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Headscratchers / Howl's Moving Castle

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Headscratchers for Howl's Moving Castle (both the book and the film), so spoilers should be spoilertagged for those who have seen one but not the other. However, fair warning also applies, so Beware Potential Spoilers.

  • In both the book and the movie, there's a scene in which Sophie pretends to be Howl's elderly mother in order to help him get out of serving in the war. She's supposed to be around 90. In the book, Howl is 28. If Sophie really WERE Howl's mother, she would've been in her 60s when she had him. That's a bit too old to be plausible—considering everyone else seems to have Agedar, doesn't it seem odd to anyone?
    • The subtext, in the movie at least, is that Madame Suliman knows that Sophie isn't really Howl's mother and is only playing along for politeness' sake. Everyone else probably assumes that either age has not been kind to Mrs. Pendragon, or Howl cast some sort of spell on her that backfired.
      • The act doesn't really do that well in the book, either. But it was a desperate plan, and everybody knows those are always quite plausible, right?
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    • It's also possible that everyone assumed Howl, vain as he is, was magically reversing the effects of age on his body and really much older than he appeared. Of course, Madame Suliman knows because she taught him, but everyone else...
    • The movie also shows the extent of Sophie's advanced age varying along with her state of mind. She's shriveled and bent nearly double when the spell is first placed on her, but by the time she goes to meet Madame Suliman, she's standing quite straight and her face is still elderly but considerably less exaggerated, enough that she could probably pass for closer to fifty-something than ninety.
    • In the book, Howl knew Sophie was cursed the whole time. The real reason he sent Sophie to see Mrs. Pentstemmon was to see if she could break the curse, so it didn't matter whether it was plausible. Howl knew Mrs. Pentstemmon would be able to tell Sophie was under a spell straight away.
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    • Technically speaking.. In the movie, the only time Sophie's 'age' is mentioned, is by her mother Honey/Fanny saying that she sounds 'like some 90 year old woman'. But no other reference is made to her age other than sideways mentions of 'old' and 'granny'. In the book, Sophie's age is only mentioned once, when Mrs. Pentsemmon mentions she herself is 86, asks Sophie's age, to which she tosses out a casual '90' "that being the first high number that came into her head." Though when she's first transformed, she does note in her head that her legs look like those of a 90 year old woman.

  • When did Howl fall in love with Sophie? The book is in Sophie's POV—but it just seemed so sudden.
    • Howl fell in love with Sophie when he met her on May Day, back before she was cursed. He was courting Lettie to find out more about Sophie.
      • Another theory could be that Howl was never anything but attracted to a pretty face, and would only fancy himself in love on the 'want what you don't have' cliche;. As for Lettie, he really was courting her, at first, it was only after he became intrigued by Sophie's spell that his attentions moved on to information about Sophie. And really, Howl was only ever after the challenge of the thing. He came to admire much more about Sophie, but it was the spell and her own magic, and the way everything was all mixed up that initially drew him to her.
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    • If it weren't for facial expressions and vocal intonations, one would ask when he fell in love with her in the movie as well. But as far as the book goes, it's more of a gradual thing. Even at the end of the book, neither is willing to come forward with an 'I love you', but more of a 'We could manage with this arrangement.' Sophie's original opinion of Howl really hasn't changed, she still sees, and he still is, a cowardly, selfish, vain little peacock who will squirm out of or away from any little bit of unpleasantness that floats his way. But she's also come to see that he's kind, thoughtful, patient, loyal, protective and incredibly enough ~will~ step up to the plate when he sees it as something of an 'only' option.
      • As for Howl falling in love with Sophie, it could be said it worked in much the same way, though we obviously get far less of his POV, pretty much none of it in fact. So this troper would base his coming to love her in the sense of coming to know her. She begins demure and resigned, to life, to the spell, only leaving because "it was best just to go." What frustration she expresses goes into cleaning, but even here her considerate nature already shows through to Howl when she follows his request that she not harm a single spider. No doubt, if only some time after the fact, he's quite appreciative of her ability to deal with his tantrum and her willingness to talk to him about it after. Sophie seems to become accepting of her state as time progresses, though not resigned, and having discarded most of her frustration, brings a kind, homey atmosphere to the castle. Looking back at Howl's actions retrospectively, the best way to see Howl's growing love is through some of his seemingly selfish acts. After all, Howl himself says "Only way I can do something this frightening is to tell myself I'm ~not~ doing it!". Love is a very frightening thing, especially for Howl. He admires her dealings with Calcifer. He practically apologizes to Sophie, much as he's able, about the scare crow, not because he was personally afraid of it, but he understood that/why she was and didn't like her being upset, granted by reproaching himself, rather than an actual apology. The bit where he took her to Pentstemmon in the hopes of help with the curse, albeit by lying through his teeth. His inviting her to Wales ~ 50/50, true for the curiosity part, but he didn't really have to introduce her to family or the whole nine yards. Can't forget his concern over pleasing Sophie when it comes to the house change, or the shop, even if cowardice is his rooting drive. Of course when he goes and invites her whole family to come and visit in an effort to 'keep her quiet for once', aka, please her. During a second reading, his increasing interest in her in general can be seen more clearly. Not through typical 'how are you today' fashion, but by questioning her, picking at her, trying to figure out what makes her tick, and just showing an overall interest deeper than he would likely ever attempt with someone who is/was simply beautiful to look at, as seems to be his prior inclination.

