Ella Enchanted--Review

| | Comments (4)

Ella Enchanted
Gail Carson Levine


I found the book delightfully written--the "backstory" to the fairy tale we know as Cinderella. It takes place in a land of magic, ogres, elves, fairies, and dragons and there is vivid imagination at work here.

But the book is intended for young people and as such it left me with a very strange aftertaste. I don't know if the author intended it, but there is a very strong whiff of atheistic nihilism in the story. When the heroine's mother dies (extremely early in the story--I'm not giving anything away here) the heroine laments about never, never, never, never seeing her mother again. This assurance remains undiluted throughout the narrative. The only sense of the supernatural that comes through is that fairies are apparently immortal.

The premise of the story, while clever, is also disconcerting. The heroine is enchanted with a "fairy gift" of complete obedience. If an order is given Ella must execute it no matter what the cost to herself or those around her. The idea here is to show how a good thing might not be so good. But it also suggests, it seems, that there are ways of being obedient that adhere to the absolute letter but not to the spirit--and as far as the author is concerned, that's perfectly okay because obedience is not what it's cracked up to be.

So, while I think it's a very fine book, well-written, clever and full of ideas, I cannot recommend it to the audience for whom it is intended. If you intend to allow your child to read this book or to see the movie made from it, you would do well to preview it yourself and be ready to discuss it with your child.

It is books like these, well executed but (perhaps unintentionally) filled with insidious messages that pose the real threat that people associate with the Harry Potter books. The Kingdom of Fairy is treacherous.

Bookmark and Share


What I didn't realize until I read a collection of French fairy tales when I was about 30, is that the "fairy godmother" of such tales was the heroine's (or hero's) literal godmother: she was there at the font when the infant was baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

It may be that particular stories pre-date Christianity, and pagan fairies were subsequently baptized into fairy godmothers, but then the pagans who told the stories were also baptized, so I'm not sure what's to be gained by going back before Christianity.

Dear Tom,

We must recall that for a very long time, well into the nineteenth century even very good Catholics and Christians also believed in fairies. We need to reflect that some of the Märchen were collected folktales, but others--those of Perrault and others were often made up entirely. They may have folkloric themes, but the stories have no historic elements other than those themes that predate the seventeenth century.

Often the point of "Fairy godmothers" and "fairies" as a whole was to demonstrate the dangers of walking in those pagan ways. I think particularly of the Fairy in Sleeping Beauty who curses Rose with the threat of a spindle.



Obedience to any and everything is not exactly a virtue. The Hebrew midwives did not obey the Pharoah, they didn't even weasel about, and they lied to cover it up. Therefore God blessed them.

If it doesn't raise the question of whether obedience would ever be proper, that's a bad book, though.


Absolutely agreed. The curse of unquestioning obedience is a glimpse into the world without free will and without God. It was just that there was something about the whole thing that seemed very strange and uncomfortable afterwards.

In other words, I didn't object to the notion of the "curse" of the fairy's gift--it was more the playing out of all of the aspects of the story left me a bit uncomfortable.





About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 14, 2004 8:29 AM.

Prayer Requests 1/14/04 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Responsibility of the Artist is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll