Study Guide

Ella Enchanted Family

By Gail Carson Levine


Since Father was away from Frell, we drank the soup sitting in Mother's bed. If he had been home, I wouldn't have been in her room at all. He didn't like me to be anywhere near him, getting underfoot, as he said. (1.54)

Because nothing says "loving family" like not wanting your child to be anywhere near you. Gee, dad, way to set your daughter up to have a lot of failed relationships with really unsuitable dudes.

Everyone called it losing Mother, but she wasn't lost. She was gone, and no matter where I went—another town, another country, Fairyland, or Gnome caverns—I wouldn't find her. We'd never talk again, or laugh together. Or swim in the River Lucarno. Or slide down the banister or play tricks on Bertha. Or a million things. (2.11-12)

However dysfunctional the rest of Ella's family life is, she and her mother loved and cared for each other. This seems to give her a core of inner strength that lets her rise above the awfulness that's the rest of her family.

"I forgive you, child. We in the peerage are forgiving. Your poor mother used to be known for her ill breeding too." (3.56)

Coming from Hattie, that's almost a compliment. This statement also reinforces how much Ella is like her mother: truthful and not bound by silly things like politeness.

He looked me over. "That's my chin." He touched it, and I drew back. "Strong. Determined. That's my nose. I hope you don't mind that the nostrils flare. My eyes, except yours are green. Most of your face belongs to me." (4.117)

Sir Peter telling Ella that most of her face "belongs" to him makes us a tad uncomfortable, especially since he tries to sell her into marriage later in the book. But she did, in fact, inherit some things from him: not just physical features, but a stubborn desire to get her way. Luckily, she didn't inherit his shady ethics.

I hugged Mandy and clung to her. She disentangled herself from my arms. "Let me go, love." Planting a kiss on my cheek, she left. (5.72-73)

Ella is only related to Mandy very distantly through her fairy blood, but Mandy is one of the most caring figures in Ella's life. It goes to show that there's more to family than a mother, father, 2.5 kids, and a house with a white picket fence—or even a castle.

At the sight of them, a roar rose from the giants' stands. Giants screeched, moaned, grunted, and hummed that the bride was beautiful, the groom was handsome, they would be healthy for long and forever, and this was the happiest day in anybody's memory. (17.36)

Giant families: made of awesome. The down-to-earth wedding traditions combined with the support of the whole community make it seem like giants really have this whole family thing figured out.

"My darling, you must call me Mum. Mum Olga sounds so cozy." (20.2)

Hm, "cozy" is a good start—but, with Mum Olga, we'd settle for "not abusive." "Loving" can come later.

"Olga, my heart, I expect Ella to be treated with respect," Father said. "She is not to be a servant in her own home." (22.28)

Yeah, so, about that: ideally your family doesn't make you into a servant in your own home. But Dame Olga clearly has different ideas about what "family" means. That, and she seems to be punishing Ella for her father's deception in stringing Olga along by letting her think he was still rich while they were courting. Real mature, lady.

"Most welcome." Queen Daria embraced me. "I've waited long to meet the maiden my son loves." (28.40)

Not every family is dysfunctional in this book. The balls may not have been Char's idea, but at least his family wants him to meet someone he loves and can be happy with (rather than marrying him off at the first opportunity). And having a well-adjusted royal family just seems like a good idea, as these are the people in charge of, like, everything.

"You are better society than they are," I said. It was true: There was little honesty in Father but none at all in Hattie or Mum Olga. (23.5)

Ella knows her dad will do anything to turn a profit, including try to marry her off to some rich dude. But her stepfamily could probably think of far worse things to do to Ella. Nice people to have as family, eh?