In this excerpt from Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Ella talks about how she, her Mother and their cook (Mandy) cleverly work around the “gift” bestowed upon Ella: namely that Ella has to obey everything and anything she was told. Find out more about South Coast Repertory’s production of Ella Enchanted: The Musical.
The cover of Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.
Anyone could control me with an order. It had to be a direct command, such as “Put on a shawl,” or “You must go to bed now.” A wish or a request had no effect. I was free to ignore “I wish you would put on a shawl,” or “Why don’t you go to bed now?” But against an order I was powerless.
If someone told me to hop on one foot for a day and a half, I’d have to do it. And hopping on one foot wasn’t the worst order I could be given. If you commanded me to cut off my own head, I’d have to do it.
I was in danger at every moment.
As I grew older, I learned to delay my obedience, but each moment cost me dear—in breathlessness, nausea, dizziness, and other complaints. I could never hold out for long. Even a few minutes were a desperate struggle.
I had a fairy godmother, and Mother asked her to take the curse away. But my fairy godmother said Lucinda was the only one who could remove it. However, she also said it might be broken someday without Lucinda’s help.
But I didn’t know how. I didn’t even know who my fairy godmother was.
Instead of making me docile, Lucinda’s curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally.
Mother rarely insisted I do anything. Father knew nothing of the curse and saw me too infrequently to issue many commands. But Mandy was bossy, giving orders almost as often as she drew breath. Kind orders or for-your-own-good orders. “Bundle up, Ella.” Or “Hold this bowl while I beat the eggs, sweet.”
I disliked these commands, harmless as they were. I’d hold the bowl, but move my feet so she would have to follow me around the kitchen. She’d call me minx and try to hem me in with more specific instructions, which I would find new ways to evade. Often, it was a long business to get anything done between us, with Mother laughing and egging each of us on by turn.
We’d end happily—with me finally choosing to do what Mandy wanted, or with Mandy changing her order to a request.
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