Dianna Wynne Jones – “Howl’s Moving Castle”

And here comes the final element of an equation that reaches back in my childhood and accompanied my whole youth. The circle is full. I was twelve when the Miyazaki film with the same name was shown in cinemas for the first time and I instantly fell in love with it, its language of pictures, its story, his characters. It took me years and my meanwhile gained knwoledge about how Japanese pronounce English to recognize, that “Haoru” was actually “Howl”. But I was nine, when I read “Charmed Life”, also by Jones and intruducing me into a world which has eight parallel worlds. Everyone has his/her copy of themselves in it – except for those who are meant to be the gate keeper and the most powerful wizards in this world. A year before my interest in Japan had begun. Strange how things suddenly fit together.

With a little bit of math “Howl’s moving castle” has been now my favourite Studio Ghibli film for more than eleven years, so I wasn’t suprised when I began reading on Christmas Eve and found myself overwhelmed by Jones’ story – mixed with the pictures and voices of it. Believe me, I really can’t explain how my brain made them speak English (for my DVD copy is only in German and Japanese). Even both split up in their own way of plot it was still mixed. And yes, therer are some (or let’s be honest – quite a lot of) differences.

Sophie Hatter, eldest of three (!) sisters, stays in her dead fathers hat shop with her step mother, while her sisters are free to find another education. With a huge work load she seldom leaves the house. Nevertheless on the one day she does, she not only finds out that her sisters switched places, but is also addressed by a young man in a strange suit. After this it isn’t long till the Witch of the Waste appears in the shop and curses her to look old.

Sophie sees her chance to get rid of her steady, boring life and leaves Market Chipping to find her luck. Ironically she ends at the evening in the moving castle of Wizard Howl, which is circling the hills around town for some months by now. During a conversation she makes a pack with fire demon Calcifer to break his contract with Howl which does them both no good. Howl’s assistent Michael she tells that she is the new housekeeper and the “castle” is really in need of her. Of course she does a few things to upset Howl, while she is upset with his romantical interest in her younger sister and his complete behaviour in general. Despite that he tolerates her and even involves her in his war with the Witch of the Waste – or more precisely her fire demon (his nephew’s English teacher in Wales where the black knob really leads to).

Finally they defeat her together. Ben Sullivan (Wizard Suliman) and the Prince are freed from their suffering as dog-man and scarecrow (I forgot who of them will get Lettie) and Michael gets Martha (the youngest sister). Calcifer survives because of Sophie’s ability to talk life into things (her stick, several hat she made etc.). And when Howl reveals to Sophie that the curse stuck to her because she felt comfortable being old she is able to break it herself. One can’t imagine how happy Howl is seeing Sophie really was the girl he had tried to talked to on May Day. All happy living in the old hat shop.

As mentioned above there are deviations between book and film but it didn’t make me liking one or the other less. In fact I can see why some decisions where made and enjoyed to find out about the original idea even more. For example though the land of Inagry has a lot of its own magic the most powerful beings originate in Wales which is described as a normal place in our world. And a lot of film characters are actually two different characters in the book. This indeed fits what the witch’s fire demon was doing and kind of hints to the way darker war between her and the wizard.

To be honest, I could go on and on about my favourite scenes and moments, but actually this wouldn’t work. I can’t tell you everything…Only say that you should really read this book! Regardless of whether you have such a boyfriend as mine (gifted me the complete series for Christmas – I still can’t believe it) or you have to buy it yourself. It’s worth it cause every page has magic in it.

Begonnen: 24.12.16    Beendet: 29.12.16

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