Dear Ella of Frell,

dearella

You will always be my favorite Cinderella. I wish the movie they made had done you more justice, but unfortunately, it barely resembled your story at all.

I’ve been thinking lately about restraint, the kinds that are forced upon us. Yours were obvious. A curse of obedience, combined with an abusive family. For me… well, I worry sometimes I imagine mine. Everyone always says that if you set your mind to it, you can do anything. Or that the only thing holding you back is yourself. Anything is possible if you work hard and believe. All those fun little clichés, and I guess I’ve internalized a lot of them over the years.

Those things, that whole mindset, is part of why I hated the Cinderella archetype growing up, until I found your story. It’s so easy as an outsider with no experience in being trapped in a situation to say that Cinderella should have done more to free herself. She should stood up for herself, or found a way to fight back. She should have escaped. I liked your story because there was a concrete, justifiable reason why you didn’t do those things, or at least, why you couldn’t escape the situation. You were stubborn and passionate and kind, you had people you cared about and couldn’t bear to leave, and you fought like hell for your freedom. No one could say that you were weak or that didn’t try your best.

So now, I’m trying to find perspective. No one could say you didn’t fight and give it your all, but me… Am I really that sick? Do my health problems, both physical and mental, really limit me as much as I think they do? Or am I just weak and need to try harder? I guess it depends on who you ask.

Did you ever look back and feel like you were weak for not breaking the curse sooner?

I hope not. Because I don’t think, personally, that you could have. You needed to learn the things you did, you needed to face the challenges you faced, in order to become strong enough to break the curse. You endured. No amount of willpower can make up for time and experience. The person you were a year before, and month before, an hour before, could not have broken it. You were too young, as you told Char in your letters. You should be proud of yourself for fighting so hard, for so long, because that was what brought the person who could break the curse into existence. It’s so easy for me to look at you and say that, but applying those same things to myself? Ha.

Some days I know that I’m doing my best, and I should be proud of what I’ve accomplished. Other days I know that I’m the most pathetic person who’s ever lived. Self-awareness is hard when you feel like there is so much outside of your control affecting your life. It’s given me a new respect the Cinderellas of all types.

Maybe we’re all cursed, a little. Maybe the person I am tomorrow, a month from now, a year from now, will have a better answer. Maybe I shouldn’t rush her. Curses take time and experience to work through, and as frustrated as I am with my situation and myself, maybe just enduring the hardship for now is the best way to get to happily ever.

Ella, thanks for getting me hooked on fairy tales. Thanks for reminding me why they’ll always matter. Thanks for helping me look at Cinderella and myself differently.

Love always,

A friend

 

Ella is from the book Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.