Howl's Moving Castle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the Diana Wynne Jones book. For The Studio Ghibli movie based on the book, see Howl's Moving Castle (film). For the ghost town in Australia, see Calcifer, Queensland.
Howl's Moving Castle
Howl's Moving Castle (Book Cover).jpg
Front cover of first edition (US)
Author Diana Wynne Jones
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Howl's Castle[1]
Genre Young-adult fantasy novel
Publisher Greenwillow Books (US), Methuen (November 1986)
Publication date
April 1986
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 212 pp (first edition)
ISBN 0688062334
OCLC 12582402
LC Class PZ7.J684 Hp 1986[2]
Followed by Castle in the Air

Howl's Moving Castle is a fantasy novel by British author Diana Wynne Jones, first published in 1986 by Greenwillow Books of New York. It was a runner-up for the annual Boston Globe–Horn Book Award[3] and it won the Phoenix Award twenty years later, recognizing its rise from relative obscurity.[4] In 2004 it was adapted as an animated film of the same name, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Howl's Moving Castle is the first novel in the series of books called the Howl Series. This series also includes Castle in the Air published in 1990 and House of Many Ways published in 2008. WorldCat reports that Howl's Moving Castle is the author's work most widely held in participating libraries, followed by its first sequel Castle in the Air.[5]

For the idea Jones "very much" thanked "a boy in a school I was visiting", whose name she had noted but lost and forgotten. He had "asked me to write a book titled The Moving Castle."[6]

Plot summary[edit]

A young woman named Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three daughters living in the town of Market Chipping in the magical kingdom of Ingary, where many fairytale tropes are accepted ways of life, including that the eldest of three will never be successful. She is very deft with the needle and makes the most beautiful hats and dresses. She unknowingly talks life into objects. As the eldest, she is resigned to the "fact" that she will have no chance of finding her fortune, accepting that she will have a dull life running the family hat shop; until she is turned into an old crone by the powerful Witch of the Waste, who was offended by Sophie's younger sister, and mistakes Sophie for her. Sophie leaves the shop and finds work as a cleaning lady for the notorious Wizard Howl, famed in her town for eating the hearts of beautiful young women. Sophie strikes a bargain with Howl's resident fire-demon, Calcifer: if Sophie can break the contract between Howl and Calcifer, then Calcifer will return Sophie to her original youthful teenage form. Part of the contract, however, stipulates that neither Howl nor Calcifer can disclose the main clause of the contract to any third party. Sophie tries to guess the specifics of the contract, while Calcifer supplies frequent hints which Sophie usually does not pick up.

Sophie soon learns that Howl, a rather self-absorbed, dishonest but ultimately good-natured person (and an extraordinarily powerful wizard), spreads these malicious rumors about himself to ensure his privacy and smears his own reputation to avoid work and responsibility. The door to his castle is actually a portal that opens onto four different places: the moving castle Sophie first encounters in the hills above Market Chipping, the seaside city of Port-haven, the royal capital of Kingsbury and Howl's boyhood home in Wales, where he was named Howell Jenkins.

Howl realizes that Sophie is under a spell and secretly attempts to remove the curse; when met with failure, he comes to the conclusion that Sophie simply enjoys being in disguise.

Howl's apprentice Michael Fisher runs most of the day-to-day affairs of Howl's business, while Howl chases his ever-changing paramours. Howl and Michael court Sophie's two younger sisters Lettie and Martha, respectively. Martha, the youngest, was sent to study magic, while the middle sister, Lettie, was apprenticed at a local bakery. Magically disguising herself as Lettie, Martha arranged for the two of them to switch places, as Fanny (Martha's mother and Sophie and Lettie's stepmother) did not take their wishes into account when arranging their apprenticeships.

When Prince Justin (the King's younger brother) goes missing while searching for Wizard Suliman (Benjamin Sullivan, also from Wales), the King orders Howl to find Suliman and Justin and to kill the Witch of the Waste. Howl, however, has his own reasons to avoid seeking a confrontation with the Witch of the Waste; the Witch, a jaded former lover, has laid a dark curse on him. Howl attempts to weasel out of it by having Sophie pretend to be his mother and petition against the appointment, but to no avail. Instead of blackening Howl's name as Sophie was asked to do, she gets him appointed the new Royal Wizard, the post he has been trying to avoid for years.

