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In which I have a little look a Howl's Moving Castle

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My views upon the popular novel by Diana Wynne Jones.

Howl’s Moving Castle is without a doubt one of the greatest fantasy books around, written by the popular author who is seriously “hotter then Potter” Diana Wynne Jones, a genius at writing. Not only bringing us the award winning “Many Worlds of Chrestomanci” she is the creator of Howl, Sophie, Calcifer and many other characters that have charmed the world, including award winning animator and director Hayao Miyazaki, who recently finished the beautiful animated version of this brilliant book.


The story follows the life of an average eighteen-year-old girl, who is neither beautiful nor ugly, who is neither perfect nor terrible but only human Sophie Hatter, eldest of three sisters who finds herself bespelled and on the doorstep of a fickle wizard named Howl. The book itself is a funny and strange twist on the fairytales that continue to find it’s way to younger generations and has all the charm or a fairytale despite the fact that it is really making a joke of the boring fairytale princesses and princes that we seriously need a break from.


Rather then a fairytale princess, Sophie is the daughter of a well-off hat maker, and being the eldest sister gives her little luck in the world and rather like Cinderella, is stuck doing all the work while her sisters go off to have better lives and her kind yet rather air-headed stepmother plans her happily ever after too. One would think that poor Sophie would never have a shot at life… However, when fate turns for the worse when the jealous Witch of the Waste turns Sophie into an old woman for a talent at hat making, Sophie becomes alive and sees that life has to be lived while it’s still there. The fact that Sophie is also so terribly faulted as well as having her youth and beauty taken away makes her so appealing. The reason she’s so successful and beloved is because she’s so human that everyone can relate to her. She’s not just a plastic copy of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty but she’s like a real person and someone we all feel for. The fact that she has to use her own faults to annoy and get things done as an old woman makes her very realistic, as Diana Wynne Jones said that old women are much more amusing then young girls.


The boring prince who is breath enough to fight the dragon and climb the town and stand up to the wicked witch has been replaced with a man who would trade his own mother for his safety if he were in a situation that he has to climb towers, fight dragons and stand up to witches! Howl is terribly faulted like Sophie and even more so, but at the same time, he’s the sort of man who girls would worship the ground he stood on and happily drink his bathwater! While he remains the perfect prince who we all want to be swept off our feet by, Howl is a man who will drop you as soon as you make it clear you love him. Believed to eat the hearts of young girls and showing off his wickedness by parading is ugly moving castle about the hills just above where Sophie lives.


The moving castle itself scares everyone in Market Chipping to death, thus sealing Howl’s reputation a wicked and heartless wizard as well as giving his fire demon Calcifer the excuse to dislike his style of life.


It is the strange way these two characters manage to note one another’s faults and learn to live with them that make them so wonderful together. It’s a strange bondage that ties the two characters together. While Sophie notices all of the things that are wrong with Howl, she’d never want him to change as she views him as perfect the way he is despite the fact he far from perfect.


The book itself maybe based in another world to ours, in a world where they are still in the 18th-19th century, but Wizard Howl comes from our world. Wales to be more precise, which makes this book feel a real part of our world in reality and not just imagination. Sophie’s world is that on a world that many of us dream on becoming part of or living in. Diana Wynne Jones really opens up the eyes of children and adults alike. Old women read this book and agree with the message that, “Old age is all in the mind”, which is a great message to get across.


With it’s charming characters like Sophie, Howl and Calcifer, annoying villains like The Witch of the Waste and the bouncing, moving castle that makes this book so unique and so recognisable, Howl’s Moving Castle is both a delight and a treat to read.


Text Sophie-Lou, 2005

‘Howl's Moving Castle’ 1986-2008, Diana Wynne Jones. 'Hauru no ugoku shiro' AKA 'Howl's Moving Castle' 2004-2008 Hayao Miyazaki, Ghibli Studios. Text/Website Sophie Withall, 2004-2008. Based upon Diana Wynne Jones' novel ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ and Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli animated film 'Hauru no ugoku shiro'. Layout Tripod. All characters are entirely fictional. 

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