Ella Enchanted

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Ella Enchanted
Written by: Gail Carson Levine
Central Theme:
Genre(s): Fantasy
First published: 1997
v · d · e

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is a Twice-Told Tale based on the Fairy Tale "Cinderella".

At birth, Ella, the protagonist, is given the "gift" of obedience by Lucinda, a fairy. Thus is Ella Blessed with Suck. She is forced to obey every direct order given to her, no matter what. Eventually Ella learns to fight the curse, delaying her obedience, but she becomes sick when she tries. She also fights the curse by not doing exactly what is wanted when the wording of an order is not clear enough.

The basics of "Cinderella" are in Ella Enchanted: There is a Missing Mom, then later a Wicked Stepmother. There is a Disappeared Dad, as Ella's father is often away on business. (The closer the book gets to the climax, the more Cinderella plot elements are included.)

A film adaptation based (loosely) on the book was released in 2004.

Fairest is a loose, meta sequel. According to some it is actually a companion, due to the timing.

Tropes used in Ella Enchanted include:
  • Abusive Parents: Ella's father Sir Peter, of the neglectful variety. Dame Olga also counts.
  • Adaptational Personality Adjustment: Ella is no typical Cinderella. She's not someone that will demurely do all the chores just because she's asked to; oh, she has to obey orders from anyone who gives them, as long as she understands the language, but she hates every bit of it and will sometimes go for malicious compliance.
  • Arranged Marriage: Ella's father tries to set her up for one with an old duke. It doesn't push through once her father finds out the duke isn't as rich as he thinks.
  • Ayorthaian Best Friend: Areida
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Charmont. In one of his letters to Ella, he admits to ruining his tutor's career when he was younger just because the man made his sister cry. And years later, he still resents the tutor.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Ella tries this with Charmont, knowing that if they do get married she'll only put both him and the kingdom in danger because of her curse.
  • Big Eater: Dame Olga and her daughters.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Charmont and his knights saving Ella from the ogres. Subverted slightly by Ella aiding the attempt.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Dame Olga. When we first meet her, she seems nice enough, at least compared to her daughters (especially Hattie). But once she marries Ella's father and discovers that he had no money, she quickly turns into the cruel, abusive, petty stepmother we know from the Cinderella tale, making Ella a slave in her own home and tormenting the girl after her father leaves for business.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Ella. Almost literal example!
    • Several, in fact. Lucinda's "blessings" tend to focus on making their recipients better children, where "better" is dictated by the sort of book which declares that the proper behavior for a child is to sit quietly and behave like a miniature adult. She's always baffled when the recipient is unhappy with their Stepford Life.
    • Don't forget, she's even turned people into squirrels too! Because squirrels are obviously always happy.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Briefly done to Lucinda herself so she realizes the complete horror of what she's done to everyone. Unfortunately, she can't break Ella's curse, or anyone's for that matter, because it's a matter of willpower.
  • Con Man: Ella's father tries selling land that doesn't belong to him; getting found out and having to pay off the massive debt leaves him and his daughter nearly penniless.
  • Costume Porn: Lampshaded, when Ella sees Dame Olga's letter to her daughters, which mostly describes her clothing and her social calendar. She only remembers she was writing to them by the last paragraph.
  • Cunning Linguist: Ella and her natural proficiency with languages.
  • Curse Escape Clause: Not until the very end. The curse is broken once Ella disobeys an order, which she is only able to do, with great difficulty, when the stakes are high enough. Merely saving her own life isn't sufficient, but when it comes to the future of the man she loves and the entire kingdom...
  • Exact Words: Ella learns to do this to work around her curse.
  • Fairy Godmother: Deconstructed with Lucinda, who goes around giving Blessed with Suck "help" to people who don't want it, and Mandy, Ella's actual godmother, who it turns out is also a fairy but is much more inconspicuous (and thoughtful) about the help she gives.
  • Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: Ella, at her father's unknowing command. Not helped by the elven mushrooms she eats later, making her shamelessly flirtatious towards the old duke her father wants her to marry. When Mandy snaps her out of it later, she's horrified.
  • Gold Digger: A mutual attempt with Ella's father and Dame Olga--except that Dame Olga doesn't know that Sir Peter doesn't have any money until it's too late.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Hattie is jealous of Ella because she's brave, smart, and pretty. It's mainly the reason why she treats Ella so miserably.
  • Grew a Spine: A concrete-metaphor version, with Ella's compulsion to obey orders that she has to overcome.
  • Hates Small Talk: Not exactly hate, but all the Ayorthaians that Charmont stayed with for a year were like this. Not through snobbiness, either; it's just they're more contemplative, more appreciative of silence, and far too polite. Much to Charmont's displeasure.
  • Irony: Being blessed with "obedience" let to Ella being more stubborn.
  • Karma Houdini: Arguably, Ella's stepfamily. While Hattie never marries the prince (or at all), neither she nor her the rest of her family are punished for abusing Ella.
  • Kick the Dog: Done to Ella a lot by Dame Olga, Hattie, and Olive, as well as the extremely snooty governesses at the girl's academy.
  • Masquerade Ball
  • Missing Mom: Ella's mom dies of illness early in the book.
  • More Than Mind Control: Ella's spell.
  • Motor Mouth: Charmont's knight who takes Ella to the giant's wedding.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Ella is never shown reclaiming her mother's necklace from Hattie. She does recover it, but it's only a quick throwaway line in the epilogue.
    • Oddly enough, this is fixed in the film version.
  • Omniglot: Ella is fluent in Kyrrhian, and knows more than enough Ayorthaian, Gnomish, Elvish, and Ogrish to get by.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Our elves strongly resemble plants and place extreme value on beautifully crafted objects.
  • Plucky Girl: Ella.
  • Prince Charming: Levine plays on this: the prince's name is Charmont, which is a letter away from 'Charmant,' the French word for 'Charming.' Playing it further, he actually hates his full name and only likes to be called "Char".
  • Rich Bitch: Dame Olga and her daughters Hattie and Olive.
  • Royal Brat: Hattie and Olive.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Prince Charmont readily goes out to hunt ogres with his knights to protect the citizens of his kingdom.
  • This Is My Name on Foreign
  • Tongue-Tied: Ella is ordered not to tell anyone about her curse.
  • Two-Person Love Triangle: When Charmont falls for Ella's masked alter ego at the balls.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Specifically, "what did she see in him?" Ella asks Mandy this about her parents, since they seemed like such complete opposites.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Kicks in with Dame Olga almost immediately after the marriage.

