Study Guide

Ella Enchanted Literature and Writing

By Gail Carson Levine

Literature and Writing

When I opened it, instead of a fairy tale, I found an illustration of Mandy! (8.15)

Ella's fairy tale book is wicked cool: it contains not only fairy tales but also letters that other people have written, glimpses of other people's lives, and journal entries. It's a totally helpful and possibly illegal way for Ella (and us) to gain insight into what other people are thinking and doing.

In the morning, Slannen asked me to show my book to the other elves. To them, it was written in Elfian. They were enchanted and might have read all day, except that Slannen stopped them. (13.47)

Ella's fairy-made book has something for everyone in it—you see what you want to see. It's like a pre-modern iPad, fully loaded with apps.

I dropped the letter, afraid to read on. If Father wrote I must marry the earl, I would have to do it. (19.66)

Reading can be dangerous: if Ella reads a direct order addressed to her, she'll have to carry it out, willing or not. So, we get the idea that writing and speech are really closely related. What's written down can have the same effect as what's said.

I closed the book and whispered to its spine, "Don't erase the letter, please." (10.43)

Mandy's letters to Ella are the only thing she has from home that make her feel loved (since it's not like her dad cares enough to write, or cares that much at all, really). Writing is a way for people to show affection—so it seems fitting that the people who totally lack affection, like Hattie and Olive, are bad writers.

"I'll write to you. You shall know all my doings. Will you write to me in return?" "Yes, but I'll have no doings, or few. I shall invent, and you'll have to decide what is real." (21.93-94)

Thus Char and Ella's courtship-in-writing begins. Inventive as always, Ella teases him with the promise of spicing up their correspondence with made-up events.

Although weeks passed without an answer from Father, my first letter from Char arrived only ten days after I'd sent mine to him. Then letter followed letter for the first six months of his absence, while I heard nothing from Father, and saw nothing of him either. (24.10)

It's not a good sign when your own flesh and blood can't be bothered to write back to you. But having a prince for a pen pal is a pretty good substitute.

With each of his letters I fell more in love with him. But I couldn't tell him. If I said I was old enough to marry and his question had only been the continuation of a good joke, he would be horribly embarrassed and our easy friendship would be ruined. He might stop writing, which I couldn't endure. If he wasn't jesting, it was for him to say so. Until then or never, I treasured our correspondence. (24.44)

The letters from Char are pretty much the only good thing in Ella's life (besides having Mandy around) while she's forced to serve her stepfamily. It helps that his letters are articulate and charming enough for, well. Prince Charming. Er, Charmont.

The whole page was full of blots and cross-outs. Each letter was formed with a wobbly hand, as though the writer didn't know how to hold a pen. Poor Olive! (16.38)

We know it's not nice to keep making fun of Olive, but the girl can hardly string two sentences together, and her writing style is just one more example of how poorly educated she is—despite coming from a wealthy family. (Yet another reminder that money isn't everything).

The only subjects that came easily were those taught by Writing Mistress: composition and ciphering. (10.69)

Well, duh. It's no surprise that writing comes naturally to Ella: she's already shown us that she's good at everything having to do with language.

The sister could have no reason to lie to me. If Ella and I had married, she would only gain. But Ella's note convinced me in the end. It was in her hand, and the last phrase about smiling at her jewels and laughing at the world was certainly her own. … She charmed me as easily as she did the ogres. … But her letters were the greatest deception of all. She seemed so good-hearted. (25.81-83)

Ella's such a good writer that she can convince Char—who's no dummy—that she never loved him, in order to protect him from the effects of her curse. It's tragic that she uses her gift with words to break his heart. (Spoiler: she ends up marrying him.)