Oh Cinderella with your glass slipper, your pumpkin carriage, and your two terrible step-sisters, what a life, but you do marry a prince, so you’ve got that going for you. Wait a minute, we’re talking about Ella, not Cinderella, although the two sound quite similar. This story probably isn’t a Cinderella story at all; I’m joking with you; this story is a Cinderella story.
Ella lives in the land of Frell. This is the same universe that the book Fairest is set in. At first Ella is happy. She and her mother are good friends and their cook, Mandy, is an especially good person. Ella’s life started out a little fraught though. When she was a baby a fairy named Lucinda gave her the gift of always being obedient. Ella has to obey any command she is given. Her mother and Mandy try to keep this a secret from everyone, but some do find out, but they are soon sent away to protect Ella. When Ella is a little older, her mother dies. Her father is constantly busy and really has no time for her.
It is at her mother’s funeral that Ella meets Dame Olga and her two terrible daughters, Hattie and Olive. Since Ella has no mother to raise her, she is sent away to finishing school with Hattie and Olive. Hattie soon finds out that Ella has to do whatever she is told. Ella does not like finishing school, especially since she struck up a friendship with Prince Char before leaving. Char is quite taken with Ella and brings her presents. He goes away for a year to another kingdom. Ella and he write back and forth for a while.
Ella escapes finishing school in order to track down Lucinda. At first she gets commanded to be happy about being obedient, but Mandy snaps her out of this. Char wants to marry Ella, but she knows she cannot marry him with her curse. Mandy calls to Lucinda and tells her to spend her time as a squirrel and being obedient and to see how she likes it. At some point, Ella’s father marries Dame Olga and this isn’t pleasant for Ella either. Lucinda gave the new couple the gift of always loving each other. Ella’s father stays far away so he can love Olga from afar instead of close up.
Ella shows up at the balls thrown for Prince Char when he returns, but with the help of Mandy and a now repentant Lucinda, she goes to the ball in disguise. Char finds her out by a glass slipper she left, which was a gift from him. Ella finally asserts herself and breaks her own curse.
What I liked
It’s been a while since I’ve read this book and I enjoyed revisiting it. There was a lot of this story I didn’t remember. I’ve seen the movie and the movie isn’t really like the book at all. Everybody loves Cary Elwes and all, but that isn’t how the book went. I liked that the book had a little more meat to it and was about Ella learning to be herself. Yes. that’s right, Ella took control of her own destiny rather than letting other people choose her destiny for her. Bravo!
We can all take a lesson from Ella, just because we’re in certain circumstances in life, doesn’t mean we have to stay there. We can make the choice to rise above whatever terrible things may be going on in our lives.
What I didn’t like
Ok, there was something that kind of bothered me in this story. Char gives Ella a centaur colt, which apparently cannot speak and has the intelligence of your average horse. Horses are pretty smart, but this is still kind of an insult. I know centaurs aren’t real, but they’re part human, especially the brain part. So as centaurs are part human I would assume that they have the intelligence of a human and can speak. I also almost find the idea of having a centaur as a pet akin to slavery. Again, centaurs aren’t real and I know that, but it kinds of irks me that Gail describes them as nothing more than animals and that they can be owned by people. If something can speak and has the intelligence of a person, be it half-horse, or half-fish, then maybe we shouldn’t be imprisoning it and trading it like it’s an animal. This is all imaginary, none of this is real, but if it were real, I just don’t know that I could be down with Prince Char giving centaurs as gifts.
Free the centaurs!!
Ella’s dad is a jerk. Why does she have to be stuck with such a jerk for a dad? You can’t pick your parents, unfortunately, very, very, very unfortunately. I know from experience. Moms are usually better than dads though as far as behavior, I will say that. Ella got along great with her mom and not so great with her dad. He had no interest in here life. He didn’t even known what she was up to. It reminds me of an episode of Family Guy where they’re all supposed to write letters to each other and not send them. Peter sent his letters even though he was not supposed to. Meg got a letter that said, “Dear Meg, for the first three years of your life, I thought you were a cat.” Ella’s father seems to have the same disregard for his daughter. How can a parent have that attitude? It’s just another mystery of humanity that I don’t understand.
I’m glad that Ella asserted herself and charted her own path in life.
Does this Cinderella story have key differences from other Cinderella stories or is it the same old stuff just retold with new names?
What do you think about centaurs? Should they be treated as people or no?