  • I was trying to figure out a time period and a time frame for the happenings in the book, and have a couple of things I figured I'd toss in here.
    • ~1~ Howl's black portal leads back to Wales, with the point in time matching up to current day. And his nephew has a computer. ".. the main magic box had a glass front.. seemed to be showing writing and diagrams more than pictures..", the boys are playing a computer game, a text based one. So one should probably assume that the time period is somewhere in the 1960s - 70s, since that was the dawning era of more immersive games, ex. Zork, Hitchhikers.
    • ~2~ — I'll put this in shortly, for the thoughts on timeline.
      • Computers in the home didn't become commonplace until the late 80s. It's more likely that the book technically takes place in the time that it was written, 1986.

  • So Howl's original plan in dealing with the Witch of the Waste counted on Suliman being alive? What exactly was his original plan? How would that have changed anything?
    • Basically, just as he admitted himself, Howl's a coward. He didn't ever want to have to face the Witch of the Waste so he hoped that Ben could do it for him. Ben /was/ the Royal Magician after all, it was originally his job to deal with the witch. Howl knew the witch had cast a curse after him so he'd been doing everything in his power just to keep as far away from her as possible. He did fight her once at Porthaven but he was so scared afterwards that he even risked dying by moving Calcifer just so he could avoid her again. However, he did intend to rescue the prince and he thinks the only way he could get to him was by using the curse to get to the witch. I think he originally planned to save Prince Justin while avoiding the witch as best he could given the circumstances with Ben Sullivan's help. Howl probably assumed Ben was just in some sort of bind and would still be able to deal with the witch if he could just help him out a bit. However, things didn't go as he had hoped. Turns out, Ben wouldn't be able to help him out at all - at the very least, he won't even be able to serve as backup or diversion. He'll actually have to face the witch ON HIS OWN, putting not only himself, but the people he cares about at a greater risk! He was so scared he had to go out and get drunk.

  • [edit: question deleted] Never mind, I think I sort of figured it out. I was initially confused about how Howl would be able to go juggle university life, rugby, magic lessons and later on making a name for himself as two separate magicians all at the same time but here's how I think events panned out: Howl met Calcifer and set up shop as Jenkin the Sorcerer five years before he met Sophie (so he was 21 at the time). It was never mentioned exactly when he arrived in Ingary, but we can assume it happened much earlier since he had to study magic under Mrs. Pentstemmon first. Since then, he'd been going back and forth between worlds a lot. His magic lessons could have influenced his degree of choice in Wales and he would have likely used some of the things he'd learned from Mrs. Pentstemmon for his doctoral thesis and vice versa. He was also winger for his Rugby team during his stay at his university. Two years after Howl set up shop, Mrs. Pentstemmon retires as a Sorceress, and finally Howl would have finished his doctorate degree just around the time he met the Witch of the Waste, and right before he meets Sophie. Let's not forget the fact that while he was going to university and finishing his doctoral thesis in Wales, he was also busy making a name for himself as both Jenkin the Sorcerer and Wizard Pendragon in Kingsburry! Howl was either a time management god or he was using kage bunshin without anyone knowing.
    • This troper was asking tropeself the same questions and came to two theories:
      • 1) It is mentioned that he had an exceptional talent for magic so it's not too far off to think that he may have learned a spell to either manipulate time in one or both worlds (albeit for short periods of time, say, three hours, tops) so his schedule would not be so constricted; or a spell that made him twice as fast so he could, for example, study for a university test, learn a new spell and still have time for rugby practice.
      • 2) As for making a name for himself as a (or multiple) wizard(s), he used his knowledge of the 'normal world' technology and science to appear much more knowledgeable and powerful. If, say, he brought a flashlight one day, villagers would be amazed at his ability to produce light without fire. He would return the objects to their rightful place, of course, and never bring anything TOO impressive like, say, a TV. Just enough to do the trick and establish him as an amazing wizard. Of course, this is more WMG than anything.
      • Alternatively, there could be some Narnia Time going on (this theory is far, *far* less plausible, but bear with me) only in a smaller scale, as in, one hour in Ingary could be equivalent of, say, twenty minutes in Wales. It would be a small enough difference to not be noticed, given that he only took Sophie and Michael to visit for about half an hour, but in a day to day scale it could mean that if Howl had a university assignment to finish in three hours, he could take it back to Ingary and he'd have about *9 hours* to do it.