Howl continues to avoid the Witch of the Waste until she lures Sophie into a trap; believing that the Witch has taken Howl's current love interest, Lily Angorian, captive, Sophie goes to save her and is in turn captured by the Witch of the Waste. Howl comes to save Sophie and defeats the Witch of the Waste. He knew all along that Miss Angorian was actually the Witch's fire demon in disguise. The Witch's fire demon had, over the years, taken control of the Witch and, once the Witch is defeated, tries to take Howl's heart to stay alive. Howl is able to stop the demon but fails because Miss Angorian took hold of Calcifer, who had been guarding Howl's heart, and tried to squeeze Howl's heart out of him[clarification needed]. Sophie uses her ability of bringing things to life by talking to them to break the contract between Howl and Calcifer without killing either of them. Sophie has been unconsciously retaining the spell on herself, but her concern for Howl weakens the spell, and with the death of the Witch of the Waste (who was a significant force behind the spell as well), Calcifer, as he promised, breaks the spell surrounding her the second she concludes the contract between him and Howl. She immediately returns to her proper age. When Howl awakens, he destroys the witch's fire demon. This breaks the curse on Wizard Suliman and Prince Justin, whom the Witch had fused together in an effort to create a 'perfect human' (Howl's head was meant to complete the being) to use as a puppet to rule Ingary.

Calcifer returns under the condition that he can come and go as he wishes. Michael and Martha end up together, as do Lettie and Wizard Suliman. Sophie and Howl admit they love each other (without actually saying it) and Howl suggests they live happily ever after as husband and wife.



Most of the novel is set in a fictional monarchy, Ingary; its capital is Kingsbury. Much of south-western Ingary is harsh wilderness referred to as "The Waste". Ingary is bordered by Strangia to the east and the Sultanates of Rashpuht to the south. Nearby is the country of High Norland; in the middle of the novel, the King of Ingary mentions that Ingary will likely go to war against both Strangia and High Norland soon.

Before the move, the castle wanders over the hills between Market Chipping and Upper Folding in the north. Howl's house is in fact based in a seaside town named Porthaven; Howl also occupies a disguised stable in Kingsbury. Chapter Eleven takes place in Wales. After the move, the castle sits at the edge of the Waste and Howl's house is moved to Sophie's childhood home in Market Chipping; they also occupy a grand but derelict mansion in Vale End (which is in the same valley as Market Chipping).

Howl's moving castle[edit]

Howl's castle is a tall, black building with four thin turrets. It seems to be made of blocks of coal (a suitable habitat for a fire demon) and is "bespelled to hold together." It has four doors on the outside, although three are made inaccessible by an invisible wall.

The inside of the castle is made of the house where Calcifer is based, which is Howl's house in Porthaven at first, then the house by the hat shop in Market Chipping after the move in Chapter Seventeen. A "square wooden knob above the door, set into the lintel, with a dab of paint on each of its four sides" allows one to open the door into four different locations. Initially these locations are: in the hills above Market Chipping (green) that is, the door to the moving castle, in Porthaven (blue), in Kingsbury (red), and in Wales (black). However, after Howl is forced into hiding he changes the door's destinations to: in Market Chipping (yellow), in Vale End (orange), a garden in the waste (purple), and in Wales (black).

Before the move, the window over the workbench and the one in Michael's front room overlook Porthaven. Afterwards, the downstairs window looks out on a street in Market Chipping. The one in Howl's bedroom overlooks his sister's garden in Wales.


Sophie Hatter[edit]

Sophie Hatter, the eldest of the Hatter sisters (18), has red-gold hair and is rather pretty, although she doesn't perceive herself as such. She becomes more lovely as her confidence grows and she stops wearing grey. While her siblings' lives become increasingly adventurous and exciting, she finds herself resigned to run her father's old hat shop, as it is her "fate" as the oldest sister. One day the Witch of the Waste visits her shop, and, mistaking Sophie for Lettie, turns her into an old woman. Sophie leaves the hat shop and eventually becomes a cleaning lady in Howl's castle, hoping that he might be able to lift the curse placed on her by the Witch. She enters into a bargain with Calcifer, Howl's fire demon, that if she breaks the secret contract between Howl and Calcifer, Calcifer will break the spell on her. As the story progresses, she starts to fall in love with Howl, although she does her best to deny it; however when Howl begins "courting" Miss Angorian, Sophie really makes up her mind to leave because "Howl prefer[s] Miss Angorian", and therefore there's no reason to stay.

Though Sophie is initially reserved and lacking confidence, she demonstrates herself to be a strong-minded individual after she is transformed into an old woman, becoming less afraid of what others think of her. Dutiful, kind, and considerate, Sophie also has a tendency to be impulsive in her actions and often feels guilty when she does something wrong, though her attempts to rectify matters are usually disastrous. It is eventually revealed that Sophie possesses magical abilities of her own - she is capable of talking life into objects, though she initially is unaware of her powers and uses them unwittingly. When developed, they become very powerful, and it is assumed she can learn spells and charms as well.

