Janie Grace Wang
Howl’s Moving Castle
October 1, 2017
“In Which The Book and Movie are Discussed”
Embarking on the challenge of comparing movies to written literature allows readers, writers, and viewers a lot of room for interpretation. That was the case with Howl’s Moving Castle. Not sure what either was about prior to reading the book, I soon discovered the genre and tone. While I preferred the book, it was interesting to see how the book came to life in the movie. Below, I hope to show portions of the book and the movie that are similar and vastly different.
Cursed by the Wicked Witch of the Waste, the Heroine of Howl’s Moving Castle, Sophie Hatter, matures to the ripe age of 90. In Howl’s Moving Castle the book, Sophie is depicted as rather pretty, but lacking severely in confidence. As her confidence grows, she becomes more lovely and vibrant. A maker of beautiful hats, Sophie is resigned to her fate as the eldest sister. She shares these thoughts with the hats she makes; carrying on one-sided conversations with them. In this land, being the “eldest” means she is doomed to a dull and poor future. This is the same for both movie and book.
The namesake of the book, Wizard Howl is a multi-faceted character. With a secret family in Whales, a storefront in Porthaven, a shop in Kingsbury for serving the king, and a soon-to-be flower shop in Market Chipping, Howl spreads himself very thin. Meeting on Mayday in both the movie and the book, Howl and Sophie have an awkward but definite connection. In the book, Howl is known as a heart-stealing evil wizard. The Witch of the West from the book’s “big plan” was to take parts of Wizard Suliman, Prince Justin, and Howl and stitch together into her “perfect man”. Some of the remaining parts were turned into a scarecrow that tormented Sophie and was ultimately defeated by the Witch. Howl battles with the witch and her fire demon; Mrs. Angorian.
The movie alters Sophie in some ways. Still cursed, still the eldest, and still meek; however, both portrayals of Sophie have common threads. Although I believe this to be a key part of the book, Sophie is never once shown speaking to a hat in the movie. I think this fails to depict the extent of her fear and loneliness. The difference with the curse in the movie is that as Sophie forgets about herself and the curse, and focuses on Howl, her mood changes and she grows younger. She seems to have a more childlike nature in the movie.
Howl… Is a bird? Yes. In the movie Howl’s Moving Castle, part of Howl’s curse (bestowed on him by the Witch of The West) is to live as a great blue bird forever. Each time he uses his magic, he seals his fate all the more. Neither the book nor the movie could be complete without THE TANTRUM. Those who know Howl know what I am referring to: Howl’s passionate breakdown involving hair products and loads of green slime. I believe the movie does a nice job of showing this event. Albeit still vain, Howl’s “player” status is altered in the movie. His heart-stealing ways are not mentioned as his efforts are mostly focused on the war. Speaking of war, the biggest difference between the book and the movie is a war between winged blob men and oddly shaped magic ships.
The Witch of the West is replaced with Wizard Suliman for the movie adaptation. Although there is a character in the book named Wizard Suliman, the two characters are vastly different. For instance, the Suliman in the book is male while “Movie Suliman” is a wicked woman (who isn’t missing). The movie version of the Witch of the Waste is swallowed alive in neck roles. She moves in with Sophie and Howl and goes on to live there the entire movie. She steals Howl’s heart from Calcifer the same way Mrs. Angorian did in the book. With both Howl and Calcifer about to die, she repents and gives the heart back and Sophie places it back into Howl.
The animated Witch of the Waste (the waste is never actually shown in the movie) had no major plan for Howl other that the fact that she half-heartedly wanted his heart. Sophie shows the destructive side of herself in the movie by crashing a plane/hover board in to the side of Howl’s castle and by the end of the movie reducing it to nothing more than a pair of robotic legs topped with a wooden platform, her starlight hair glistening all the way.
After a lot of note taking and review, I can now conclude that I prefer the book Howl’s Moving Castle to its movie. Anime movies are not something I generally choose to watch. However, I can see how this particular book works well with this form of movie animation. The ability to compare characters, attitudes, behaviors, and plot/setting give both the reader and the viewer a chance to see how both ideas work. Personally, reading how a character develops through a book is more interesting to me than seeing it unfold on the movie screen.