  • In the film, did Sophie's curse ever get broken? The witch said Turniphead's curse could only be broken by true love, but nothing about Sophie's cure, and throughout the film they'd been using varying ages for Sophie (all with grey hair) based on how Hot-Blooded she is at any given time ("You're only as old as you feel" was my original, and current, interpretation). At the end, she's with Howl, but since the audience has seen her throughout the film young and with grey hair, there's no indication that the curse is broken.
    • While I am likewise uncertain as to whether or not the curse actually broke, I was under the impression that it simply didn't matter anymore. The curse made her age according to how she felt (when she felt insecure she turned old and when she felt more confident, she became her own age). When she saves Howl at the end of the film and compliments her hair, the fact that she didn't blush and deny it (like she did the last time he said she was pretty), but instead happily agreed was an indicator that she was no longer suffering from self-esteem issues like she used to. Thus, she wouldn't age anyway, whether or not she was still cursed.
    • At the end of the film she's clearly young again, just with grey/silver hair.
      • The Fridge Logic here is, what's your evidence that this was any different than the times earlier in the movie when she was young again, just with grey/silver hair? Audience perception showed us what was (possibly incorrectly) assumed to be a metaphor earlier, where is the evidence that the curse was broken, since she still had grey hair?
      • I believe that the spell was never broken in the traditional fashion - rather, Sophie is (unknowingly) a witch, and when she's upset/in love/ confident in herself, her magic is strong enough to throw the spell off. The silver hair is a remnant of the unbroken spell.
      • I would call that reader knowledge, since Sophie having any sort of magic ability is absent from the movie. Speaking strictly to the movie, it stands to reason, for me at least, that her spell effectively broke with the knowledge of Howl and Calcifer's curse, and less metaphorically, with the breaking of the ring. Though if bringing reader knowledge specific to the book into it, her spell *didn't* break until the precise moment that Calcifer was separated from Howl's heart.
    • The Power of Love.
      • Not "how did...?", just "did...?"
    • I noticed that at a certain point (specifically when the hat shop gets bombed) she's done in young style and stays that way for the rest of the movie. I assumed the curse was more or less broken then, the hair color was just a byproduct, possibly even to change back to normal in due time.
      • Rewatching the film, the scene after she leaves the portal in the past, when she tells Heen she can't stop crying, you notice that some of her "tears" floating around her are black/purple and opaque, rather than water. I now think that's the moment the curse actually "broke" — possibly because, the moment she figured out how to break Calcifer and Howl's curse, her own curse broke, even though Calcifer was not aware of it.
    • Re: why her hair stays grey/silver, at the end Sophie says to Howl, "Do you like it [the hair color]? So do I!" The curse and Sophie's appearance are affected by her moods. She does fully break the spell herself by the end, but since she likes the "starlight" hair, it stays.

  • From what I saw, the first times she comes to her own age (when she's sleeping and when she changes in front of Madame Suliman) the hair color still changes to her original brown, so I think the gray color stayed because it took her too long to break the curse.