Wizard Howl[edit]

Wizard Howl is a mysterious, reclusive wizard, with a terrible reputation. He is known by a number of aliases; by birth, he is Howell Jenkins, but he goes by "Howl Jenkins" in Porthaven and his preferred "Howl Pendragon" in Kingsbury. When Howl was young, he gave Calcifer his heart in order for the fire demon to continue living because he felt sorry for him- this is implied to have sapped his humanity somewhat, and will continue to do so till he ends up like the Witch of the Waste. He is 27 (he states that he will soon be 10,000 days old, which is part of the Witch's curse) and known for being very flamboyant and "wicked". His notorious moving castle has recently been spotted near Market Chipping and rumors have begun to spread that he is searching for beautiful young women whose hearts he may steal and subsequently eat, or that he will devour their souls. He comes from Wales, a country unknown to most in the book, where his family still remains unaware of his activities in Sophie's world or of its existence; his sister is constantly annoyed by his disappearances, but he often visits them when troubled. Near the end of the story he confesses to Sophie that he is a real coward and the only way he can get himself to do something he really doesn't want to is to tell himself that he won't do it.

Despite his reputation, Howl is in reality a mostly endearing, charming man who is intelligent, considerate, if somewhat self-appreciative, dishonest, and stubborn at times. He enjoys "slithering out" of uncomfortable situations, often in comical ways. Even with his cowardly ways, he is an incredibly powerful wizard by Ingary standards, capable of matching the Witch of the Waste and is only not known as such because he wants to avoid the work that comes with the respect. His bond with Calcifer increases his powers.

Howl is described as being tall and suave, fond of dyeing his hair, and wearing impressive suits. He spends at least two hours in the bathroom every morning. However, he is described by Calcifer as "very vain for a plain man with mud-colored hair". His vanity causes him to throw hysterical fits when Sophie disturbs his bathroom potions, causing his hair to go the wrong color, or when she accidentally ruins his clothes. Howl is not naturally handsome, but he has "charm," both literally and figuratively. Michael tells Sophie that "the day Howl forgets to [perform his daily beauty regimen] will be the day I believe he's really in love, and not before." When Howl arrives to save Sophie from the Witch of the Waste, he is unshaven and altogether ungroomed, proof that he truly loves Sophie. Later on, he chooses to settle with Sophie and they have a child named Morgan. He is modeled on the Byronic hero.


Calcifer is Howl's resident fire demon. As the result of a mysterious bargain with Howl some years ago he agrees to heat and power the castle. Although he is bound to the hearth he has a great amount of magic. He promises to use his magic to break the curse on Sophie, providing she breaks the contract between him and Howl. Howl describes Calcifer as "his weakest point", because Calcifer wouldn't give away another demon if it entered the castle, even if it had hostile intentions. However, Howl's statement is true in more ways than one.

Calcifer is powerful, but can be just as cowardly as Howl, preferring to run from the Witch rather than fight her. However, he, also like Howl, will fight when the need arises. He is also fairly crabby and a little mean-spirited, which stems from being bound to the hearth in the moving castle for over five years. He has a natural fear of water, and also worries quite frequently about running out of logs, which are essentially his food. Sophie seems to be the only one capable of forcing him to do anything he doesn't want to do, a trait she also extends to Howl, and to a lesser extent, Michael as well.

He is also the first one to recognize Sophie's incredible ability to talk life into the world around her, which is the reason he allowed her into the castle in the first place and was so eager to make a bargain with her - if anyone but she were to break the contract he had with Howl, then Calcifer would die. Fortunately, she is able to talk life into him, and he survives losing Howl's heart, even deciding to continue living with them after he is freed.

The Witch of the Waste[edit]

The Witch of the Waste is one of the most powerful magicians in all of Ingary. She was banished by the late King to The Waste fifty years before the story starts for causing havoc in the country. She and Howl had a brief relationship (while she was disguised as a beautiful young woman) which led to him leaving her hurriedly. Angered by this, the Witch cursed Howl, so that upon falling in love he would have to return to the Witch. She also puts a spell on Sophie at the start of the story, turning her into an old crone.The Witch is also revealed to have made a supposedly perfect man out of the combined parts of Wizard Suliman and Prince Justin, intending to complete the body with Howl's head and make the man King of Ingary and herself queen. She is killed by Howl at the end of the book.

