You might have heard me rage about the movie that is claiming to be an adaptation of this book. That is because Ella Enchanted is one of my absolute favorite children’s books and I felt so excited when the movie was announced…then it broke my heart. So now, since I think my rage was very vague on the details besides stating it had barely anything other than names the same, I’ll actually explain how the book went down so any who saw the movie will understand just how different the two were.
The book starts with an inconsolable baby Ella crying. The fairy Lucinda comes along (she’s known for giving “gifts” that are actually curses) and “gifts” Ella with obedience. Ella’s mother, Lady Eleanore and Mandy the cook (who in the book was old, chubby and grey) beg Lucinda to take it back but she refuses and leaves. Ella then explains how her mother never told her father about the curse and how she tried very hard to never order Ella to do anything. As she grows up she does things to try to delay the inevitable need to follow the order, dawdling and forcing herself to wait as long as possible, but her vision would blur, she’d feel sick and dizzy and to keep from passing out or worse she’d have to follow the order. When Ella turns fifteen, her mother passes away. At the funeral she meets and befriends Prince Charmont. After her mother’s passing Ella’s father sends her to a boarding school where she meets Dame Olga’s children Hattie and Olive (both are described as fat with hair that looks fake and pig faces). Unfortunately, at some point while at boarding school, Hattie figures out that Ella has to follow direct orders and begins to abuse Ella’s curse. Ella runs away from boarding school and goes looking for her father at a giant’s wedding. There she finds Lucinda instead, whom she begs to lift the curse. Lucinda orders her to be happy about her “gift”. After the encounter, Ella returns home where Mandy reverses the order. Then her father marries Dame Olga. At the wedding Ella and Prince Charmont renew their friendship. Lucinda shows up and gives her father and Dame Olga the “gift” of loving each other…a gift which quickly backfires on Ella when Dame Olga learns Sir Peter only married her for her money and she, unable to hate him, takes all her hatred out on Ella. Sir Peter quickly leaves and Dame Olga and her daughters reduce Ella to a servant. Her only solace is the letters she writes back and forth with Charmont. It is through these letters that they fall in love. Almost as soon as she realizes her feelings for him are mutual, she realizes the danger her curse could cause not only him but their entire nation. She quickly breaks his heart and ends the friendship. In the end there is a three day ball which Ella does attend in disguise. She is unmasked at the last ball by a jealous Hattie, then forced to flee the Prince. He shows up at her house when she is packing to run away and then accidentally orders her to marry him.
I will not say how it ends, though it’s a children’s book so you can assume it ends happily. What I will say is, anyone who saw the movie should already see all the differences. There is no evil uncle plotting to rule a kingdom. No innocent ogres being framed…in fact the one time you meet the ogres they almost kill Ella, no remorse. The elves show up in passing. There’s no silly freezes in midair, no cursed lovers stuck as books…the list of what is different goes on and on. Even the way it ends is different. I know to some people it seems silly to get upset when a movie isn’t exactly like the book, and I get that. But when a movie changes a book this much? Why bother to call it anywhere close to the same thing? What I loved the most about Ella Enchanted was that, yes it was Cinderella, but she was strong despite being turned into a servant. She took matters into her own hands and she was witty and funny and kind and sneaky. She had flaws but she was still lovable. There was no need for the overly silly and gimmicky crap because the story was strong enough on it’s own. There wasn’t a giant plot hole like there was with the movie…seriously, if she could just order herself to stop taking orders why didn’t she do that earlier? I loved how there was something so powerful about the ending. I could go on and on, but this is already longer than I intended it to be, so I’ll just say this, I would very highly recommend going out and reading this book. It is so much better than the movie.