Warning. Spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk.
I remember that as a child, Cinderella was my favorite Disney movie. It was so fascinating. Evil people who are evil for the sake of being evil. A ton of animal friends. (I really hated the cat, though. Seriously.) And at the very end, a dream come true. It was everything my mind could encompass.
However, as the years progressed, and I had Cinderella retellings coming my way, I realized that I liked the retellings a lot more than my childhood favorite.
Here’re the things that caught my eye when I thought about why Ella Enchanted felt more believable.
The story picks up with Eleanor “Ella’s” curse. From the very beginning, Ella’s personality is poignant, and engulfing. We see it in the way she tries to break free of the curse from the very beginning, how it “makes a rebel” out of her, in how she finds a way out of every tight spot even if it looks like a dead end. We see more of Ella, and we see her in more vulnerable positions than Disney ever put Cinderella in. The premise and build-up not only give depth to Ella’s character, but every other character introduced.
The world building didn’t feel like info dumps at any point during the narrative. From the collection of magical creatures in the palace compounds to the Giants’ wedding, everything flowed with a natural rhythm.
This story was more than just about retelling. It was about giving everyone more weight, it was about making it matter. When one starts to perceive the subtle parts of the story, to actually see and notice what difference they make to how we see the whole story, (obviously some kids are more perceptive than I am, but come on cut me some slack), it makes one appreciate the small things more.
It wasn’t just about making the characters more believable, either. It was about the power that a human has over themselves, and over everyone they interact with. You may point at people giving Ella orders at this point, her father and Hattie and Olive and the Ogres and even Lucinda and Mandy to some extent. But that is not where the significance of this theme ends. It flares out and covers up the ending to fit snugly to the entire story. That moment when Ella forced a choice on herself was more than empowering.
I’d definitely recommend this book to young girls. The one who recommended it said she’d read it almost a decade ago. I think it’s a pretty good read, anyhow. As a light read when you need a break from the heavy stuff, maybe. Or perhaps just to remember what it’s like to feel young again.