  • Going from the above IJBM, if Sophie's "only as old as she feels", then how is she supposed to grow older? She wouldn't become an old woman anymore as she has more self-confidence, and if she doesn't become an old woman then she might not age at all.
    • If it is the case that the spell works that way, and it wasn't just a metaphor, then yes, Sophie is potentially immortal by way of not aging. She would likely age along with Howl, though, since we see with Howl and the Witch of the Waste that a demonic contract does not prevent aging, just death by old age (and, in the movie continuity, senility).
    • They might be drawing that one from the book - Sophie's partially wished to stay old because she thought that suited her better. So it might be that in the film, the curse sort of unravels itself once she's confident enough.
      • I might add conjecture in regard to the book. While the Witch of the Waste did initially curse Sophie with age, it was Sophie's own magic that took over the spell. She 'speaks life' into things, to paraphrase. She doesn't really think THAT she's old, so much as that she FEELS old, and of course that she's the eldest, resigned to be a failure. Her taking over the spell is in how she speaks to herself, calling herself an 'old thing', etc, in the same way she spoke to the other things around her, into the hats, and the scarecrow, and the suit, and the cane, etc. Compare her careless mutterings to/of herself, as those to the suit, she told the suit that it was a handsome suit and "Built to pull in all the girls!", thus willing in the magic quite by accident.

  • Why does Howl have a door to his past anyway?
    • Howl's magic going completely haywire. We don't know enough about the "black" doorway to say if it leads to any one place for certain — I think it's charged to correspond with Howl's willpower (or angst) and send him where he wants to go. But during the battle, he was losing control of his humanity, and the door responded with screwy magic.
    • I've been making little book references anyhow, so I thought I would aside, that in the book, Howl is actually Howell Jenkins, from our own world's Wales, UK, in approximately 1960s-80s (they have computers with word based video games). He grew up, with magic he had to hide, and actually went all the way through a Doctorate at University, before finding his way to Ingary, where he took up true study of magic (likely majoring in anthropology with a focus on 'magic', his doctoral thesis was on charms and spells). In the book, the black door takes him back to Wales, where his sister's family lives. So it's sort of his past, in that he came from there. He does make mention that he could visit any time in his personal past if he really wanted to though, even his own christening.

  • So if this is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of England, why is there a recruitment poster in German?
    • I'm not certain that Film!Ingary is an FCC of England - I read somewhere that the style of architecture was based on towns in the Alsace region, on the border between France and Germany, sooo... Translation Convention?

  • What is Suliman actually trying to do to Howl in that weird sequence with the singing stick people in the sky?
    • I always interpreted that as her attempting to do to Howl what she did to the Witch of the Waste, draining or severing his magic. The same stick figures appeared around the Witch when it happened to her.
      • I think not. The shadows that were used on the Witch looked much different than the spirits used on Howl. Besides, Suliman went through the trouble of sending a tidal wave through a black hole which turned into the sky, and then did that thing with the spirits, forced Howl into his demon form, and then threw a charged-up lightsaber staff at him. That was not something as simple as magic draining going on. Perhaps she intended to simply impale him on the lightsaber and thus finish him off. I am just as puzzled.
      • The shadows used on the witch were black, the absence of light, and they sucked away her magic and reversed her transformation. the ones she used on Howl were White and made of light, that is, the exact opposite, and had the opposite effect; forcing howl's transformation to accelerate. the evidence from that suggests she was trying to overload him, and forcibly convert him into a monster. The staff throw was clearly intended to stop him escaping, so it's safe to assume her overall plan was to turn him into yet another monster wizard, and probably forcibly conscript him into the army, which was exactly what he was trying to avoid when he sent Sophie.
      • With a possible extra step, that under those circumstances the only way that Howl could reverse his transformation into a monster was with Suliman's help.
      • I would join the first three with my addition. That the overall use of the figures was not to absorb Howl's magic (like with the witch), but to illuminate it. Not specifically with the interest in turning him completely, though it seems that could easily have been a plan B, but in order to show Sophie, who she's already 'identified', exactly what this power is doing to Howl. Before seeing Sophie's curse, she explains Howl's pact with a demon who stole his heart. In this sequence, it seems like she's trying to give as much a hint as she can, placing them in the sky, with the falling star fire demons drawing Howl out. And perhaps with an aside at seeing if Sophie and Howl's care for each other can break him from her efforts, suggesting a possibility of breaking the overall curse.
      • You have to work backward from the end of the film to understand what's going on. We know based on the ending that Suliman's spirits were fallen stars. We know that Calcifer is also a fallen star. We know that Calcifer enhances Howl's magic. We know that too much magic causes Howl's transformation into a monster to speed up. We know that Suliman's objective is to either get Howl back under her wing or to put him down. Putting all that together, we can deduce that Suliman was using the fallen stars to make Howl's magic go haywire, thus turning him into a monster and, presumably, giving Suliman the opportunity to kill him. I think the wave and the sky illusion are meant to be displays of power (Sophie and the Witch of the Wastes require contact with Howl in order to withstand them), but that's mostly conjecture.

