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Ella Enchanted:A Hero’s Journey

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The famous author Peter S. Beagle once said, “Great heroes need great sorrows or burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed.” Everyone has burdens, but it takes a true hero to overcome a huge burden. In the movie Ella Enchanted, directed by Jane Starz, Ella has been blessed, or really cursed, with the gift of obedience by a fairy named Lucinda. She does anything and everything people tell her to do and has no control over it. As she gets older, people begin to abuse her gift, and she realizes she must find a way to get rid of the great burden, thus beginning her very own Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, or hero’s journey, is a twelve stage process that characters undergo to become heroes. As Ella becomes a hero by going through these stages, her story exemplifies the theme of overcoming burdens.

Ella first realizes she must overcome her gift during her call to adventure. The call the adventure is the second stage of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth in which the hero to be is presented with a problem. Ella’s call to adventure is her evil step sisters learning to abuse her gift. At a mall opening, they force Ella to steal a pair of glass slippers. Not only do they make Ella blame her best friend, Aredia, but they also demand Ella cut all ties with her. “I’ve done bad things before… but this is the worst thing the gift has ever made me do. I have to find Lucinda and get her to take the gift back.” Ella has discovered that in order to have a normal life, she must locate Lucinda, the fairy that gave her the gift, and get rid of the gift-gone-wrong. This is the first step Ella takes towards overcoming her burden. “And so Ella set off, glad to be rid or the witches.” Ella shows true signs of a hero, by taking the risk of leaving everything she knows behind to overcome the burden that is holding her back.

During the eighth stage of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, which is the ordeal, Ella begins to understand just how far she is willing to go in order to overcome her burden. Ella meets Char, a young prince that will soon become king. Char and Ella get to know each other as he travels with her to find Lucinda, and they start to develop feelings for each other. However, when they return to the castle, Ella is pulled into King Edgar’s evil plan to kill Char and stay king. “At the stroke of midnight, you will take this dagger and plunge it through his heart and kill him… because I order you to.” Edgar knows that Ella will have no choice but to kill Char, which will insure that he will not take Edgar’s place on the throne. Ella then finds newfound urgency to overcome the burden that is soon to force her to not only hurt, but kill the one she loves. Ella goes so far as to miss the ball and tie herself to a tree, all to protect Char and the well-being of the kingdom. This shows that Ella is willing to do whatever it takes in order to overcome her burden, which is a true quality of a hero.

Critics argue that Ella could have overcome her burden at any point during her hero’s journey. For example, her mother’s last words were, “No matter what anyone tells you to do, look to yourself, Ella. What is inside of you is stronger than any spell.” However, Ella was not strong enough to overcome her burden until the 9th stage of her hero’s journey. Ella tied herself to a tree in an attempt to disobey, but Lucinda arrives. Ella begs her to take back the gift, but Lucinda refuses. She unties Ella, forcing Ella to go and find Char. At the stroke of midnight, Ella makes one final struggle to not do as King Edgar ordered her to. She looks back on all the times she had to do as she was told and how these things made her stronger. As a result, she was strong enough to overcome her burden and say “You will no longer be obedient.” Ella finally had the reward she had hoped for all her life- being able to disobey.

Ella’s three critical stages of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, or the hero’s journey, were her call to adventure, ordeal, and reward. During these stages, she gained the strength she needed to overcome her burden and become a hero while illustrating the universal theme of overcoming burdens.

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