Other characters[edit]

  • Michael Fisher is Howl's 15 year old apprentice. He originally lived in Porthaven until both his parents died, leaving him an orphan. He had to leave his house because he couldn't pay the rent and slept on Howl's doorstep. Howl found him there one morning and told him to stay inside whilst he went out. Michael started talking to Calcifer and he believes that Howl was impressed with this when he returned. Howl didn't tell him to stay but he also never told him to leave, so Michael started helping out of his own accord. He eventually became Howl's apprentice, and he does his best to make sure that Howl doesn't spend all their money. He often goes to Cesari's, a bakery in Market Chipping, where he buys pies and other baked goods. He met Martha there and fell in love with her. Sophie later realizes that she saw Michael at Cesari's on May Day before she was cursed by the Witch of the Waste. He's described by Sophie as "a nice boy, but a bit helpless in a crisis." He's rather nice and patient but isn't quite as fast-thinking as Howl, therefore making Mrs. Pentstemmon say he was "not smart enough to make trouble".
  • Lettie Hatter is Sophie's seventeen-year-old sister. She is considered the most beautiful of the three Hatter sisters, and has dark hair. Initially, she is an apprentice at Cesari's, a pastry shop in Market Chipping, but because she wishes to learn magic, she and Martha switch places using a temporary appearance altering spell. A strong minded young woman, Lettie becomes fond of a stray dog which is in fact a bespelled Wizard Suliman. When she finds out Sophie has been bespelled and lives in Howl's castle, she sends the dog to protect Sophie from Howl's charm. Howl tries to woo Lettie, but upon discovering that Lettie is the bespelled Sophie's sister, he begins approaching Lettie in order to ask questions about Sophie instead. At the end of the novel, she is taken as an apprentice by Ben Sullivan, where a romantic attachment is hinted.
  • Martha Hatter is Sophie's youngest sister and thought of as the smartest of the three. She is slender and fair with big grey eyes. Fanny arranges her to become Mrs Fairfax's apprentice, though Martha and Lettie switch appearances temporarily in order to switch places. Martha happily works as an apprentice at Cesari's, a renowned pastry shop, and her ambition is to get married and have ten children. She loves Michael Fisher. When Howl laments that he loves Lettie Hatter, Michael hurries to Cesari's to learn if Martha, still disguised as Lettie, has been courted by Howl. Martha assures him she has never met Howl and Michael knows she isn't lying because she 'twiddled her thumbs the whole time', and she only stops doing that when she lies.
  • Fanny Hatter is Mr Hatter's second wife. She used to be the youngest, prettiest shop assistant in the hat shop. She is Martha's mother and is kind to all three girls. When she is widowed, she takes charge of the hat shop and places Lettie and Martha in promising apprenticeships, whilst keeping Sophie to trim hats. Shortly after Sophie disappears, she marries a wealthy man, Mr Sacheverell Smith (possibly thanks to a hat Sophie talked to life), moves to a grand mansion in Vale End and sells the hat shop to Howl. She continues to worry about Sophie, who mysteriously disappeared, and is relieved and happy when they meet again.
  • The King of Ingary employs Howl to produce transport spells. When the Witch of the Waste threatens his baby daughter Valeria, he sends Suliman the Royal Wizard to the Waste to deal with the Witch. When the King's brother disappears whilst looking for Wizard Suliman, he asks Howl to look for the missing men and get rid of the Witch of the Waste. He then appoints Howl as the Royal Wizard, a move which creates a bad mood in the household of the moving castle.
  • Prince Justin is the younger brother of the King of Ingary. Unsettled by Suliman's disappearance, he sets off to find him only to go missing himself. The King of Ingary describes Justin as a brilliant general; with threats of war looming from both Strangia and High Norland, the King of Ingary becomes anxious and insistent that Prince Justin be found.
  • Mrs Penstemmon is a grand, talented old witch. She taught Mrs Fairfax, Suliman, and finally Howl; she is also mentioned as the teacher of Matilda, the Witch of Montalbino, in House of Many Ways. She is proud of Howl's talent and wants him to be a good person but she is concerned he is heading the same way as the Witch of the Waste. When Sophie visits her while pretending to be Howl's mother, Mrs Penstemmon encourages Sophie to break the contract between Howl and Calcifer. She detects Sophie's magical gift and sees instantly that she's cursed, but cannot lift the Witch's spell. She is killed by the Witch of the Waste when she refuses to tell the Witch where Howl is.
  • Wizard Suliman is the Royal Wizard and personal advisor to the King of Ingary. He originally comes, like Howl, from Wales, where he was known as Benjamin Sullivan. He was Mrs Penstemmon's second-to-last pupil. It was Suliman who banished the Witch of the Waste to the Waste. When the Witch threatens the King of Ingary's young daughter, he is dispatched to the Waste by the King. There he starts growing bushes and flowers in an attempt to reduce her power, but the Witch catches him. He projects most of his magic onto a scarecrow, which Sophie will talk life into. The Witch puts him to pieces and sells off his skull and guitar. She reassembles his body with parts of Prince Justin's (the head in particular) and calls him Gaston. She uses him to find out about Wales in order to get to Howl, then casts a spell on him that turns him into a dog. Calcifer guesses that one of his aliases is Percival. He takes on Lettie as an apprentice, because he is at least as strong willed as she is.
  • Mrs Annabel Fairfax is a witch, a former pupil of Mrs Penstemmon's. A widow, she lives in Upper Folding and is a friend of Fanny's. She is "a plump, comfortable lady, with swathes of butter-coloured hair". She is chatty and uses home-made honey in her spells. She discovers quickly that Martha and Lettie have switched places, but accepts Lettie as her apprentice anyway and encourages her to accept Howl's advances and become his pupil, though she eventually chooses Suliman instead. Though she tries, she is unable to lift the dog-man's spell.
  • Lily Angorian is an attractive schoolteacher in Wales who claims to be Benjamin Sullivan's fiancée. As such, she refuses to allow Howl to court her, though Sophie comes to believe that Howl is infatuated with her. She is later revealed to be the Witch of Waste's Fire Demon, and tries to take Howl's heart when the Witch of the Waste is killed. With the destruction of the Witch's heart, she is killed.