  • I know that she was explicitly identified as one in the book, but should I assume that Sophie was actually an (untrained) witch in the movie as well?
    • Its a logical conclusion based on what happens to her in the screenplay. They just don't go out of their way to spell it out.
      • Didn't go out of their way, or really even to encourage the notion. More like, a pure wishful heart type of power, than any sort of innate sorcery, other than her self opinion/concern influencing the Witch's spell of course.

  • What are we to make of Turnip Head/the Prince's comment at the end that he'll be back to try and woo Sophie again, since "the one constant in this world is a fickle heart"? Is it just intended as a joke, or does it have darker implications for the future of Sophie's relationship with Howl?
    • I took it as a sort of joke, a sort of "I won't let this get me down." Hey, a man can dream, can't he?
    • There is a sequel to the book (in fact, there's two, but little-known as the first one is the second one seems to be even more obscure), so maybe it's drawing on something that'll happen there? I couldn't say, though, because they're pretty hard to get hold of so I've never read them.
      • No, I'm glad to say. Sophie is happily (if snarkily) married to Howl, though neither time is he as been seen before.
    • Speaking from the books. The prince *was* the scarecrow in the books, sort of, but mixed with a second person, and he *was* missing, but the want to find him was for an *impending* war and the prince is simply a great strategist. They needed a greater sense of urgency in the movie, so they brought the future war to today and made the prince the reason for it. In the books, the Prince doesn't fall in love with anyone. (Though his memory of Sophie's witch apprentice sister ~Sophie has two, one a baker's apprentice, one a witch's apprentice, she technically wasn't lying about a sister in the Wastes!~ does set love in motion for the other person he was mixed with) I think the line is actually an inside joke with the books, wherein Howl constantly moves from pretty face to pretty face, making women love him, then falling 'out of love' upon this success and moving on. Sophie being the one who manages to hold him in challenge mode in the end.
    • I don't think that's necessarily what he meant. He said "hearts change," not referring to Sophie, but to himself. He meant that he would go home, get over Sophie, then come back to hang out with his new friends.

  • Why does Sophie have an English accent as a young woman and an American accent as an old woman?
    • I didn't see it as her getting an American accent or having an English accent, more that she had a lighter pronunciation and then got an old-person-cranky-creaky-voice as an adult. It just sounds comparatively American and English to you (I've heard English characters and American characters on television who sounded more American and more English, respectively, who didn't have Fake Nationality).
    • Along this line, why do Sophie and her sister have English accents when her mother has an American accent?
      • She could be American (or Ameracish, or whatever), or raised in a different part of Ingary that had an accent that sounds vaguely American, while her stepdaughters and daughter picked up their father's and the local accent.
      • In the book, "their mother" is actually a stepmother to Sophie, and her sister (I believe). That might explain the difference in accents, especially if Ingary has varying accents as well that happen to mirror English and American accents.
    • You can tell the difference between an American and English accent in Japanese?
      • XD <3 gaijin!
    • I just assumed it was Emily Mortimer doing a generic old-woman voice.
      • Emily Mortimer does not provide the voice of the elderly Sophie; that would be the voice of Jean Simmons. Both of whom are English.
    • Old Sophie does sound English as well.

