Literature / Castle in the Air

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A companion piece to Howl's Moving Castle, written by Diana Wynne Jones. The story centers on Abdullah, a moderately successful carpet merchant who daydreams of adventures and beautiful princesses. That is, until a stranger sells him a magic flying carpet and all his dreams begin coming true.

Like Howl's Moving Castle, the story lampshades, subverts and plays with various tropes related to the Arabian Nights.

The book provides examples of:

  • Accidental Kidnapping: Near the end of the novel, the djinn Hasruel abducts Princess Valeria. The soldier, wanting to get a reward, orders the genie to take him after the djinn and place Whippersnapper, who had reverted back into his true baby form, with someone who could look after him. The genie, being the Jackass Genie that he is, brings the baby to the castle in the air with them. When Sophie discovers that her baby's been taken to the djinn's hideout, she is furious and accuses the soldier of abducting him.
  • Achilles' Heel: All djinns have a life which they must keep hidden for their own protection. If anyone destroys the life, the djinn is killed.
  • Achilles in His Tent: Prince Justin is apparently in the habit of doing this.
  • Actually, I Am Him: The soldier says this almost word-for-word to Princess Beatrice at the end of the novel, when he reveals his true identity.
  • Adult Fear: On par for a DWJ novel.
  • Affably Evil: Hasruel. He's not truly evil, but has been forced into the role after his brother stole his life and made him his slave.
  • Arabian Nights Days: Abdullah's homeland is this.
  • Babies Ever After: Both Sophie and Lettie give birth during the book - to a son and a daughter, respectively.
  • Badass Princess: All of the princesses. No exceptions.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: A large number of Abdullah's daydreams come true - including his most horrible ones that include merciless villains and the like. Turns out Hasruel did this on purpose.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Flower and Abdullah in the castle in the air.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: As Midnight, Sophie seemed relatively sweet to the soldier. However, as a human mother who thinks that said soldier has purposefully abducted her child, she is not so nice.
  • Baleful Polymorph: A number of the main characters from Howl's Moving Castle turn out to have been trapped in the form of various creatures.
  • Beta Couple: Abdullah and Flower in the Night are the main couple, with Justin and Beatrice as the Beta Couple. The alpha and beta couples from Howl's Moving Castle also appear in supporting roles.
  • Bewitched Amphibians: The genie threatens to turn anyone who annoys him into toads. At one point in the story he actually does turn Abdullah and the soldier into toads, but only for a limited amount of time. He also turns the first people to open his bottle into toads, though Abdullah makes him reverse the spell during his attempt to challenge fate.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Hasruel to Dalzel.
  • Cats Are Magic: Midnight the cat appears to have some magic abilities, as she can become as large as a panther when she is annoyed. Because of this, Abdullah theorises that both Midnight and Whippersnapper must belong to a witch of some sort.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Just about everything, really.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Pick a character, any character. Most importantly, Hasruel admits to having a hand in everything the main characters go through. Naturally, he's in disguise for most of the important events.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Princess Valeria's screeching.
  • Cool Cat: Midnight.
  • Cool Old Lady: The Princess of Tsapfan, a magic-user and mother to fourteen boys.
  • Cuteness Proximity: The Strangian soldier goes completely gooey over the cats. Abdullah, on the other hand, is firmly convinced that Cats Are Mean.
  • Cute Kitten: Whippersnapper.
  • Damsel in Distress: Subverted. While the kidnapped princesses are being held captive, they do make several escape plans.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: A lot of the genie's spells are this.
  • Evil Feels Good: Hasruel admits to it.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Abdullah and the Soldier.
  • First Girl Wins: Flower-in-the-Night is the first girl Abdullah encounters in the story. He falls in love with her instantly and marries her by the end of the story.
  • Forced into Evil: Hasruel...but he's thoroughly enjoying it.
  • Foreshadowing: Several things point toward Howl being the genie:
    • Both Howl and the genie are able to summon a wind to speed themselves and their companions to their destination quickly.
    • Both of them are cowards at heart.
    • When Abdullah is arguing with the genie about whether a wish asked for but not granted equals 'one wish per day', the genie says, 'The young man is a coffee-shop lawyer!' Coffee shops were frequent in Britain in the 20th century.
    • When Abdullah is telling the genie of his intention to challenge fate, Abdullah notices that the genie's eyes look almost human.