  • Sixteen years before the story starts, Sophie and Lettie's mother dies while they are two and one years old, respectively. Their father, Mr Hatter, marries a pretty young woman named Fanny, who gives birth to Martha.
  • Howl writes a doctoral thesis on charms and spells in Wales; he also plays rugby for his university. Mrs Penstemmon takes him on as her last pupil. Wizard Suliman was her second-to-last pupil.
  • Five years before the main story takes place, Howl catches Calcifer just after he has set up as Wizard Jenkins in Porthaven. He is twenty-two at the time.
  • Three years before the main story takes place, Mrs Penstemmon retires.
  • "The May Day before this story really starts": Sophie makes a rose outfit for Lettie.
  • Following the Witch of the Waste's threats against Princess Valeria, the King sends Wizard Suliman to the Waste. Wizard Suliman starts to make flowers grow on the edge of the Waste in an attempt to weaken the Witch. The Witch catches him and he disappears.
  • In winter, Howl buys Wizard Suliman's skull and guitar from the Witch of the Waste.
  • At some point in the year before the story starts, Howl escapes the Witch of the Waste who sends a curse after him.
  • Howl's moving castle appears on the hills near Market Chipping.
  • Mr Hatter dies, leaving debts. After the funeral, the three girls leave school and the two youngest become apprentices: Martha to Mrs Fairfax, a witch living in Upper Folding, Lettie at Cesari's, a well-known bakery; 2 weeks later they switch. Sophie becomes Fanny's apprentice in the hat shop. Sophie spends a day in the work shed and one day visiting the clothier and silk merchant before being assigned to trimming hats due to her obvious knack for it.
  • A couple of months before May Day, Prince Justin, the King's brother, leaves the palace to look for his friend Wizard Suliman. Thanks to finding spells pointing to the scarecrow and the skull, he comes to Market Chipping in disguise, then goes to Upper Folding and to Howl's castle. Then he is captured by the Witch of the Waste (probably as he was checking Wizard Suliman's flowers at the edge of the Waste) and decapitated. The Witch makes up a body out of parts of Suliman and Justin—she just needs Howl's head to make it perfect to rule Ingary with her. She uses the other body parts to make Gaston/Percival.
  • Weeks pass by and spring is coming on. In April, the hat shop becomes so busy that Sophie has to work in the shop during the day and trim hats in the evening.
  • A week before May Day, a customer announces that Jane Farrier has run off with the Count of Catterack who was sent by the King to look for Prince Justin. * Around this time, Howl also looks for Prince Justin, which is how he gets to meet Lettie in Upper Folding.
  • On May Day (1 May), Sophie attracts a young man (Howl) on Market Square, but she dodges his advances and hurries away to see "Lettie" at Cesari's, subsequently discovering that Lettie and Martha have switched places. The castle shoots fireworks for Michael's 15th birthday.
  • The following week, Sophie has some thinking time as Bessy, the shop assistant, has left to get married.
  • Three days after May Day, Sophie asks Fanny for a wage. But Fanny does not mention a wage again either that evening or at any time later that week.
  • (Approximately May 8) Alone in the shop, Sophie has an argument with a customer, who happens to be the Witch of the Waste. Then the Witch of the Waste, believing Sophie to be Lettie (who she is jealous of because Howl at the current time was infatuated with her) and trying to get information out of Gaston/Percival about Wales, casts a spell on Sophie. Sophie, who now looks like a 90-year-old woman, leaves the hat shop and heads for the hills. She talks life into a scarecrow. She frees a dog from a hedge whilst having lunch. (The dog-man runs off to Upper Folding, following Prince Justin's memory of Lettie.) Sophie walks until the sun is quite low, then sits on a stone, exhausted. The sun goes down and soon the night comes down. Sophie enters Howl's moving castle and meets Michael. She falls asleep. She wakes up in the middle of the night and meets Calcifer. They strike a bargain that should take Sophie about a month to resolve.
  • (May 9 ) The next day, while Sophie is cooking breakfast on Calcifer, Howl comes back and meets Sophie as his new cleaning lady. Sophie starts cleaning the main room of the castle. After spending time in the bathroom, Howl goes out on the hills again (he goes to Upper Folding to court Lettie). He comes back late at night.
  • (May 10-13th approximately) "In the days that followed, Sophie cleaned her way remorselessly through the castle.(...) Cleaning the bathroom took her days."