  • That witch Suliman is a Karma Houdini. Yes, it's a complicated case in that she's working for her country, and Howl (as a powerful and independent and quasi-Demonically Possessed magician) was a threat to their war efforts. Not to mention she was either involved with the creation of the slimy war mages, or quietly complicit by not acting against their creation. They turned people into weapons with a tiny lifespan, how can she be happy at the end?!
    • I think the sort of people who'd try to hold military heroism against someone are the last people who'd have some kind of vengeful need to keep a mother and son apart. You can really chalk all her "sins" up to doing anything to have the prince returned.
      • Huh? Suliman is the king's royal sorceress, not his wife (as far as we know), and the lost prince is the prince of the other kingdom.
    • Who's to say that she is happy? She seems to view her job with a calm practicality, that she's doing what has to be done. Throughout the movie though, we see that the wizards and witches who become involved with war and the military are ultimately slaves and screwed for life. It could be that Suliman is just as miserable and hides it, in which case we know that she's still in the service of the king and forced to obey him.
      • Or it could be that she's been waiting for a chance to change things for the better. Note at the end when she receives Heen's communique that she requests a meeting with the prime minister to end the war-not the king seen earlier in the movie enthusiastically reviewing battle plans. It could be mirroring the decline of royal influence in politics after World War I.
    • In the book, Royal Wizard Suliman is actually missing, and a Mrs. Pentstemmon was Howl's teacher. Mrs. Pentstemmon is *extremely* moral, and had even written books on the subject of morality for magic users (in the first trip to the study in book 3). The two were combined for the movie role, hence the odd mixture of moral royal henchman. Technically, the various blob things were "hack wizards who turned *themselves* into monsters for the king." Regardless, I don't think her issue was Howl being detrimental to the war effort. In fact, you seem him attacking enemy magician blobs and airships repeatedly. I highly doubt that they're attacking their own city near the end. The only airship that you *know* is theirs, he only fiddles with and doesn't damage. Her qualm seems to be that he would lose himself to the power all together, be it as a physical super monster similar to the blobs, and probably be uncontrollable sooner or later, or an inner monster like the Witch and just be plain selfish, greedy and essentially evil. Her stake in this being a mixture of his power being too great to allow it to become evil/uncontrolled, and her personal regard for him as her student.

  • Is Howl's castle CGI or traditional animation? My friend and I have been debating this for a while, I say CGI and he says traditional. The problem is it's really hard to tell.
    • Maybe it's both, depending on the scene?
    • Yeah, it's both.

  • Sophie really mistreats the sentient fire demon that Howl told her to take care of. Very out of character. Like forgetting to feed the dog.
    • How? She puts him in a fire-proof container with some fuel while she cleans out the hearth and lays a new fire. It's no more mistreatment than hustling someone out of their room while you clean it up and straighten it. Remember that Calcifer, in both the book and the film, is prone to being over-dramatic, as is Howl.
    • Agreed, drama, but she's also taking her frustration out in general. To reference the book, Sophie is quite certain at first that Calcifer, simply by being a fire demon, is inherently evil. And it's only with time that she sees him for who he is (neither good nor bad, but loyal regardless) and begins to treat him with kindness and respect rather than by bullying. The movie version of this transformations is just muuuuch quicker. He's an evil fire demon, he matters, but not enough to baby him.. perhaps Howl's own respect/friendship in the scene is what makes Sophie see/treat Calcifer differently.

  • Howl's eyes. They are just too blue. It's goddamn freaky.
    • Knowing how vain he is, they're probably glamoured.
    • Might be drawn from the book - they're almost always described as "glass marbles" there.
      • You know, that kept getting me. They're referenced as 'green glass marbles' to be more specific, but there's several times that they're also referenced as 'blue'. I feel like maybe his eyes are biologically blue, and he makes them green with his spells (like his blonde hair). But for the being *too* blue, more likely it's meant to instill that sort of hyper intense mad magician look. Possibly evidenced by his wide eyed look when the colour is really hitting the freak factor, whereas they're simply nice blue eyes when he's partially hooded, you know, like a normal person. ;p

