I have finished the third book in my 2016 reading challenge. This time, I read Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.
This was the book I chose to read for “book that was published before you were born.” Howl’s Moving Castle was published in 1986, so it counts for that. The reason I had chosen to read this book is because it actually inspired the Studio Ghibli film of the same name.
And if y’all haven’t seen the movie yet, you definitely should. This is most certainly a movie that is worth your time.
The story focuses on Sophie, the eldest of three sisters who inherits her dead father’s hat shop. One day, the Witch of the Waste comes into her shop and casts a spell on her that transforms her into a ninety-year-old woman. She sets off for the Wastes to figure out how to break the curse, and ends up in Wizard Howl’s castle (hence the name) to try and figure out how to break her own curse as well as the one that has been placed on Howl, with a little help from Michael, Howl’s apprentice, and Calcifer, the strange fire-demon with whom Howl seems to have made some sort of contract.
There were actually some significant changes made when the book was adapted to screen. For example, Howl’s family wasn’t even mentioned, and the “black door” where he went to Wales to visit them was, in the movie, a strange otherworldly place where he transformed into a bird and spied on the war ships. Sophie was supposed to have two sisters who swapped places – her sister Martha had been sent by their mother to learn magic from an old lady on the edge of town, and her sister Lettie had been sent to the bakery, but the two switched places because they wanted each others’ jobs, but Martha wasn’t even mentioned in the movie, and Lettie only had one short scene at the very beginning of the film. Wizard Suliman and Prince Justin were changed: Wizard Suliman was the king’s Royal Wizard who had gone out to the Wastes to combat the Witch of the Wastes, but he was genderbent and turned into a semi-villain, and Prince Justin became “the prince of the neighboring country who was turned into a scarecrow.” and not given a name at all. And there was a whole subplot with Howl being a womanizer and courting Miss Angorian, the teacher at his nephew’s school, and then she turned out to be the fire demon for the Witch of the Wastes, and another subplot with Michael, who is apparently fifteen in the book but is insinuated to be younger than that in the movie and who is in love with Sophie’s sister Lettie, but is obviously too young to fall in love in the movie, and the movie added a war between the two countries that didn’t exist in the book.
When I first started reading this book and found all these inconsistencies from what I loved about the movie, it threw me off just a bit, and I had to change my mindset a bit and read it as its own work, independent of the movie adaptation, and then I managed to enjoy the story.
Why did I choose to read this one next? Because like The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, this was available at the library when I went last time, so I went ahead and borrowed it.
If you’re a fan of fairy tales, you’ll love this book. It reads like a fairy tale, and it has quite a fairy-tale ending, too. And then while you’re at it, watch the movie, too, because it’s been my favorite Studio Ghibli film since its release in 2004.
That’s all for now, my readers. I have twelve books total for this challenge, and I’ve got nine left to go. Actually, since there’s exactly twelve books, I figure I’ll aim for finishing one book per month. Probably the next on the list is Eve, since I’m already pretty far into that one. Until next time. May your swords stay sharp! 乙女