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Ella is born, and the fairy Lucinda visits Ella's mom, Lady Eleanor. Ella won't stop crying, so Lucinda has the bright idea to give her the gift of obedience. When she's told to stop crying, little baby Ella stops instantly. Great, right?
Not so much. Ella's mother and the cook Mandy realize that this is a Bad Idea, but Lucinda is still convinced it's the Best Gift in the History of Gifts.
We also learn that Ella's father is away on some trading expedition, as usual.
Ella's first memory of the curse is from her fifth birthday, when she's told to eat her birthday cake. She eats and eats until she starts crying, and then has to keep eating.
Finally, her mom gets that she has to tell Ella to stop, and does. Where's dad? Not there, as usual.
Fun facts about Ella's curse: she only has to follow a direct order ("Put on a shawl" rather than "I wish you would put on a shawl"), and while she can drag her feet instead of obeying right away, she gets dizzy, nauseated, and other unpleasant things.
Oh, yeah. And somebody could force her to harm or kill herself by simply telling her to do so. Stinks to be her.
Luckily, Ella has a fairy godmother, and Ella's mother has asked her to remove the spell. Unluckily, only the original fairy can fix it—and maybe Ella herself, someday.
Anyway, Ella grows up, and she's a little bit of a rebel. Maybe she's that way naturally, or maybe the curse makes her that way (which we totally get). You have to admit, the curse-thing is becoming kind of a problem for her.
Like, the cook (Mandy) bosses her around all the time. Okay, this isn't so bad: it's good-natured, and they always laugh and make up in the end.
But when a childhood friend finds out about Ella's curse, she bosses her around all afternoon. Obviously, Ella ends up punching her.
When Lady Eleanor finds out, she sends the friend away and orders Ella never to tell anyone about her curse. Sometimes honesty isn't the best policy.
When Ella is just about fifteen years old, she and her mom both get sick.
Mandy makes them a healing soup, but Ella's mom doesn't drink enough of it and just gets sicker.
Ella visits the king's old castle with its candelabra-shaped trees and prays for her mom to get better quickly.
Turns out, she was praying for the wrong thing: she should have been praying for her mother's life.