I received two books for Christmas and Ella Enchanted (Young Adult 232 pages) was one of them. As I was about to embark on a grand train adventure across the United States, I opened the books before I left so that I would have something to read on the train.
“How can a fairy’s blessing be such a curse? At her birth, Ella of Frell was given a foolish fairy’s gift – the ‘gift’ of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it’s hopping on one foot for a day or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. She goes on a quest, encountering ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, fairy godmothers, and handsome princes, determined to break the curse – and live happily ever after.”
Ella Enchanted was sent to me by a friend with whom I was chatting at the beginning of December while I watched the movie Ella Enchanted. Since she had liked the book so much better than the movie and because the movie was so vastly different than the book, she sent me the book so I could read it and enjoy it as she had and so that I would have a basis for comparison, as she did. I’m really thankful that I have people in my life to share books and other entertainment venues with because I like the conversations and the thoughts that come up with solid dialogue about things especially like books.
Something I liked about both Ella Enchanted the book and the movie is that Ella mostly does the best she can to rescue herself. She doesn’t necessarily need other people to rescue her, but she definitely needs the help of other people in order to be fully successful. She takes what action she can and does what she’s able to do until other people arrive to help her out. She isn’t the typical damsel in distress that so many of the fairy tales portray who just wait around to be rescued.
Elsa’s father has a significant role in this book as a merchant who is only interested in acquiring wealth in whatever way necessary. He even attempts to manipulate Ella into marrying Edmund, Earl of Wolleck, so that he can regain his fortune. He orders her to eat mushrooms he knows will cause her to be compliant to anything anyone wants of her and he hopes to fix the marriage that way. This comes right after Ella meets Lucinda who then tells Ella to be happy to be obedient instead of being rightfully defiant of her forced obedience. Ella’s father realizes that a marriage to Edmund would not be the most financially rewarding and so instead, he marries Olga.
The abuse in the book was a lot more prevalent than the abuse in the movie, though. The things Hattie orders Ella to do are really horrible, but it made me at least happy that Hattie wasn’t more creative or more of a strategic thinker when she realizes that Ella must do anything she’s ordered to do. Someone with a lot more creativity and who is capable of thinking about bigger things other than petty selfish desires could do a lot of damage to someone who must obey the orders of others. I spent a good portion of the book worried that Ella’s father would find out about the hand-made gifts she’d received from the elves and would order her to part with them so that he could make a profit. It really spoke to me that Ella won people’s hearts by being genuine and by appreciating the crafts of those around her for what they truly are and represent instead of putting on a fake face. As someone who strives to be honest and genuine, that was probably the most positively represented method genuinely good and decent people making a positive difference in the world than I’ve seen in a long time. I really appreciated that, as much as I spent the entire book worried about what would happen if someone selfish found out about the gifts given to her by the elves.
One of the most fascinating and interesting parts of this book to me was how dedicated Ella was to learning about other cultures and other languages. The reason she became such good friends with Areida is because Ella was one of the few people who took the time to learn about Areida’s language. Even in my own travels, I’ve realized that nothing breaks down potential cultural barriers quite so much as being willing to attempt to converse with people in their own native tongue. Ella started learning every language she could, including the nuances of Ogre, and all of her cultural and linguistical expertise started to pay off hugely when she was captured by Ogres and able to use their own language to keep herself alive.
Overall, this book was a great story with fantastic characters. I’m really glad and thankful that it was sent to me as a Christmas present, and I’m even more thankful that I’ve now actually read it. I’d probably rate this as a very high three on my rating scale. I’m glad that I own it and I will definitely reread it in the future.
Works cited: Levine, Gail Carson. Ella Enchanted. New York: Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2011. Original print 1997.