  • Where the hell did that ending come from? Turniphead's a PRINCE? It took three viewings before I caught the one single clue to it: As Sophie's racing out of the hat shop, two old men are discussing to themselves, and one says, "Didja hear? Their prince went missing!" The comment from Howl about Turniphead having a very powerful spell on him comes off more as a, "Hey, I cast an animate spell on my scarecrow, because I am insane, and like to see my workers suffer...?"
    • I got the line the first time I saw the movie, so it wasn't a blatant Ass Pull but it was definitely a Contrived Coincidence. And Howl didn't cast the spell, he could just see the magic. But like Sophie's spell, he couldn't lift it. Turniphead had to do it himself.
      • Seconded. Except somehow I managed to pick up that the whole war was because of the prince missing, as a background detail. Turniphead turning into the prince was if anything, a deus-ex-machina way of stopping the war from my perspective, though it wasn't entirely spontaneous.
    • It's from the book; in the original turniphead was a prince, so prince he stayed in the movie.
      • No, he was half a prince.
      • No, the wizard was the original turniphead. The DOG was half a prince.
      • Actually, turniphead was the better part of the wizard, but I'm splitting hair here
      • in the book, the scarecrow says it used to guard flowers near the Waste, and when the Witch caught Saliman, he poured all the magic he could to deliver a warning/SOS. Now, that brown skull is part of the wizard (the skull later melts into the scarecrow), and probably the guitar too, and the dog is made up of both the prince and the court wizard.
      • Except really. The scarecrow was a golem made by the Wizard Suliman to guard the garden he was creating in the Waste, which is where the Witch caught them together. Suliman cast all his magic into the golem and ordered it to 'come to his rescue', but the Witch had taken his body to pieces and the scarecrow ran out of juice before he could get to any of the pieces (until Sophie spoke life back into him). Meanwhile, the Witch kidnapped Prince Justin, combined some of his body bits with some of Suliman's body bits, then used the extra bits to make a second body, to which Justin's head was attached, while Suliman's head was sold off as a skull. * The Justin headed body with weird mixed up memories accidentally led the Witch to Sophie, and was then turned into a dog with the parting words of "Off you run. I'll call you when I need you." * Suliman's skull was bought by Howl, and later absorbed into the scarecrow that echoed Suliman's power. * And the other body, the headless one, was with the Witch, waiting for Howl to come, so she could take Howl's head, for the body, to make a perfect man, which was actually for the Witch's demon to take possession of since the Witch's heart was just about dead.
      • True, but in the movie, Turnip Head being the Prince was definitely an Ass Pull. That one bit of dialog hinting at the lost Prince being the cause of the war was different in the original Japanese version. The three men were just talking about how the war was "going to be terrible". They just added that tiny bit of Foreshadowing in the English dub.

  • Near the end of the movie, Madame Suliman says "Howl found his true love. The game is over"...and immediately decides to end the war. Now, that strongly implies that she started the war to get Howl to find his true love. Did she really kill hundreds merely to teach a former student a lesson?
    • Madame Suliman didn't start the war for Howl, but she was using the war as an excuse to track down and neutralize rogue witches and wizards. She tricked the Witch of the Waste into coming to the royal palace with an invitation supposedly motivated by the need for magic users in the war, but drained her of her powers instead. Madame Suliman was also going to try to catch Howl since she believed he was destined to be become a monster after losing his heart. The "game" she referred to was her attempts to capture Howl. Ending the war was a separate goal that only became attainable when she saw that the missing Prince had been found.
      • I don't think she was using the war as an excuse to track down rogues, so much as she used the fact that magicians were being enlisted into the army to coax in the Witch, who was a 'greater power.' Howl's coxing, was a 50/50 shot, hoping that he could be broken of the demon and be reverted to good in order to take over her own role someday, but being willing to kill/de-magic him if she couldn't manage the first. ** An aside to the "Howl found his true love", the movie is based firmly in the 'true love cures all' cliché, the book didn't have *anything* solved or broken BY love. In fact, Howl's curse was completed when he fell in love. But it was care and love for others that caused everyone to try to help everyone else in general. ** And her comment to "end this silly war" is simply an expression. She has divined the location of the prince, whom the movie war is centered around, and she's going to tell the king he's been found, and diplomacy should start up. If he really wanted, the king *could* just tell Suliman to shove it and keep the war going under the pretense of 'see, we didn't take him, but now we're angry and gonna woop you.'

  • If it's so "hideous" why does Howl even have the red hair dye?
    • You'll buy crazy things when you have a coupon.
    • He bought it, didn't like it, but never quite got around to throwing it out. He's quite the pack-rat; remember his bedroom?
    • Red is his real colour, before he called the spirits of darkness into his hair.
      • No, it was black in the past.
    • I got the idea that he had a lot of potions and spells set up and Sophie just messed them up when she was cleaning.
      • I'm pretty sure we're pulling legs here.

  • Sophie obviously changes dresses just before she leaves the hat shop to go out on her own. Ignoring the obvious problem of dress size, how did she have a message from the Witch of the Waste if it note wasn't in the same dress she was cursed in?
    • The message stuck to Sophie herself, not to her clothes. It probably wasn't even "activated" until she was next to Howl again.
    • You know, I never even noticed that little change from bluey-green to blue in her dress. But I go with my fellow Troper. It's a magic note, attached to Sophie, the pocket was just a convenient place for it to be 'taken from' once Howl 'found' it.

  • What century is the film set in?
    • The setting isn't Earth, but the overall feel of the film seems to tally with the mid-to-late 19th century.
      • There's a fairly strong WW1 vibe as well, albeit the more mobile first year of war, rather than the more famous trench stalemate.

