[Home]Howl's Moving Castle (Spoilers)

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Spoilers for Howl's Moving Castle

Michael meets Martha, who is pretending to be Lettie, at Cesari's and they fall in love.

Sophie learns that she possesses the power to talk life into inanimate objects, and that her choice of words will affect how the objects behave in future. (Many of the tribulations she faces in the story result from careless remarks she made before she knew about this power. To be fair, though, much of the help she receives comes the same way.) She brings to life the scarecrow, her stick, and the castle skull; she is able to work magic with flowers and plants; and she probably saves the lives of both Howl and Calcifer. Detailed examples are listed below.

Calcifer was once a falling star. Howl rescued him from the usual fate of falling stars (ie. going splat on the ground) and entered into an arrangement whereby Calcifer shared Howl's heart (which kept him alive) and Howl shared Calcifer's powers. (Some variation on this is the origin of all fire demons.)

When Howl reaches "ten thousand days and nights" on Midsummer Day, he is 27 years and 145 days old. It's rare to know the age of a DWJ character so accurately. Incidentally, this makes his birthday January 27 (assuming that Ingary uses the same calendar that we do, and that it is not a leap year).

Howl is originally from Wales, and his name is really Howell Jenkins. He has a sister and a nephew and niece in Wales and is a first language Welsh speaker. He played rugby at university as a winger and has a PhD? in "Spells and Charms".

Miss Angorian is the Witch of the Waste's fire demon in disguise.

The Witch of the Waste has been creating a human puppet to rule Ingary for her. Her puppet contains bits of Prince Justin and the royal wizard Suliman, and she wants Howl's head to finish it off.

The left-over bits of Justin and Suliman were assembled into a composite man, known both as Gaston and as Perceval, who the Witch turned into a dog - the same dog which Sophie rescues at the beginning and which starts following Lettie around. Since the Witch wasn't using either head, Suliman's was left over; the Witch transformed it into a skull - the same skull Howl later bought on a whim.

When Wizard Suliman was surprised by the Witch, he cast his strongest magic into a scarecrow and ordered it to come to his rescue. Since he is in three different places (the human puppet in the Waste, the composite man Gaston-Perceval, and the skull in the moving castle), this is difficult, and the scarecrow is worn out when Sophie first encounters it. She talks it to life so successfully that it is able to complete its mission.

The Witch's fire demon has its own plans for Howl: its relationship with the Witch is more parasitic than Calcifer's with Howl, and it's beginning to use her up.

The Castle Door

The castle door opens on four different locations. Where you want to open it at is determined by which colour is turned facing downwards on the wooden knob over the door. The inside of the Castle is actually the inside of Howl's house in Porthaven, and therefore much smaller than it appears from Market Chipping. For the first half of the book, the door opens on the following four locations:

Clues Calcifer gives Sophie about his bargain with Howl

Clues Calcifer gives Sophie about his bargain with Howl

Howl also unintentionally drops various clues

Things Sophie talks life into

(It is tempting to put Sophie's remark, to another hat, that Howl and the Witch of the Waste sound like they're made for each other and somebody should introduce them together with the later revelation that Howl and the Witch have a history together, but several points argue against it. For one thing, the Witch shows that she can detect the hat magics, so even if the hat did somehow reach her it wouldn't have a chance to work. More concretely, the timing is all wrong: Howl's relationship with the Witch predates his move to the hills above Market Chipping, said move being at least partly an attempt to flee the consequences of his relationship with the Witch, and thus also predates Sophie's remark.)

The Conditions of the Curse

These are contained in the John Donne poem which forms the nucleus of the book's plot and are therefore as follows: Second verse

Howl's heartlessness

It is tempting to take Howl's word for it that his heartless behaviour is a consequence of his literal heartlessness, but one of the major themes of the novel is that people aren't simple and don't fit into neat fairy-tale explanations, and there are indications that his personality flaws were in place before ever he met Calcifer.

There's an interview somewhere with DWJ in which she says that Howell was already doing the love-em-and-leave-em routine back in Wales, and that the first time he cast the spell that opened a way to Ingary he was looking for somewhere to hide out from three large and angry rugby players whose sister he had recently jilted.

The song about the saucepan that Howl sings when he's been drinking is probably "Sospan Fach".

Suggestions for someone with time on their hands

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Edited March 1, 2010 12:12 am by Paul A (diff)
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