The film contains examples of:

  • Black Belt in Origami: Ella encounters Mooks bullying the elf Slannen. After he (semi-unintentionally) orders her to help him, she threatens the Mooks with origami. Unfortunately for her, one of the guards knows what origami actually is.

Guard: Paper folding?
Ella: I was hoping you didn't know what it was.

  • Estrogen Brigade Bait: Prince Char. In one scene he's removed his shirt and vest to allow Ella to put a bandage on his arm, leaving him in nothing but leather pants.
  • Groupie Brigade: Prince Char
  • Illegal Guardian
  • In Name Only: The movie of the book features Ella being cursed with obedience...and, aside from a few shared settings and characters, that's about it.
  • Kick the Dog: Hattie and Olive forcing Ella to steal a number of expensive items from a market stall, get her arrested, have her blame Areida for it, then have her go to the door when she comes to visit, tell her that she never wants to see her again and tell her that she could never be friends with an Ayorthian. Fortunately, Areida forgives Ella by the end.
  • Jerkass: Lucinda not only Blesses Ella With Suck, when Ella pleads and begs for her to remove the "gift", Lucinda is offended and refuses, declaring arrogantly "everybody loves my gifts". She not only shows no interest in why Ella would want it removed, but while Ella chained herself to a tree to try and avoid obeying Edgar's order to kill Char, Lucinda frees her and orders her to go to the ball. She's practically a villain in her own right.
  • Large Ham: Cary Elwes was clearly enjoying himself a bit too much.
  • Mistaken for Junkie: Jokingly. After rescuing Ella from ogres that want to eat her, Char asks Ella if she gets a kick out of near-death experiences. At that point in the movie, these included nearly getting run down by a carriage (Char inadvertently put her in that situation by telling her to stay put while he goes and gets her bag, leaving her stuck in the middle of the road with a carriage bearing down on her).
  • Obviously Evil: Prince Edgar, with his black and red clothing and his snake. It's a wonder that people trust him.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: Carey Elwes' character catches the Idiot Ball in the most blatant (yet hilarious) manner possible when he puts on the crown he himself had previously poisoned in order to murder his nephew at the coronation.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Ella and Areida become this.
  • Sudden Musical Ending: "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" in a Crowd Song to end the film.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Prince Edgar
    • He got better.
  • Un Paused: Ella is ordered to freeze by the guards as she is in mid-leap over a wine barrel. When the order is countermanded, she crushes it beneath her.