  • (May 14-17th approximately) It is raining in Porthaven when Sophie attempts to tidy up the yard for the first time, so she whitewashes the walls and ceilings instead. It rains for 2 more days. Then, as it drizzles, Sophie attempts to clean Howl's bedroom and the yard but he does not let her do either, so she starts mending clothes.
  • (May 17-20th approximately) "Howl did not go out that day, nor for the next few days." (He is ignoring Lettie to see if it will make her keener.) He prepares a transport spell for the King.
  • (May 20) The following morning, Howl spends only an hour in the bathroom. Michael takes the spell to the Palace. Sophie starts mending the grey and scarlet suit. Howl goes for a walk on the hills (he is going to see Lettie and ask her about Sophie). Sophie opens the door black knob down (Michael's practice spell is replaced by Howl's nephew's homework). Michael comes back from his errand and tells Sophie about vociferous aunts. Howl comes back and goes into the bathroom. Sophie cooks lunch. Howl emerges from the bathroom, furious with Sophie because his hair is now pink and he blames her cleaning as the cause. He covers himself and the room with green slime. It takes an hour to wash the slime off him and another hour to convince him into dry clothes (the grey and scarlet suit Sophie has darned). Howl confesses he loves Lettie Hatter (he is teasing Sophie). Sophie, who thinks he means Martha, cannot go and warn her sister in the evening because of aches and pains.
  • (May 21) Next morning, Howl goes to the Palace. Michael goes to Cesari's. The scarecrow prevents Sophie from leaving the castle. She asks Calcifer to move the castle faster. Michael comes back for supper, reassured that his Lettie (Martha) loves him. Howl comes back. He talks of moving the castle and asks Sophie to blacken his name to the King.
  • (May 22) Next morning, Calcifer has recovered. Howl chases the scarecrow away. Sophie's fear of the scarecrow and her increased age causes her heart problems. Howl (unbeknownst to Sophie) combines his and Calcifer's powers to try to remove the curse on Sophie, but only succeeds in reducing her heart problems. Then he goes to Upper Folding (for the last time) to ask Lettie more questions about Sophie, soon followed by Sophie and Michael in seven-league boots. Lettie looks like herself (Mrs Fairfax is aware of the switch) and is trying to find out how Howl knows Sophie and what has happened to her (Fanny sent her a letter about Sophie's disappearance). Sophie and Michael return to the castle. Michael works on his spell while Sophie mends her stockings and cuts up Howl's blue suit. Sophie helps Michael with his spell for the rest of the day. After supper, they try to catch a shooting star in the Marshes. (We know the action takes place in May as Michael says it is not a good month to catch shooting stars.)
  • Around this time, Michael (thanks to Martha) and even Calcifer tell Howl Sophie is under a spell, confirming Lettie's story.
  • (May 23) The next day, Howl goes to the Palace. Michael goes to Cesari's. Sophie starts mending the blue suit. She sells a cayenne spell to the Count of Catterack. Michael comes back towards the end of the afternoon. Howl comes back with new clothes for Sophie. The King has asked him to look for Prince Justin, so Howl wants Sophie to blacken his name. Michael seeks help about his practice spell. Howl takes Michael and Sophie to his "private bolt hole" (Wales) to look for a book with the whole Song. As his sister Megan has sold Howl's books and Howl's nephew Neil gave the spell to his teacher, Miss Angorian, they go to the teacher's. Howl invites Miss Angorian for supper. As Miss Angorian reads the next verse of the Song, Howl and Calcifer feel the curse of the Witch of the Waste has caught up with them.
  • (May 24) The next day, in the afternoon, Sophie, pretending to be Howl's mother, visits Mrs Penstemmon (86) (Howl wanted Mrs Penstemmon to lift Sophie's spell) and attempts to blacken Howl's name to the King. She meets the Witch of the Waste, who tells her about Wales.
  • (May 25) Next morning, Howl goes to Wales early and comes back with a cold in the middle of the morning. Howl goes to bed, disrupting Michael's study. They have bacon sandwiches for lunch, then Michael goes to Market Chipping. The dog-man arrives: he was sent by Lettie, who has realised Sophie is under a curse and worries about her falling for Howl. Sophie goes to Howl's bedroom and sees Wales through the window. Michael comes back and tells Howl about the hat shop that is up for sale in Market Chipping (Martha told him about it). He takes the dog for a run that night.
