Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) is a Studio Ghibli animated film that has circumnavigated the globe in several dubbed languages. The story is about Sophie, an apprentice at a hat shop, who seeks refuge in Great Wizard Howl’s castle after she was turned into an old woman by The Witch Of The Waste.
But some people might be surprised to find that the Hayao Miyazaki directorial masterpiece is actually based on book one of the Howl’s Moving Castle series (1986-2008) by British author Diana Wynne Jones. To quote her, “I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone before who thinks like I do. He saw my books from the inside out.” Many changes have been made for the film while managing to keep the beauty of the book, but not without altering some major details.
10. Sophie’s Family
In the movie, Sophie has one sister, Lettie, who apprentices at the bakery Cesari’s. However, in the novel, it is an important detail that Sophie is the eldest sister of three. Sophie, Lettie and their half-sister Martha. In the land of Ingary, “it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.” It’s the reason Sophie resigned herself to being an apprentice at the hat shop while her sisters were given more successful apprenticeships and why she is so calm when the Witch puts a spell on her.
9. Madame Suliman
So the Suliman in the movie is the bad guy. She’s the Head Sorcerer in the court of the King, and Howl’s magical mentor. Movie Suliman is a combination of two book characters. The first is Mrs. Pentstemmon, Howl’s mentor who isn’t evil and warns Sophie of the evil that could take root in Howl. She is murdered by the Witch of the Waste.
The second is Wizard Benjamin Suliman, who is the King’s Wizard sent out on a mission to the Waste when the Witch threatened the King’s daughter. After months spent persuading the King to let him go, Prince Justin went out to find him. Neither Mrs. Pentstemmon or Suliman had bad intentions.
8. The Spell On The Prince
Prince Justin is under a spell as a Scarecrow in the movie. Named Turnip-Head by old Sophie, he is transformed by true love’s kiss into the Prince he truly is and goes to stop the war. But in the novel, he wasn’t the Prince. The spell on the Prince was far more gruesome, a part of the Witch of the Waste’s plans to create the perfect being.
Prince Justin’s body mixed with parts of Suliman is sitting in the Witch of the Waste’s Castle waiting for Howl’s head. All the spare parts were disposed of. Suliman’s skull is inside Turnip-Head along with most of his magic, while another character in the book is made of Wizard Suliman and Prince Justin.
7. The War
The war is a very real threat in the movie. It’s an important part of the plot. Howl is constantly out in the skies fighting other magicians who have turned to the dark side, while he’s trying to stop himself from going the same way. In the book, the war isn’t central to the plot, it’s merely mentioned as an upcoming war and the reason why the King needs Prince Justin to be found and brought back to the Kingdom. In the book, Howl’s out wooing women with his guitar and hiding from the Witch of the Waste.
6. The Black Portal Entrance
In the movie, it leads to the secrets of Howl’s past and reveals how he became heartless – how he saved a falling star who didn’t want to die by offering him his heart. Sophie witnesses this happening, making for a beautiful plot device while in reality, she finds out throughout the events of the book.
In the book, the black portal entry throws a complete spanner in the works by taking the readers to where Howl grew up, Wales. That’s right, a completely different world to Sophie’s. A world with video games and televisions. Howl is just Howell Jenkins, a member of the rugby club who has a sister, niece and, nephew.
In the novel, Markl is named Michael. He came to live with Howl and Calcifer as a boy after his parents both died and he had nowhere else to go. He slept on the entrance to Howl’s house because he knew it was safe. Howl brought him in and he stayed with them ever since. Michael is 15 years old in the book and practically engaged to Sophie’s sister Martha. But Martha doesn’t exist in the movie, and Michael was changed to a young boy named Markl.
4. Calcifer’s Appearance
Now this change is a lot more subtle than the others. Although his mannerisms are the same, Sophie describes Calcifer’s appearance in the book as quite different from the orange fireball in the film. ““It would be a thin blue face,” she murmured, “very long and thin, with a thin blue nose. But those curly green flames on top are most definitely your hair. Suppose I didn’t go until Howl gets back? Wizards can lift spells, I suppose. And those purple flames near the bottom make the mouth—you have savage teeth, my friend. You have two green tufts of flame for eyebrows…” Curiously enough, the only orange flames in the fire were under the green eyebrow flames, just like eyes, and they each had a little purple glint in the middle that Sophie could almost imagine was looking at her, like the pupil of an eye.“
3. Sophie’s Powers
In the film, there are hints that Sophie has magical abilities but nothing is explicitly said about it. In the book, Mrs. Pentstemmon tells Sophie that her magical powers can break the contract between Howl and his fire demon, that she can talk life into things. She talks to hats and makes them destined for certain truths, one owner marrying into Royalty, and so on.
She talks life into the Scarecrow she calls Turnip-Head, and a walking stick she finds which becomes a magical wand. She is the one who can break the contract between Calcifer and Howl without killing either of them. Sophie is also the one keeping the spell on herself out of pure stubbornness despite Howl trying to lift it.
2. The Witch Of The Waste
The Witch of the Waste wants to go after Howl’s heart but has her magical powers sapped by Madame Suliman in the movie. She’s taken back to Howl’s place and stays there as an old lady. In the book, things aren’t as sugar-coated. The Witch of the Waste is being controlled by her demon which she made a contract with.
She wants Howl’s handsome head to complete her perfect being to rule as King and she as Queen. She pursues Howl with everything she has, cursing him so that one day he has no choice but to go to her. She’s a true force of evil. And in the end, she isn’t shown mercy, but killed by Howl.
1. Sophie And Howl’s Relationship
Howl is known as the eater of hearts, rumors he and Markl spread around in Sophie’s hometown taken from something the aunts of the women Howl left broken-hearted would say. Calcifer and Markl both agree that the day Howl doesn’t spend two hours in the bathroom before going out will be the day he finds love.
Sophie spends half the novel believing Howl is in love with her sister Lettie and Miss Angorian. Sophie and Howl bicker a lot, mostly about her cleaning and nosy habits, ultimately causing the green slime tantrum which evacuates a whole town. The two do end up together, the path just looks a little different.
Source of: ScreenRant