  • Genie in a Bottle: Abdullah acquires a genie in a bottle, who is forced to grant him a wish a day.
  • Guile Hero: The first thing Abdullah tries to do when confronted with the robbers in the desert is convince them that he is a powerful magician who is wearing chains that prevent him from using his magic. He says this in an attempt to trick the robbers into taking his chains off him.
  • Harem Seeker: Dalzel. He settles for all of the highborn ladies in the world because no female djinn will have him.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Hasruel's life is under his nose.
  • I Choose to Stay: Abdullah and Flower-In-The-Night stay in Ingary.
  • It's All About Me: Dalzel.
  • Jackass Genie: He grants only one wish a day and thinks up ways to specifically screw whoever makes the wish over. His justification is being stuffed in an old bottle makes him cranky. Toward the end, the genie is revealed to be Howl, cursed to be a genie by the djinn.
  • Kid with the Leash: Dalzel to Hasruel.
  • Kind Hearted Cat Lover: The Soldier turns out to be this. Much to Abdullah's disgust, he insists on keeping the two strays they find in the mountains and even names them 'Midnight' and 'Whippersnapper'.
  • Love at First Sight: Abdullah falls for Flower-in-the-Night the moment he first meets her. Only days after first meeting he's already planning to elope with her.
  • Made a Slave: Hasruel was forced to slave away for his brother after his brother stole his life.
  • Magic Carpet: Turns out to be Calcifer, changed into a carpet by the djinn.
  • Make a Wish: The genie is forced to grant anyone who asks a wish.
  • Mama Bear: Sophie. Do NOT harm Morgan Jenkins if you know what's good for you.
  • Mugging the Monster: The Strangian soldier finances his tour of Ingary by flashing a few gold coins in a village and waiting until the local toughs attack him.
  • No Sympathy: The genie shows no sympathy towards Abdullah's plight, and is always very difficult when being asked for a wish. He doesn't show any sympathy at all either when the soldier wishes for salmon and milk for Midnight and Whippersnapper who he claims are starving.
  • Ominous Floating Castle: The djinn's hideout. Turns out to be none other than Howl's moving castle, transformed by magic.
  • Our Genies Are Different: Played with — the two djinns mentioned are powerful, but one has control over a host of angels, which is in line with some mythology, but they also have more of a demonic shape. There is also a genie, which is the normal granter of wishes.
  • Pair the Spares: The two fat cousins from Abdullah's stepfamily are married off to Dalzel.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Prince Justin of Ingary and Princess Beatrice of Strangia.
  • Pet the Dog: All of Abdullah's actions toward Jamal.
  • Pregnant Badass: Lettie Suliman.
  • Prophecy Twist: Abdullah is prophesied to be raised above all others in the land. At first, he assumes this means he will become famous and powerful. After he attracts the ire of the sultan — who has a penchant for impaling people he dislikes on forty-foot stakes — Abdullah faces the prospect of the prophecy coming true in an unpleasantly literal way. Ultimately, the prophecy is instead implied to have been fulfilled by Abdullah reaching the floating castle, which is a lot higher up than forty feet.
  • The Quest: The princess Abdullah wants to elope with is suddenly abducted by a djinn. Abdullah resolves to rescue her.
  • Rags to Royalty: Given that Abdullah is a common carpet merchant in love with a princess, this should be obvious. It's averted entirely. Instead, Abdullah and Flower-In-The-Night are given diplomatic titles and live well, but certainly not as King and Queen.
  • Save the Princess: Abdullah's quest. Later on, the djinn admits that he's tried to bait many princes into trying to rescue their beloveds; but Abdullah has so far been the only one to try.
  • Soul Jar: The ring in Hasruel's nose is this for Hasruel's life.
  • Talk About the Weather: One of the princesses in the castle complains that, since it's up above the clouds, there isn't any weather to talk about.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Among her other virtues, Beatrice can darn socks. And mend boots.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: The final plan to defeat the djinns.
  • Villain Has a Point: When Howl confronts Hasruel about Hasruel trapping him in a genie bottle, Hasruel admits that he only did it because Howl had been complicit in Ingary unfairly using magic to defeat Strangia during the war. Otherwise, if Howl had been innocent, he would have been banished to the island that Dalzel ends up being banished to. Even Howl realises that he could have convinced the King of Ingary not to use magic against the Strangians, and accepts that he was not entirely blameless in that matter.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Toyed with. Abdullah convinces the genie to fetch milk and salmon for the cats and prevents him from turning Abdullah permanently into a toad by reminding the genie of the prophecy about him. The genie then rather moodily accepts that he can't go against the prophecy.

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