  • (May 26) The following day, Howl goes to Market Chipping and takes the hat shop. When he comes back to the castle, he goes to bed and disrupts Michael's study again. He gives the grey and scarlet suit to Sophie to clean ready for Mrs Penstemmon's funeral: she hacks it into 7 pieces. Sophie finishes mending the blue suit and Michael enlarges it. Sophie takes the blue suit to Howl's bedroom: the sun is low on Megan's garden.
  • (May 27) Next morning, Michael takes the dog for a run. He and Sophie have breakfast. Howl appears in a gigantic blue suit. He gets the 7 pieces of grey and scarlet suit off Sophie. Then he spends 2 hours in the bathroom and comes out all dressed in black for Mrs Penstemmon's funeral. He will disguise himself as a red setter. Several hours pass. At lunchtime, a magic battle explodes between Howl and the Witch in Porthaven: they hear the mermaids singing (one of 3 things that need to happen for the Witch's curse to be fulfilled). Howl escapes and they all have lunch. As the witch knows about the Porthaven entrance, Howl decides to move Calcifer to the hat shop in Market Chipping. The move is accomplished in the evening. Howl goes to bed.
  • (May 28) The next morning, Howl goes to Wales early. After breakfast, he guides Sophie to the shop and the field of flowers.
  • (May 29) The next day they open the flower shop.
  • They develop a routine: they pick flowers early in the morning (while Howl is in Wales courting Miss Angorian before school starts), then open the shop. Sophie starts experimenting. She makes sure to spend at least an hour with Calcifer. Business builds up towards Midsummer Day. Howl still wears black as he mourns Mrs Penstemmon.
  • (June 19) One of the roots (mandrake) Sophie has planted sprouts 2 green leaves.
  • (June 20) The next day, Midsummer Eve, the mandrake root has produced an offspring, essentially "getting with child" (the second of 3 things that need to happen for the Witch's curse to be fulfilled). The scarecrow reappears, in Market Chipping this time. Howl leaves (to Market Chipping, not Wales). Michael goes to Cesari's. The dog turns into a man then changes into a different dog. Miss Angorian enters the castle and touches the guitar. Sophie shouts to her flowers: "Be daffodils in June!" Howl finds her in the shop at the end of the afternoon. He lifts the dog-man's spell. In the evening, he uses Sophie to get information out of Percival (in particular, the fact that Sophie loves Howl) while she vents her frustration with weed-killer. The scarecrow appears again, near the mansion. Howl spends 2 hours in the bathroom, then goes to Wales for a Rugby Club Reunion.
  • Midsummer Day (June 21): Howl is 10,000 days old (139 days after his 27th birthday, which places his birthday on 2 February) and must go back to the Witch of the Waste once the curse has been fulfilled. He comes back from Wales at dawn, drunk (to forget about his fear of the Witch). Whilst he sleeps it off, Sophie, Michael and Percival pick some flowers and make Midsummer garlands, then open the shop. At midday, as Sophie prepares to leave, Fanny enters the castle and recognises her. Then Michael brings Martha, and Lettie and Mrs Fairfax appear. (Howl has arranged for Sophie's family to visit to keep her out of harm's way.) Miss Angorian enters the castle too but shortly leaves to have a look at the flowers. Howl fights the Witch of the Waste in Wales as everyone observes from his bedroom window. Leaving him to it, Michael suggests visiting the mansion. But the scarecrow enters the castle from the field of flowers. He fuses with the skull (Wizard Suliman's). Sophie goes to the Witch of the Waste's castle in seven-league boots in an attempt to save Miss Angorian (because she thinks Howl loves Miss Angorian). The scarecrow hops to the castle in the Waste too and battles with the Witch. Howl, unshaven, gets rid of the Witch and takes Sophie back to his castle. To do so, he raises a wind and he is honest about his behaviour: this is the third of three things that need to happen for the Witch's curse to be fulfilled. Miss Angorian—who is in fact the Witch's fire demon and who has been hiding in the guitar—seizes Howl's heart in an attempt to control him. Sophie fights the fire demon off and frees Calcifer, who lifts her spell. She saves Howl by talking life back into his heart and pushing it back into his chest. Howl gets rid of the fire demon and restores Justin and Suliman to their normal shape. Suliman asks Lettie to become his pupil (if not more). Sophie realises that Howl loves her. They agree to live happily ever after together. Calcifer comes back, happy to stay as long as he can come and go.