  • I don't know if these are things that were explained better in the book or if the purposes simply went over my head, but I've three questions. 1. Why did Sophie immediately decide to go into the mountains upon being transformed into an old woman? I read somewhere that she did it to seclude herself but wouldn't it be better just to seek refuge in another part of the town, or even travel to another one? Traveling far into the mountains doesn't seem like the smartest thing to do you when you just became a 90 year old woman. Maybe some would say that she did it to found Howl, but none of her dialogues hinted that she did, and her reaction when his castle appears is that it's "not what she had in mind". 2. What was the point of taking Calcifer out of the castle to make it collapse, then go back in and have him move it again? 3. What was Sophie hoping to accomplish by moving the leftovers of the castle to where Howl was? He was fighting far up in the sky, it's not like she could have reached him.
    • I can answer the whole 'taking Calcifer out/putting him back in' part- she just wanted to destroy the connection the doors had to the hat shop, and she figured pulling Calcifer out would be the thing to do it. She says as much right in the film, just before she does it.
    • (1) Sophie wasn't really aiming for the hills in particular - she really just had to leave town partly because she was trying to avoid her family and mostly because it was the perfect opportunity or excuse for her to leave the hat shop and seek her own fortune. In fact, in the book, when asked by a shepherd on the hills about where she was headed off to, she replies, "It doesn't matter really. You can't be fussy when you're off to seek your fortune." She was also described to be "a hale old woman". In the movie, there is a similar scene, except Sophie says she was trying to find her sister. This might have been a reference to Sophie's sister Lettie from the book, who is studying magic in a town which lay just beyond the hills. Said sister never gets mentioned again nor makes an appearance. (2) She did it in order to break the Castle's connection with the hat shop which Howl was protecting. Howl will continue to risk his life as long as Sophie and the others were there. By taking Calcifer out on the hills where the Castle was, they're transported safely out of the hat shop and Howl won't have to defend it anymore. Sophie hopes Howl will then see them and escape with them. (3) Unfortunately, Howl didn't see them. Howl needed to know that they're no longer in the hat shop so Sophie moves the leftovers of the Castle to try to inform him so they could finally escape.
    • ~1~ Both book and movie hit together on that Sophie feels "It was best just to go.", and that she was going 'nowhere in particular.' But I think in both places it's obvious she's heading into the Wastes, one would assume in the hopes of getting help with her spell, even if her own hopes are perhaps not high. The Wastes simply happen to be beyond some rather high, steep hills. In both cases, she only hops into Howl's castle because it's cold and getting dark, and the castle is better than spending the night as an old lady on a vacant hillside.
      • It's important to note though, that The Wastes from the book and the movie are two entirely different places. In the movie, it's all hills and greenery, and it's where Howl's castle was first seen. In the book, however, The Wastes is actually a desert wasteland where the Witch of the Wastes actually lives, and is the place Howl avoids at first. So in the book, Sophie would not have had any reason to head to The Wastes, since the Witch lives there, and she wouldn't be able to find anyone who can break her curse there. In the movie, it was implied that she could have been heading towards Upper Folding to find her sister since in the book, the real Lettie was supposed to be studying magic there. Upper Folding was located just past the hills surrounding Market Chipping, Sophie's home town.
    • ~2~ That one got answered, Sophie says it plainly in the movie. Approx 1:36:00. ~ This event never happened in the book. Though, to note, there are spells to hold the castle together, which are in fact not dependent on Calcifer at all; he just moves it about and handles the heating.
    • ~3~ Answered again. Sophie straight up says it. Approx 1:38:00 ~ Likewise, not in the book. No note to add.
  • Who cursed the prince? And why? Was there a conspiracy to start a war on purpose? I don't quite get it.

  • What about the curse on Howl? He wasn't born a monster as he appears or else I don't feel Madame Suliman would have taught him,
I'm thinking some sort of curse caused him to be this way, and the more he acts as a monster (killing etc.) the more he turns into this bird monster. Madame Suliman might have been the one to place this curse on him, and this might be why he is against fighting in the war, because the more he fights (kills) the more he turns into this beast, in an attempt to control him.
  • Howl's curse isn't something that was placed on him in the same way Sophie's curse was. It was an effect of him giving his heart to Calcifer. Sophie returning Howl's heart breaks the curse.

  • Why is there a street battle in Kingsbury and why doesn't anyone seem to notice it?


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