written by: Stephanie Michael
• edited by: Donna Cosmato
• updated: 1/5/2012
Ella Enchanted is a fanciful story of a little girl named Ella of Frell. Shortly after her birth she is given the “blessing" of obedience from the frivolous fairy Lucinda. She and her mother are quick to discover that this blessing is much more of a curse. Ella must do whatever she is told.
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As a young child she is protected by her mother and her fairy godmother Mandy and she is forbidden from telling anyone about the curse. As she grows up she develops a strong willed personality, often trying to break the cure by resisting small commands such as “come down stairs" or “practice your lessons." She fights the magic for as long as she can but invariably her body makes her obey.
When she is almost 15 years old her mother becomes sick and dies. At her mother’s funeral she meets Prince Char, heir to the throne of Frell, for the first time, and they instantly become good friends. She also meets Dame Olga, and her daughters Hattie and Olive. Olive is quite simple but Hattie is spiteful and mean from the start.
Ella’s distant and long travelling father decides that Ella is to go to boarding school with Hattie and Olive and during the ride Hattie catches on to the fact that Ella must do as she is told and takes advantage of this fact by forcing Ella to give up her mother’s necklace and obey her small menial commands.
After a few months at boarding school Ella grows tired of taking commands from Hattie and all her instructions and decides that she must find Lucinda and beg her to lift the blessing by explaining what a curse it is. The story continues as Ella’s journey to a giant’s wedding takes on her on adventures and she meets elves, ogres, and giants. It also brings Char and her back together and their friendship begins to grow into something more.
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Once at the wedding, Ella is unsuccessful in persuading Lucinda. Ella comes home and her father explains that he is ruined and that either she must marry a rich man or that he must take a wife. After a few failed attempts to match Ella, her father decides that the best choice is for him to marry Dame Olga which means that Hattie and Olive will soon be Ella’s step sisters. As horrible as Hattie has been so far Dame Olga is worse and Ella is treated as a slave in her own home.
At the request of Mandy, Lucinda takes a dose of her own medicine and agrees to spend six months as a squirrel and six as an obedient child. Meanwhile Char and Ella begin to write back and forth while he is away for a year and they eventually fall in love but because of the curse Ella is afraid that she will be made to do something horrible against him or the kingdom. She rejects his proposal of marriage with a lie about being betrothed but when he returns and throws a series of balls she can’t stay away.
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Happily Ever After
Lucinda, who has sworn off big magic and refuses to reverse the curse, she offers to help Ella with an enchanted carriage and jewelry but she must leave the ball before midnight. For the first two nights Ella stays masked and assumes the role of Lela. Once again she and Char fall in love and by the third night Ella wants to stay to spend as much time as possible with him. Mandy provides real jewelry that won’t disappear at midnight and Ella (Lela) prepares to say goodbye to Char one last time. Unfortunately Hattie, who is suspicious of the masked girl who has captured Char's heart, takes it upon herself to remove Ella’s mask and everyone sees that it is her. She runs home but Char, Hattie, and everyone else follow her there.
In the end it is Ella’s determination to save Char and keep him and the kingdom safe that saves her from the curse. Once the curse is broken she explains why she lied and that she has loved him all along. They get married and live happily ever after.
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Not Your Everyday Fairytale
This book has a lot of fairytale elements. The story is quite reminiscent of Cinderella with fairy godmothers, glass slippers, and an evil step family, but at the same time Ella Enchanted works very hard to be more of a realistic story. With the exception of Lucinda and her nonchalant views on magic and how it affects others. The characters in the story have depth, personality, and are as realistic as ogres, elves, and fairies could be. Growing up I read and reread this book loving the way it could take me away to another world. At the same time I could relate to the troubles that Ella went through and the moral decisions she was faced with.
While this is definitely a fairytale, it is not your run of the mill, sugar coated story where everything is easy and it all works out on its own. Ella must work hard to get what she wants and to save the people she loves most.