Major themes[edit]

Howl's Moving Castle explores several themes common to literature. They include destiny, youth, courage and love. The first two are central to Sophie's progression. Early on, her perceived notion of destiny makes her believe that she is doomed to fail because she is the eldest of three sisters. This is in contrast to Howl, who sees himself as the master of his own fate, unafraid of what society thinks of him or what their conventions demand. Sophie's self-perceived failure is reflected in the Witch of the Waste's spell, which causes her outward appearance to become old and dull.

Allusions and references to other works[edit]

The novel makes references to many works of classical literature. John Donne is alluded to twice, first is in Chapter 10 when Howl refers to the first line of John Donne's poem "The Sun Rising", saying "Busy old fool, unruly Sophie." Howl makes a reference to Donne again in Chapter 11, when Miss Angorian reads from his poem "Song: Go and Catch a Falling Star". The poem also serves as the inspiration for the terms of Howl's curse. In the same chapter there is a sign on Megan's house labeled "Rivendell", which is the name of an Elf city in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. In Chapter 12 there is a reference to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland when Howl tells Sophie "We can't all be Mad Hatters." Howl refers to Hamlet in Chapter 17 when he quotes "Alas, poor Yorick!" and "She heard mermaids, so it follows that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. I have an everlasting cold, but luckily I’m terribly dishonest. I cling to that."; another Hamlet reference occurs at the beginning of Chapter 11 referring to the nothingness in the doorway to Wales as being "only an inch-thick after all." The names of Suliman's alias Percival, and Howl's brother-in-law Gareth are two of The Knights of the Round Table, while Howl's own alias, Pendragon, is derived from King Arthur's surname. The Witch of the Waste's name is a possible pun on the Witch of the West from the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its subsequent film.

Calcifer's saucepan song[edit]

At the end of chapter three, In which Sophie enters into a Castle and a bargain, Calcifer sings a song to Sophie, lulling her to sleep. Sophie doesn't recognize the language, but believes she hears the word 'saucepan' several times. This song is actually 'Sosban Fach' ('Little Saucepan'), a famous Welsh song that is often sung at rugby matches. It tells the story of a family suffering poverty through the perspective of the 'little saucepan' boiling on the hearth. The second word of the song's title is pronounced with a V rather than an F, and rhymes with 'Bach'.

Film adaptation[edit]

In 2004 an animated film was released, directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli. The film broke box office records in Japan, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Previously in 1994 a rumour circulated the press that the novel was being considered for a short film adaptation intended for television only, both Helena Bonham Carter and Kate Winslet being tipped for the role of Sophie Hatter. The less obvious choice of Brett Anderson (singer/songwriter in the indie band Suede) was rumoured as playing the role of wizard Howl. It was argued that a more credible choice, such as Johnny Depp, would be more suitable, but as the film was to be a British, low-budget production this was not possible. Anderson's popularity in both Britain and Japan, coupled with his suave looks and style, made him a favourable contender. Sources close to him, however, claim he was reluctant as he insists his acting skills are limited and has even been quoted as saying "why is it assumed that musicians can make good actors" and stated that having to "act" in his own music promo videos caused him embarrassment. Eventually the project was shelved due to having to shorten the story and concerns for the special effects that would be required. It was felt that the resources available at the time would not be worthy of the original novel and not do it justice.

Awards and nominations[edit]

In 1986 Howl's Moving Castle was one of two runners-up for the annual Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in Fiction, behind In Summer Light by Zibby Oneal.[3] It was also named one of that year's ALA Notable Books for Children.

Jones and Howl won the annual Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association in 2006, recognizing the best children's book published twenty years earlier that did not win a major award. Allusion to the mythical bird phoenix, which is reborn from its ashes, suggests the winning book's rise from obscurity.[4]


  1. ^ Howl's Castle series listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2012-12-23. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  2. ^ "Howl's moving castle", Catalog (record) (1st ed.), Library of Congress, retrieved 2013-03-04 .
  3. ^ a b "Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards Winners and Honor Books 1967 to present". The Horn Book. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  4. ^ a b Phoenix Award Brochure (PDF), Children's Literature Association, 2012, retrieved 2013-03-04 .
  5. ^ "Jones, Diana Wynne". WorldCat. Retrieved 2013-03-04.
  6. ^ "Dedication and acknowledgment", Howl's Moving Castle (paperback) (1st ed.), US: Ace Books, 1989, "This one is for Stephen" .

External links[edit]