Hello fellow ink drinkers! Today Belle and I discussed the differences between the book and movie version of "Howl’s Moving Castle". As per usual I’ll try to summarize what we talked about but if you want the full version, check out our podcast. Also we will be going into spoiler territory so you have been warned.
So we started by summarizing the book and the summary goes as follows. Our main character Sophie has two sisters by the names of Lettie and Martha. When Sophie and Lettie were children, their mother died and their father remarried. Their stepmother ended up having Martha. As the girls got older, their father ended up passing away as well and their stepmother was forced to place the girls in apprenticeships due to finances. Sophie was apprenticed to the hat shop that her family owned and Martha and Lettie were set up in their own places. Sophie had found that she liked trimming hats and was very good at it. One day after visiting one of her sisters, she returned to the hat shop to find a customer. The customer ended up being a witch in disguise and she ended up cursing Sophie and turning her into a little old lady. Sophie could not stay in the hat shop, so she went off to seek her fortune. She ends up coming across Howl’s castle and she enters. She strikes up a deal with Calcifer, the fire demon who is in a contract with Howl. Sophie then meets Howl and says that she will be his cleaning lady and many shenanigans ensue. By the end of the story though, Howl and Sophie fall in love and the spell on Sophie is broken.
As for the movie, a lot of the major plot beats are the same but there are of course some major differences. One difference is the spell that is put on Sophie and how it is broken. In the movie, over time the spell wears down and Sophie returns to her natural age. In the book, it is clear that Sophie is also a witch and she can talk life into objects. Due to this, once the spell on her starts to loosen, her own power continues to hold the spell in place. Howl does try to help her with the spell, however she is using the spell as a disguise and gets really mad at Howl when he tells her he knows she’s under a spell.
Another major difference is how the “war” is started. In the movie, a prince from a neighboring kingdom goes missing and the kingdom Howl and Sophie are a part of is blamed. They go to war over this fact. In the book, the Witch of the Waste is the main villain. She wants to rule the land and wants to create the perfect queen to her king. Therefore, she kidnaps and magically kills the king’s advisor to start her plan. She then magically kills the king’s brother to continue making her creation. The last piece she needs is from Howl but is thwarted before she can magically kill him.
Some of the characters and the personalities that are portrayed are another major difference between the comparisons. One major character that is changed is Markl/Michael. In the movie, Markl is an eight year old boy who was orphaned and became apprenticed to Howl. In the book, Michael is between the ages of 16-18 and he is also Howl’s apprentice. However, he falls in love with one of Sophie’s sisters and the story explains that he would hide in one of the many doorways of the castle as a safe place to sleep. One day Howl finds him and lets him in the castle. Michael starts talking to Calcifer and Howl doesn’t tell Michael directly if he can stay or not. Michael then makes himself useful by trying to help Howl in any way he can until Howl decides to take him as an apprentice. Another major difference is the characterization of Sophie. In the book, Sophie doesn't take any nonsense and holds her own no matter what happens. In the movie, Belle describes her as being more of a doormat.
The last major difference we covered in our talk is that of where the black door leads. So I’m both the book and the movie, the door to Howl’s castle has a multi-colored dial and each color leads to a different location. One of the colors on the dial is black. In the movie, it is our guess that the black door takes you where you want to go. It takes Howl to the war front when he makes his transformation into his bird form. It also takes Sophie to the past and teaches her how to break the contract between Howl and Calcifer. In the book, the black door leads to the real world. Howl is apparently from our world and was able to travel to Sophie’s land. The book isn’t super clear on how it all works, however, it is an interesting change that was made.
That about sums up the differences that we noticed between the book and the movie. If there are some we missed, please let us know. Thank you for joining us today. We will see you guys next week.