Ella Enchanted: When Adaptations Go Badly

Hi all!

For my post this week, I’ll be discussing Ella Enchanted, a retelling of Cinderella from a few years back — both the book, and the movie.

Hope y’all enjoy!

Ella Enchanted is a fantastic book. It follows Ella, a young girl cursed to always be obedient. Throughout the story, she befriends elves, visits giants, foils ogres, and falls in love. Eventually, she even breaks the curse … though not exactly in a conventional way.

The movie is not that. It introduces made-up characters, a weirdly anachronistic setting, and barely follows any of the plot points in the book. So, what better way to illustrate the differences than to compare the plots? Hopefully by the end, it’ll be clear why the book has a much better story than its adaptation.

Plot Point #1

A fairy named Lucinda curses newborn baby Ella to always be obedient. Fast forward several years, and Ella’s mother warns her on her deathbed not to tell anyone about the curse.

The Problems:

  • Overall, this first plot point does follow the book. The problem is with the second part. In the book, Ella’s mother explicitly orders her to never tell anyone about the curse after an unpleasant incident with a girl her age. This is important, as Ella’s curse will now keep her from telling anyone. A simple warning wouldn’t carry nearly as much weight.

Plot Point #2

Ella’s father remarries, to a wealthy woman named Dame Olga who mistreats Ella. She meets the prince, Char, who invites her to his coronation ball. Hattie and Olive find out about her obedience and use it against her. Mandy gives Ella a book that used to be her boyfriend, Benny, and Ella leaves to find Lucinda in Giantville, to convince her to undo her gift.

The Problems:

  • Everything. First of all, Ella doesn’t go to Char’s balls until after she’s become a servant in Dame Olga’s household. And they’re balls to welcome him home from the neighboring kingdom of Ayortha, not to celebrate his coronation. Second of all, Hattie is the only one who finds out about Ella’s obedience. Ella’s forced to attend finishing school with her and Olive, and she finds out about it during the journey. Olive never knows, and Hattie doesn’t bother telling her. Third of all, Mandy’s book was never a man — it’s a magic book that contains letters and maps from other characters, and shows what’s going on in the wider world. Also, Ella leaves finishing school to find Lucinda (it is for the same reason as in the movie), and to escape an order from Hattie that she stop being friends with Areida, a young woman from Ayortha at the same finishing school.

Plot Point #3

During her journey, Ella meets Slannen, an elf who wants to be a lawyer. They’re captured by ogres, then rescued by Prince Char, who joins them. Ella tells him about the oppressive laws his uncle, Sir Edgar, has forced on the elves and giants.

The Problems:

  • First of all, Slannen is not a lawyer. He’s the head of an elf community that Ella meets in the woods, who gives her a precious piece of pottery by a famous sculptor named Agulen. Second of all, Ella’s the only one who is captured by ogres, and she sweet-talks them into submission so Char and his men can tie them up. Third of all, Char doesn’t go with her — one of his men takes her to the giants. The oppressive laws and Char’s uncle Edgar don’t exist in the book.

Plot Point #4

Ella and Char fall in love. Edgar learns of her obedience from her stepsisters, and orders her to murder Char at midnight, since he murdered Char’s father and the prince’s death will make him king. Ella writes Char a letter and leaves, chaining herself to a tree while Slannen recruits elves and giants to protect Char.

The Problems:

  • Yes, Ella and Char do fall in love, but it’s through a series of letters while Char is visiting Ayortha. But no one learns of Ella’s obedience (at least, the curse part of it), and Ella’s stepsisters would never be on friendly terms with the king. The prince is only in danger because of Ella, and when he declares his love in one of his letters, she has to refuse him for the good of her kingdom. If she does marry while under a curse, some enemy might use it to undermine the kingdom.

Plot Point #5

Lucinda appears, and says that Ella needs to get rid of the gift herself. Ella is forced into the ball, where Chars whisks her away to propose. She’s about to stab him, but sees her reflection and orders herself not to be obedient. But Char sees the dagger, and she’s arrested before she can explain herself.

The Problems:

  • Ella does talk to Lucinda again, but it’s after she has to reject Char’s proposal, because Mandy is fed up with her antics and wants her to see what her gifts do to others. There are actually three balls, and Ella goes to see Char once again. She gets caught at the end of the third ball, and all is about to be lost when Char proposes to her at the manor. However, something happens inside Ella, and for the love of Char and the good of her kingdom, she’s finally able to break the curse herself. After that, she happily accepts Char’s proposal. She never tries to kill Char, and never goes to jail.

Plot Point #6

Benny informs Slannen about Ella, who goes to rescue her with an army of magical creatures. They also learn that Edgar plans to poison Char. Ella and friends crash the coronation, she informs Char of her love and of Edgar’s plan, and Char almost gets bitten by Edgar’s talking snake. Edgar puts on the poisoned crown, and collapses.

The Problems:

  • None of this ever happened in the book.

Plot Point #7

Ella and Char marry, with Areida as her maid of honor. Char toasts a new era, Edgar is still alive, there’s a huge group dance, and the newlyweds head on the honeymoon.

The Problems:

  • The only part that would’ve happened is Areida serving in some capacity at Ella’s wedding.

In general, book-to-movie adaptations aren’t a bad idea. They can generate new interest in the book, and lead more readers and fans to it who might not have discovered it otherwise. The problems come when the adaptations aren’t true to the source material. It’s one thing to adapt something, and another to change it so it’s completely unrecognizable. But time will usually tell which stands as the definitive version of the story.

Thanks so much for reading! As always, there’s a link at the bottom to follow my blog, if you would like to do so. You can also contact me by email or follow me using the buttons on my homepage. On my social media, I let my followers know whenever I have a new blog post and give occasional updates about my life.

What do you think about Ella Enchanted? Do you prefer the book or the movie? Let me know in the comments!

And if you have any suggestions about topics, let me know there as well. I’d love to hear them!


Your Fairytale Enthusiast

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