Howl’s Moving Castle, a 2004 animated feature film from Studio Ghibli, became one of the company’s most recognized films. The story is about Sophie, an apprentice in her family’s millinery, who stumbles into the wizard Howl’s magical castle in search of answers after being cursed and turned into an old woman by the dreaded Witch of Trash.
Some fans might be surprised to learn, however, that Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece is actually based on a 1986 book of the same name by British author Diana Wynne Jones, and the novel is the first of three. of a series that tells the story of Howl and Sophie. . While the fantasy of the book was transferred to the screen, numerous changes were also made to the film, making the two works different in certain key places.
Updated December 27, 2022 by Stacie Rook: The next film to be released by Studio Ghibli, How Do You Live, is similar to many of the studio’s other works in that it’s inspired by a book. Despite being in production for years, the Hayao Miyazaki feature film has finally received a Japanese release date, July 14, 2023 (via ScreenRant.)
In Howl’s Moving Castle film, Sophie has a sister, Lettie, who is apprenticed at Cesari’s Bakery. However, in the novel, it is significant that Sophie is the eldest of three children and has two younger sisters, Lettie and Martha.
In the country of Ingary, where the book takes place, it is a terrible chance to be the eldest of three children, and Sophie’s sisters therefore have much better prospects than her. This is why Sophie has resigned herself to remaining an apprentice in the millinery, and why she is so calm when the Witch bewitches her, feeling that her fate is catching up with her.
In the Studio Ghibli film, Madame Suliman is a key antagonist. She is the head witch of the king’s court and magical mentor to Howl. Movie Suliman is a combination of two book characters. The first is Mrs. Pentstemmon, Howl’s mentor – who isn’t mean – but warns Sophie of the evil that may be taking root in Howl. She is murdered by the Witch of Trash, in a scene from the book impossible to adapt for the film.
The second is the wizard Benjamin Suliman, the king’s wizard who is sent on a mission to the wasteland when the witch threatened the king’s daughter. After months of persuading the king to let him go, Prince Justin set out to find him. Unlike the movie character they formed, neither Mrs. Pentstemmon nor Suliman had bad intentions.
The spell on the prince
In the film, Prince Justin is under the spell that turned him into a scarecrow, named Turnip-Head by old Sophie. Justin’s spell is broken by True Love’s kiss at the end of the film, and he leaves to stop the war.
In the novel, however, Turnip-Head was not the prince and the characters existed separately. Instead, the spell on the prince was far more gruesome, as it was used as part of the Waste Witch’s plans to create the perfect being. The simplification of this storyline makes sense, given the length of the film, and ultimately made Turnip-Head a more prominent figure.
Showing that some fantasy film adaptations are nothing like the books, war is a very real threat in the film Howl’s Moving Castle, where it forms a major part of the plot. Howl himself is constantly in the skies battling other magicians who have turned to the dark side, as he tries to stop himself from following the same path.
In the book, however, the war is not central to the plot. Instead, he’s just mentioned as being on the horizon and that’s why the King needs Prince Justin to be found and brought home. The new version of Howl is not a soldier and is instead busy wooing women with his guitar, as well as hiding from the Trash Witch.
The entrance to the black portal
In the film, the Black Gate of Howl’s Castle reveals the secrets of Howl’s past and shows how he became heartless. he saved a shooting star that didn’t want to die by giving him his heart. The film sees Sophie witnessing what happens, but the location of the door is completely different in the novel.
In the book, the door to the Black Portal takes Howl and Sophie to where Howl grew up, in Wales. The real-world location exists in a whole other world than Sophie’s homeland, making for an interesting and fun sequence. Howl’s true identity in the novel is simply Howell Jenkins, a male member of the rugby club and who has a sister, niece, and nephew.
In the novel Howl’s Moving Castle, Markl is called Michael instead. He came to live with Howl and Calcifer as a boy after his parents died, and he had nowhere to go. Initially, Michael slept in the entrance to Howl’s house because he knew it was safe, but soon Howl let him in.
Michael is fifteen in the book and becomes romantically involved with Sophie’s younger sister, Martha. Given that Martha does not exist in the film, the choice to change the character from Michael to a young boy named Markl can be explained.
Appearance of Calcifer
As one of Studio Ghibli’s most likable characters, Calcifer’s orange fireball appearance has become iconic, but the character looked quite different in the Howl’s Moving Castle book.
While Calcifer’s appearance is a subtle departure from some of the main plot points changed in the adaptation, it does alter the overall mood of the character. Calcifer’s novel description notes that the fire demon is green, blue, and purple, with sharp teeth formed from fire. In contrast, the film version of the character is much more accessible, reflecting his role as a comic character.
While the Studio Ghibli film hints that Sophie has magical abilities, nothing is explicitly said about it. On the other hand, in the book, Mrs. Pentstemmon tells Sophie that her magical powers can break the contract between Howl and her fire demon and she can bring things to life. Sophie speaks to the hats she works on and directs them to certain truths, like her owner marrying royalty.
The novel also sees Sophie talking about life in the scarecrow she calls Turnip-Head, and a walking stick she finds, which becomes a magic wand. She is also the only one who can break the contract between Calcifer and Howl without killing either of them. The novel also explains that Sophie is able to keep the spell of the Waste Witch on herself out of sheer stubbornness, despite Howl trying to lift it.
The Witch of Trash
Studio Ghibli has many movies based on books and manga, and as such is used to adapting an existing story to fit the story the studio wants to tell. The Trash Witch is a prime example. In the film, the Trash Witch wants to go after Howl’s heart but has her magical powers taken away by Madame Suliman. She is then taken back to Howl Castle, where she lives as an old lady.
In the book, however, things are not summed up so well. The waste witch is controlled by her own demon, with whom she has made a contract. She wants to acquire Howl’s beautiful head to complete a “perfect being” she has built, so that he can reign as king and she as queen. The witch pursues Howl with everything she has, cursing him that one day he will have no choice but to go to her. She is a true force of evil, and at the end of the novel she shows no mercy but is killed by Howl.
Sophie and Howl’s relationship
While the book and film Howl’s Moving Castle show the development of Howl and Sophie’s relationship, and in both cases the two end up together, the path seems a little different in each version of the story.
In the film, the couple reunites more easily, and although they sometimes get frustrated with each other, it doesn’t last long. On the other hand, much of the novel sees Howl and Sophie bickering, and for much of the narrative, Sophie thinks Howl is in love with her sister Lettie. In either version, however, the two genuinely care about each other and eventually get their happy endings.