Literature: Howl's Moving Castle
The first book in the Wizard's Castle
series of young adult fantasy novels by Diana Wynne Jones
, which gleefully lampshades
many tropes common to the Fairy Tale
Sophie Hatter is a sensible young woman who utterly lacks any confidence in herself. She works in a hat store owned by her late father, where she feels resigned to spend the rest of her days, until one day an encounter with the dashing and handsome young wizard Howl marks her as a target of the Witch of the Waste, a jilted former lover of Howl's. Mistaking Sophie for her sister Lettie, The Witch places a curse on Sophie which turns her into an old woman. After this transformation, Sophie exiles herself from her hometown and happens to become a house cleaner for Howl - who lives inside a moving castle with magic doors
leading all over the country. The castle is powered by the grumpy fire demon, Calcifer, who is linked to Howl in a mysterious magical contract. Calcifer, however, has grown to resent Howl over the years and agrees to free Sophie from her curse if she can, in turn, somehow void his own agreement with Howl.
As Sophie and Howl grow closer, it becomes more and more apparent that all is not as it seems. Indeed, the main theme of the book is that everything in the story is something else, having been transformed by magic.
The book was adapted into an anime film
by Hayao Miyazaki
The book kicked off a series. The first sequel, Castle in the Air
(not to be confused with Miyazaki's other film, Laputa: Castle in the Sky
), continues the story from the point of view of a new character, in the midst of a war, wherein most of the characters he runs across are characters from the first book, only (a) disguised or otherwise not what they once were and/or (b) described in such a way as to make the reader unaware of the connection (seeing as the sequel's hero doesn't know any of them, he can't very well recognize them for us, either). It uses tropes and settings from the Arabian Nights
The second sequel, titled House of Many Ways
, is set a couple of years after its predecessor. Again, a new protagonist is introduced as the book follows the story of Charmain, a sheltered bookworm who is assigned to caretake a cottage for her Great Uncle (who is also the Royal Wizard) but soon discovers the cottage is a magical labyrinth in disguise. The cast of the first book are given more involved roles than their cameo appearances in Castle in the Air
, but still stay secondary to Charmain's plot.
The series as a whole provides examples of:
- Agent Peacock: Girly boy badass Howl is this.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
- Howl and Sophie bicker and argue like there's no tomorrow but when it really comes down to it, they really do love each other. The reason why they argue so much is because they want to. It keeps them on their toes.
- Michael pointed out to Sophie the day that Howl, as vain and obsessed with beauty that he was, forgets to take 2 hours every morning to dress up and make himself look handsome would be the day that he's truly in love. So when Sophie was kidnapped by the Witch of the Waste, Howl arrives to her castle, disheveled and ungroomed.
- Base on Wheels: The titular castle.
- Beta Couple:
- In the first book we have Michael and Martha (as well as Lettie and Ben at the end), to the main couple Howl and Sophie.
- In the second book it's main couple Abdullah and Flower in the Night, with Beta Couple place going to Justin and Beatrice, with some of the couples from the original also making appearances.
- In the third book we have Odd Couple Peter and Charmain and some glimpses of Howl and Sophie.
- Bizarrchitecture: The castle has doors that lead to other places and rooms that change size.
- Brainy Brunette: Lettie. Reading between the lines a bit shows that Howl is one as well; Calcifer mentions that his hair is naturally 'mud-coloured', and a throw-away line to Miss Angorian implies that he has some sort of doctorate.
- Companion Cube: Sophie discovers she has the magical ability to bring things to life if she treats them like Companion Cubes.
- The Dandy: Howl spends two hours every morning to look fashionable. He says it's for business but everyone knows he's vain.
- Death Is Such an Odd Thing: A mild version shows up when Sophie reacts to Mrs. Pentstemmon's murder by first being shocked that the passing was so sudden, and then realizing that "that's how it was, wasn't it? People are alive right up until they die."
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Ingary is roughly equivalent to England. Rajpuht, in Castle in the Air is somewhere between Arabian, Persian, and Indian. High Norland, in which House of Many Ways is set, is quite Switzerland-like—with the rolling, snowy mountains and meadows, the cuckoo clocks/sleds, tiny impish creatures, and all.
- Fiery Redhead: Sophie, after character development lets her gain several levels in self-confidence.
- Gentleman Snarker: As in everything else, Howl has to be classy even when he's being condescending.
- Gentleman Wizard: Howl is an eccentric magic scholar who lives in a floating castle he made himself and always looks appropriate for polite society.
- Happily Married: Sophie and Howl, in every book after the first. They bicker constantly, which leads most onlookers to wonder what they see in each other. However, they love to argue, since it keeps them both on their toes, and it's great fun, of course.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Sophie, in her natural age and form, has flowing red hair.
- The Illegible: Howl. In both Howl's Moving Castle and House of Many Ways there are references to his handwriting being horrible - both Sophie and Charmain wonder to themselves if he uses a pen or a poker when he's writing.
- Large Ham: Howl is called a 'drama queen' by his own author.
- Mama Bear: Sophie in Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways. Do NOT harm Morgan Jenkins if you know what's good for you.
- Morality Pet: From a distance, Howl is a wicked wizard that eats people's hearts. When you get to know him he's a hammy and selfish fop but then you see him with children. Whatever other flaws he may have, he absolutely loves his sister's children and they in kind. In the sequels, this extends to his own son Morgan, suggesting Howl may have a Friend to All Children streak.
- No Accounting for Taste: This is generally how outsiders view Howl and Sophie's relationship in every book after the first. In reality, they're Happily Married, since they enjoy fighting with each other. It keeps them both on their toes.
- Noble Demon: Calcifer is a demon who looks very scary and lives by eating parts of humans but he has a good relationship with the rest of the Castle 'family'.
- Opposites Attract: Sensible woman lacking in confidence and eccentric man with an excess of confidence.
- Papa Wolf: Howl also has a moment in House of Many Ways when Prince Ludovic threatens Morgan, leading Howl to punch him in the face. Twice. He's also an Uncle Wolf to his sister's kids, as the Witch discovers.
- Portal Door: There is a door in the castle that Howl enchanted to lead to different places ( and times) depending on the color its dial points toward.
- Put on a Bus: Michael, in every book after the first. Castle In the Air explains that Michael, and a new unnamed apprentice, were sent away when Howl found out that the moving castle was in danger.
- Redheaded Hero: Sophie, when she's not cursed into looking like an old woman or in disguise as a cat.
- Rule of Cool: Let's face it - moving castles are cool. It's justified in the first book as a means of eluding the Witch, but Sophie and Howl still have the moving castle at the very end of the third book.
- Standard Hero Reward: Spoofed. Princess Valeria of Ingary is still a small child, and her father wouldn't dream of marrying her off until she's much older — which proves embarrassing for several people over the course of the series who expect the Standard Reward without bothering to find out how old she is first.
- Technicolor Fire: Calcifer, as demonstrated in the above cover.
- Theory of Narrative Causality: Mentioned repeatedly, such as Happily Ever After at the end of the story or the thing about three daughters.
- What Beautiful Eyes: In all three books, people meeting Howl for the first time comment on his strange "glass-marble" eyes.
Howl's Moving Castle provides examples of: