Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ella Enchanted (Fantasy Book)

Ella Enchanted, a Newbery Honor Book, is a fractured fairy tale for the modern young girl.

When Ella was born, she was put under a curse by a fairy named Lucinda. Ella must to do whatever anyone commands her to do. Ella’s father, Sir Peter, is absent for much of her life. Her two favorite people are her mother, Lady Eleanor, and their cook.
“When I was almost fifteen, Mother and I caught cold. Mandy dosed us with her curing soup, made with carrots, leeks, celery, and hair from a unicorn’s tail. It was delicious, but we both hated to see those long yellow-white hairs floating around the vegetables.”

Sadly, Lady Eleanor succumb to the sickness. Sir Peter immediately returns to Frell to bury his wife. At the funeral, the Prince of Charmont, or Char, introduces himself to Ella. He is a kind young gentleman, and the son of King Jerrold. Mandy reveals to Ella that she is a fairy. “She was going to. She promised. Please tell, Mandy.” “I am.”  “You are not telling me. Who is it?”
“Me. Your fairy godmother is me. Here, taste the carrot soup. It’s for dinner. How is it?”

Sir Peter decides to send Ella away to finishing school. She is accompanied by Dame Olga’s horrible children, Hattie and Olive. Before they leave for the finishing school, Mandy gives Ella her Lady Eleanor’s necklace so she can have a piece of her mother with her while she is away. Not too soon into the journey, Hattie realizes the “curse” that Ella is under. Hattie soon gets Ella to hand over her mother’s beautiful necklace.

At school, Ella meets a dear girl named Areida from neighboring Ayortha. Hattie sees their blossoming relationship and orders Ella to stop being friends with Areida because, “You shouldn’t associate with the lower orders, like that wench from Ayortha.” 

Ella then runs away from the finishing school. She travels to a wedding of a giant were her father is. On the way, she is kidnapped by a gaggle of ogres. Trying to reason with them in their native tongue, Ella is soon rescued by Prince Char.

Ella’s father decides to marry the evil Dame Olga, which would make the disgusting Hattie and Olive her step-sisters. Ella sets out to find Lucinda, the fairy who placed the curse upon her. When confronted, a quite air-headed Lucinda tells Ella that she should be happy about her special gifts.  

The friendship between Char and Ella increases. He soon leaves on a mission to Ayortha, but continues to correspond with Ella via letter. Soon, they fall in love with each other. When Prince Char writes of his love for Ella, she realizes that her curse could put the whole kingdom of Kyrria in grave danger. Ella rejects Char’s proposals. Crushed, he comes back to Kyrria to attend a three night ball giving by his father, the king.

Ella, with Mandy and Lucinda, attends the last night of the ball. She has disguised herself as Lela and wears a mask. A viciously jealous Hattie tears off Ella’s mask while her and Prince Char were dancing. Ella runs out of the party, only to be tracked down by Char. When he orders her hand in marriage, Ella refuses, thus breaking the lifelong curse. And…yes, they lived happily ever after. 
Gail Carson Levine 
I must confess that the fantasy genre is not one of my favorites. I love science fiction, but fantasy books are tough for me to read. Especially anything that takes place in a medieval kingdom. When Ella speaks Gnomic and Ogrese, I fully cannot commit myself to the story. I lose myself in thinking about how she would be saying the words, and not thinking about the story. I don’t know why I can do this when it is in a book, but I often enjoy it in plays and movies. Perhaps it is because I know that the dramatic literature is intended to be performed and not just words on a page.

Ella Enchanted really did please me. She is a modern adaptation of Cinderella. I would consider Ella Enchanted a postmodern examination of the Charles Perrault classic Cinderella fairy tale. Levine seems to explain every detail in her version of the fairy tale realm. So often, it is hard to find strong female characters for young girls to read. I have been noticing that a lot of children’s literature either deals with the girl who can get her life together, or the boy who is lazy. Are these the messages we want to start sending our young students? 

Perhaps, I am just bitter. The "happily ever after" life seems to eluded me. I guess you could say that I am jealous of Ella and her ability to overcome such tremendous obstacles. Perhaps, one day, I will find my way!

1 comment:

  1. Rob, you will find your way :) I see what you mean about the happily ever after thing. My point of view, though, is that I often like to read about happy endings because there are SO many unhappy endings in real life. I read for pleasure so I want to feel happy at the end. If I wanted to feel depressed I'll read the news on CNN....