Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (1997)
Ella Enchanted directed by Tommy O’Haver (2004)
This won a poll I posted on Patreon! Become a Patreon member and subscribe to my channel in order to patriciate in future book vs movie polls!
I was surprised this won, because Perks of Being a Wallflower was another option and I definitely thought that would win! I read Ella Enchanted when I was in 7th grade and we watched the movie after, which had recently come out. I remembered very little about the book though and was pretty surprised how different it is from the movie! (Which I had watched again after 7th grade, so unlike the book, I remembered it pretty well).
The movie has some similarities with Cinderella, but the book is a retelling of Cinderella and is basically the same story but here Ella has been cursed with obedience. The character of Ella is very silly and cute and is spunky while still being likeable.
In the book there are a number of made-up languages spoken and Levine really gets into the dialects and even has a translation thing in the back of the book. She said she was really into this, because she loved in The Lord of the Rings how Tolkien created these fake languages and she wanted to do the same. I personally am not into that at all and would skip over those sections. Maybe fantasy readers would be more into it, but it just seemed pointless in my mind.
Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit and think it is a great one for kids to read.
I have fond memories of watching this movie with my sister, so I am definitely biased. Having said that, I do think this movie is genuinely funny and has solid performances. It stays from the plot details of the book quite a bit, but I would say the theme and message of the book is the same in the movie as well.
Based on what goodreads users have to say, my liking the movie will be an unpopular opinion because lovers of the book were very upset at how different the plot was in the movie!
From here on out I will be getting into the plot details, which means there will be spoilers for both book and movie!
In both, Ella’s mom dies when Ella is young and her father is a merchant. In the book, she hardly sees her dad at all, and when her mother is dead, he decides to send Ella to finishing school. She met Hattie and Olive before, and he sends her off with them to the same school they attend.
In the movie, she seems close with her dad, but he is still in very little of the movie.
In both, the father becomes poor and marries the mother of Hattie and Olive. In the book, we learn that fairies love to attend weddings and be at baby births, and Lucinda shows up to this wedding and gives the two the gift of eternal love. Even though they both love each other, deep down the father doesn’t like being around his new wife, and so he leaves to try and build their fortunes again and says he will love her from afar. During this time, Ella’s evil stepmom and two stepsisters send her to the servant’s quarters and make her work.
In the movie this doesn’t really happen because it seems soon after her dad marries, Ell ends up leaving anyway.
Lucinda and Mandy
Mandy in both is Ella’s fairy godmother but Ella doesn’t even realize Mandy is a fairy until after her mother dies. In the book, fairies don’t like to be known and keep their identity a secret from most people-Lucinda being the exception.
Part way through the book, Mandy tells Lucinda she gives terrible gifts and suggests Lucinda make herself experience these “gifts”. The two she does to herself if first to be a squirrel for three months, because turning people into squirrels is something she does often, thinking it is a good thing. Then a common gift she gives to newborns in the gift of obedience, so she does that for three months as well and she realizes both are terrible. After this experience, Lucinda vows to not do big magic again. When Ella asks, she remove the curse of obedience, Lucinda refuses because even though she realizes it was a terrible gift, she refuses to do big magic.
Lucinda does show up though when Ella needs help getting to the ball, and Lucinda does the pumpkin into a stagecoach and mice into horse and coachmen because to her that isn’t big magic in her opinion.
In the movie, Mandy is openly a fairy, but is not very good at it. Lucinda is the same, but she never experiences her gifts for herself. Near the end, she comes across Ella and refuses to remove the gift simply because she doesn’t want to. But as in the book, she gets Ella to the ball (although in the movie, Ella doesn’t want to go to the ball and is forced to).
In the movie, Prince Char is very famous and there is even a fan club. He is reluctant to be king and just goes along with what his Uncle Edgar thinks is best. Ella doesn’t like Edgar and therefore doesn’t like Char either. They sort of have that enemies to lovers thing going on because Ella is very cold to him at the start. But as the get to know each other, she encourages him to take an interest in his kingdom and he starts to have confidence in himself and they fall in love.
In the book, she meets Char at her mother’s funeral because in the book Ella’s family was rich and mingled with the royalty. She and Char like each other right away, and at one point in the book, when she is a servant to her stepfamily, she and Char write letters because he is spending a year in another country. During their letter writing, he tells her he wants to marry her and she is overjoyed. However, she realizes the risk that not only it would be to his life, but to the whole kingdom due to her having to do whatever anyone says. She knows she can’t marry him for that reason and so she writes him a letter pretending to be Hattie, telling him what a horrible person Ella was and that she has ran off and married a rich old man. I thought the letter was pretty over the top in the book and kind of silly.
Breaking the curse
In the book, Prince Char is holding three balls and Ella goes to each one while wearing a mask because she can’t help wanting to see Char again. They talk and dance, and on the third night Hattie removes her mask and Ella runs off but leaves one of her glass shoes behind. Char goes to her house, where she is now back in her servant’s clothes. Char tries the shoe on her foot and it fits and he knows it is her. He tells her to marry him and in this intense moment, Ella says no she won’t marry him because she knows it will put his life at risk. She breaks the curse by telling him no, but then now that the curse is broken, they can get married after all.
In the movie, the evil Uncle Edgar learns of Ella’s curse and tells her to kill Char at the coronation ball. As she is lifting a dagger, she resists and by resisting, breaks the curse. This causes her to be put in prison though for attempted murder, but long story short, she and Char are married and Uncle Edgar gets his own poison and is mentally unfit to rule the kingdom.
Some other changes
In both, Hattie tells Ella she can no longer be friends with Areida, who is her best friend. In the book, this happens at boarding school and she never ends things with her because Ella instead runs away. Whereas in the movie she does have to tell Areida that she doesn’t want to be her friend anymore.
In the book, she meets Lucinda at the giants wedding (in the movie she has left by the time Ella gets there) and Lucinda tells her to be happy about being obedient. This causes Ella to be happy to obey orders and when her father wants her to marry someone rich, she happily agrees. He also has her eat magic mushrooms that make her love this guy her dad wants her to marry. However, eventually the mushrooms wear off, and Mandy, realizing the happiness was not another curse, but just an order, orders Ella to feel her true feelings. The guy her dad wanted her to marry ends up being poor anyway so she doesn’t marry him.
In the movie, Char’s parents are both dead-we learn his mother died young and his father was killed by Edgar but Edgar blamed it on the ogres. In the book they are both alive though.
Speaking of Ogres, in the movie there is more politics going on because Edgar has been passing laws that are cruel to the nonhumans and he is treating giants like slaves and is making enemies of the ogres. None of this kind of stuff within the book, and in the book, ogres were bad and while in both, ogres do eat people, in the movie they are more likable.
In both Ella is given a magic book, but in the movie, it is Mandy’ boyfriend and Ella can tell him what she wants to see and the book will show her. In the book, there is no boyfriend, and she has not control over what the book shows her, it just magically shows what she thinks she should know.
Book vs movie
I can see why the movie made the changes they did from the story, because like I said, had they kept it the same the second half would have just been the story of Cinderella with the twist of obedience. So I like that they turned it into its own story, with just a few Cinderella similarities. As said early, I like the movie a lot and there were still parts this time around that made me laugh out loud. The book was cute and enjoyable, and both book and movie have a good message of Ella breaking the cruse herself and learning ot be her own person despite having to do what others tell her all of her life. Fans of the book won’t like this, but I am going to say the movie wins. They stayed true to the message of the book (in my opinion), and I liked the actors, it was a lot of fun, and yeah it’s silly at times but that’s kind of the point!