I picked Char on something of a whim, mostly because I'd done Ella for last year's fest. I couldn't resist completing the matched set, especially since I've always felt the romance in Ella Enchanted was one of the best – in Ella's post I called it 'the perfect romance for a little girl to read,' and I pretty much stand by that – and that Char was a really, really great love interest.
First things first, let's talk about how Char is a total fox. Right? Didn't you die because of his curly hair and freckles? I died. His TAWNY curls. I remember looking up the word 'tawny' and swooning (side note, I distinctly remember having a friend who had the hots for Oliver Wood in the HP books because he was described as 'burly' and when she looked it up, she swooned). And how his freckles were ~surprising on such a dark face. Since I included a page of the novel last time, I figured I ought to do it again:
SUCH A FOX, AMIRIGHT??
I think the introduction of Char into Ella's life is really great, and it could so easily have been horrible. I mean, they meet at her mother's funeral – in lesser hands, that could be some shady business. But right off the bat, it tells us a lot of great things about Char: that despite having never met Ella, he's the kind of person who could not ignore her obvious distress. So even though it might have been awkward, he went to make sure that she was okay after running out of the funeral. No one else came to get her except for him and they weren't even friends yet. He also does this in a non-obnoxious way, by waiting until she's got her shit together somewhat, letting her approach him when she's comfortable, and then making some low-stress conversation. That was always one of the things I liked best about him – he never put any pressure on Ella in any way. But we see this is not something specific to Ella either; he endeavors to be kind to her stepsisters, whom he doesn't like, and when Ella is pretending to be someone else towards the end, he is extremely happy just to have made a new friend. He doesn't have expectations of people, and doesn't feel they automatically owe him anything because of who he is. He is always willing and ready to see the best in them first.
In many ways, he's pretty much a classic prince-type. He's honorable, kind, forthright, and honest. One of his knights says, "he's smart and he's steady, the prince is. Too steady, maybe. Too serious, maybe. He laughs when there's something to laugh at, but he doesn't play enough. [...] He laughed more in a morning with you than in two weeks with us." He has all the kinds of qualities a fairytale prince should have. But I feel characters like that often get a bad rap for being boring, or at the very least just not interesting, but Char isn't; he's just very much a kind, likable person who has faults and makes mistakes, but always acts with everyone's best interests at heart. I mean, you get some of Char's journal entries in the novel, and he CORRECTS HIS OWN MEAN THOUGHTS IN HIS OWN PRIVATE JOURNAL. That is some cute shit.
But the best thing about Char is how much he flat-out respects Ella. I think one of the rarest things in fiction is to have a male love interest who just flat out respects
the heroine. I mean, I'm not saying it never happens; it does. But I'm hard-pressed to think of many more examples where it was this
blatant, you know? And I think that's a great thing for a little girl to see.
It shows up in a lot of ways – the second time they see each other, he announces, "I like you. I'm quite taken with you." AND BE YOU EIGHT OR TWENTY-THREE, YOU SWOON A LITTLE. When he finds out she was sent to finishing school, "he was indignant. He demanded to know why you needed to be finished since there was nothing wrong with you to start with." And when he and his knights totally fail at detaining some ogres, Char doesn't pull any dumb boy shit: he knows Ella is more capable of handling them, and basically stands aside to let her do it. When one of his knights makes a crack about how ~thank god all girls don't get themselves into trouble like this bitch or we'd be saving them all day long~ Char shuts it down immediately.
As part of his forthrightness, he is insistent Ella knows all of his flaws, choosing to confess the worst of it himself. He did a pretty legit terrible thing as a kid, which was completely ruin the career of a cruel tutor. That's pretty fucked up? I mean, the guy was a total asshole but also this is his livelihood? And it's unlikely he would've gotten hired to do much of anything if the PRINCE OF HIS LAND has it out for him? I think it was good that Levine gave him an actual shitty thing to have done, to undercut not only his intense kindness, but also to explain it further; i.e., perhaps he is motivated to be so good all the time because of the deep guilt he feels for this action.
I also love that he is kind of boring sometimes; his letters to her are about boring things like cows and construction and poor Ella is all: you are hot pls talk about something else.
And it's just such a good romance?? When he finds her hiding out at her father's wedding and they look for a secret passage and then find the glass slippers and dance, omg, it's so cute. Their friendship was so sweet and genuine. And remember how he's a fox? Remember how he used his buttons as their metaphorical breadcrumbs, which left his shirt gaping open and revealed ~striped silk undergarment~?? Later on when they were dancing and he sang softly in her ear? And when they slid down the bannister and he caught her and swirled her around??? And!!
He put his hand on my waist, and my heart began to pound, a rougher rhythm than the music. I held my skirt.
Our free hands met. His felt warm and comforting and unsettling and bewildering – all at once.
I would love to just throw a million quotes up in this bitch tbh. Like how when Ella is freaking out at the very end as she tries to fight her curse, and she's trying to hide from Char, and THIS HAPPENS:
His face was close to mine. He must have seen my terror. "You needn't be Ella if you don't want to be," he said softly.
I MEAN. What a good love interest!! At this point, Char doesn't know what the fuck is going on. He got this letter saying that Ella was married to a rich old dude and that she never liked him, she was just having fun by getting close to a prince, that she was using him. And then he made a nice new friend at a ball only to have it be revealed that she's actually Ella, who then disappears into the night, and when he sees her again she's dressed in rags and covered in soot. At the very least, dude is REALLY CONFUSED. But he handles it calmly, with utmost kindness. YOU NEEDN'T BE ELLA IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE. I AM CRYING.
And with that, I will leave you with one more cute excerpt:
"ahthOOn SSyng!" I said. "That's farewell."
"It sounds evil."
"It is," I answered, and we parted.
Next: Lawrence Selden