Sunday, February 10, 2019

Today I met the spitting image of my favorite 'Emily of New Moon' Character

"Her thick hair, cut short, fluffed out all around her head in a bushy wave that seemed to be of brilliant spun gold." 


Warning: This story contains spoilers of the Emily of New Moon series.

had a close-encounter with Ilse Burnley today, a character from Lucy Maud Montgomery's New Moon series, aka Anne of Green Gables' emo little sister. Ilse is the main character's, Emily, best friend. When we first meet her, she is a short tempered and neglected island girl, impulsive and eccentric and with a terrible way with swear words. She is the mirror opposite of Emily's other female role model, Aunt Elizabeth, who is stern and serious and disapproves of Emily's 'mixing' with a commoner. (And if you are like me and like symmetry in asymmetry, you may be delighted to know that 'Ilse' is in fact a variation of the name 'Elizabeth'.) With her straw hair and yellow eyes, (yellow eyes, since reading Eva Luna, will always enthrall me), I was enraptured by her energy from the first page I read her. And today, I met her. Sort of.

"She was as unlike the rest of the girls as Emily herself, but in a totally different style. She was tall, oddly dressed in an overlong dress of faded, striped print, and barefooted. Her thick hair, cut short, fluffed out all around her head in a bushy wave that seemed to be of brilliant spun gold; and her glowing eyes were of a brown so light and translucent as to be almost amber. Her mouth was large, and she had a saucy, pronounced chin. Pretty she might not be called, but her face was so vivid and mobile that Emily could not drag her fascinated eyes from it. "
Emily of New Moon, L.M. Montgomery

This Ilse was not exactly the tomboy Ilse of Prince Edward Island. Her eyes were not yellow and she was much closer to the Ilse Burnley Ilse grows up to become, after she moves to Montreal. Calm and softspoken and stylish, (a transformation admittedly written in part to reform the female character in time for the 'marriage plot') Ilse retains the same exuberance of freedom and defiance she has always had. This 'Other Ilse' too had the demeanor of someone who had, and could, walk both paths, and I think that's what L.M.M. was trying to get at when she wrote her.

For if dutiful Emily Starr is a self-portrait of the author herself, driven and talented yes, but old-fashioned all the same, Ilse is most definitely the image of the modern career girl, bobbed hair, men's trousers, smoking a cigarette, the world her oyster, which L.M.M. describes in her journals and admired, envied even, from afar.

Oh, and this Other Ilse's name? Liz, short for Elizabeth, I kid you not.◆


Milton Avery. Figure by Pool. 1945. Personal collection.
Lucy Maud Montgomery. Emily of New Moon. 1923.

Join the conversation!

  1. Liz :D nice coincidence! I have still not read that book, but I have also not finished the Anne series yet (stuck in the middle somewhere). I'm sure I will one day though :)
    Also, love your blog theme and your images!

    Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks

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    1. Thank you Evelina! If you ever do get to reading L.M. Montgomery, let me know! I would love to buddy read her!

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