walk down memory lane.

  • Jennie Camphuysen
    April 18, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Great read! I’ve loved sharing the books and TV series with my girls…and I’m right there in the red head camp with you Rochelle. ♡♡

  • Megan
    April 18, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    Thank you SO much! What a fun post. I am also among the legions of Anne fans and dream of going to Prince Edward Island. When I’m asked the question of “what woman would you have lunch with,” I always wanted to answer L.M. Montgomery because I loved Anne so much!

  • Montserrat
    April 18, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    We adore Anne at our house! When my oldest turned 18 at BYU-I we sent a care package for her to throw an Anne party with her roommates. We included the DVDs so they could watch while they made pearl bracelets and Cameo brooches and decorated journals with “Anne” quotes and lace. It was really fun!

    • Wayne B Harris
      April 19, 2016 at 12:40 pm


      My daughter, Rochelle, told me she had met you on line. I was Tom Morley’s counselor when you were at Ricks. I am thrilled to hear you are doing well.
      I am an old man now. I was in a bad accident about 10 years ago and don’t get around very well now days. I often think of you and the other wonderful kids from that time. May the Lord bless you and your family.

      Love Wayne

      • Montserrat
        April 19, 2016 at 9:22 pm

        It’s so nice to hear from you Brother Harris! I truly loved my time at Ricks and the ward I was in as it was my home away from home. Who knew over 20 years later this connection would be made? It amazes me how small the world really can be.

  • Jacqueline White
    April 29, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Yes, yes, yes. The book, the movie series, all of it. It all makes my heart sing (just like this post). Tx. Rochelle.

  • Lily
    July 1, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    I love Anne! I read it at least once a year, and then she’s all I think about. I’m glad I’m not alone!!

  • Annalee
    July 4, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    I LOVE the Anne books! I love Anne! I feel like I most relate to Philippa–at least personality-wise, as I’m not rich. 🙂 But yes, I feel like I act like her, which can make me feel awkward, but I think Phil felt the same way. 🙂 Love the whole series!