Castles and Cakes: Anne of Green Gables Came with me to Caerlaverock

A glorious thing happened last week: my beloved DSLR camera was finally returned to me!  Over Christmas, it malfunctioned and refused to work.  It was still under warranty, but only in the States, so I had to send it to the States where the boyfriend sent it into the Nikon store.  They fixed it at long last, sent it back, and he shipped it to me.

So, of course, a celebratory trip was in order.  I chose Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfries.  Because I was going alone, I was able to take pictures to my heart’s content (without boring or frustrating a companion) and have an audiobook playing for my entire journey.

Did I mention how nicely the weather cooperated for my trip? After a solid week of grey, this is what I got.

I was listening to Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery, the third in the Anne series. And let me tell you: Anne is excellent company on a walk where beauty abounds and a castle lurks on the horizon.  If you know Anne, you know her imagination turns normal things into fantastic and romantic sights.  With her in my head, I expected to explore my castle in a dramatic fashion.  And I was right.  It was great fun.

The serene river running through Dumfries looks like a sky fell into it.

One thing about Anne that I really love is how she struggles, as many of us do, with writing a story that captures her thoughts and ideas but does not go sailing over the moon to somewhere beyond an audience’s interest.  Anne loves drama and rather Gothic romance, and her first stories tended to overflow with fluttering maidens, dastardly villains, and romantic conclusions.

How would Anne have described the beautiful pink buds on this tree? After a long winter, spring is finally showing itself!

She learned, to her sadness, that those stories are a hard sell.  Readers want to connect with the characters and the story and perfect heroines named Averil or souls of nobility named Percival are a bit hard to love (though, in all fairness, I am now listening to The Scarlet Pimpernel and the Percival in that story is definitely lovable).

This was brought forcibly to her understanding when her story ‘Averil’s Atonement’ was repeatedly turned down by magazines as unsuitable for publication.  It was interesting that the advice she was given time and again was to tone it down and make it real.  She changed things here and there, but she didn’t quite get it.

And then came the baking powder incident.  You see, Anne had included a scene in her story involving her heroine baking the hero a cake.  It was, she said, to be a touch of humor in the tale.  Unfortunately for her, it turned into outright farce when the well-meaning Diana took Anne’s story and submitted it to the Rollings Reliable Baking Powder Co. for a contest.  It won and Diana was thrilled, but Anne was thoroughly dismayed.

Her lofty, glorious, grand tale had been brought shockingly down to earth and branded with a baking powder label.  Alas, poor Anne!  But she learned a lesson.  Write a story that your reader can connect with.

If I had seen a dragon swooping away over that mountain, I would not have been surprised.

On the other hand, I think we can learn from Anne about the powers of imagination and taking yourself out of the mundane.  She may have had to learn to live and write in the real world, but there was nothing stopping her from seeing a tragic dryad sitting beneath a willow tree or imagining conversations between the flowers in a garden or lovingly crafting stories of wonder and beauty that lifted her surroundings into something grander, even if it was just for a few moments.  Her friends and family recognized her rapture in these imaginative wanderings, but few could join her in it.  Montgomery was kind in allowing her readers the chance to try.

Caerlaverock Castle is a feast for the imagination, complete with odd triangular shape and a full moat around it. Here's a place for a good bit of dramatic storytelling.

Anne’s magic narrated my walk through busy old streets, along sunny riversides, to the wild countryside, and into castle ruins.  I can only appreciate her contribution even as I do keep in mind that very important lesson: If you send your story into soaring, inaccessible heights, it will need to be dragged back down to earth – possibly with baking powder.

For your informationLibrivox.org is a website with downloadable audiobooks (all public domain literature and perfectly legal!), which is where I found Anne, as well as The Scarlet Pimpernel. Be warned, the readers work on a volunteer basis and many of them are…well… not meant to be readers.  But if you hunt around, you may find a book you love with a voice you can listen to and you can enjoy a free storyteller on your next ramble through the countryside.

Also FYI: The rest of the pictures from this lovely outing are on my travel blog So I Went to Scotland Searching for Dragons.  Less literary, but more pictures.

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About Melissa

generally in love with things Celtic, mythological, fantastic, sharp and pointy, cute and fuzzy, intellectual, snarky, cheerful, or some combination thereof. Such things as sarcastic bunnies wielding claymores might come to mind...

Posted on March 27, 2012, in Art, Fantasy, Humor, Inspiration, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Melissa Rogers, Photography, Scotland, Story, Travel, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Gorgeous pictures and I LOVE Anne! I think I have to send my camera in for repairs…no longer holds a charge but it is so annoying to have to send it to the states, etc. Anyway, I feel your pain and am glad you have it back! Loved the post!

  2. Such gorgeous photos and a beautiful description of Anne’s storytelling style. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Your writing is just divine, so polished. Your pictures are equally breathtaking. I feel like I’m really there when I’m looking at them.

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