Title: Howl’s Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Published: April 1986
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
I finally read Howl’s Moving Castle.
—six months ago, but who’s keeping track?
This acclaimed novel was originally published in 1986, but I discovered it the way I think a good number of people did: through the 2004 animated film adaptation produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Usually, I wouldn’t bother reading a book if I’ve seen its movie already, but I had always had an exception for Howl’s Moving Castle. The movie was just so magical and beautifully-crafted, and the soundtrack (the soundtrack!) was so good that I knew I had to see where it was born from. After finally reading the book, I can say that it was completely worth my time.
In Howl’s Moving Castle, a young hatmaker named Sophie is bewitched by the Wicked Witch of the Waste after attracting her unfortunate attention. The curse transforms her into an old lady, forcing Sophie to leave her quaint life behind in order to seek a way to break the spell. Sophie quickly stumbles across the notorious Wizard Howl’s moving castle, a precarious arrangement of machinery and magic, and an enchanting adventure filled with friendships, romance, and self-discovery ensues.
While I adored the film for being cinematic and artistic in its storytelling, I appreciated the book for its dedication to painting characters with distinguishable idiosyncrasies. Sophie possessed the magisterial spunk I loved so much in the movie, but she also projected greater introspection and had to parse through many more hidden conflicts that weren’t captured in the film. And Howl 😬… Book Howl was a drastically different character in the book. My honest thought was that if I hadn’t watched the movie first, I probably would’ve found him a bit annoying because of his awkward theatrics and immaturity. Simply put: Book Howl was movie Howl dialed up to 200 %. It was still a pleasant and frankly hilarious change from the movie where the characters’ motives never seemed clear to me and the story truthfully confused me at times 😅.
“She stared at the King. The King stared back. It was a disaster.”
I know I’ve been comparing the movie and film, but I do think that they shouldn’t be. The beginning of both of their stories were almost identical, but there came a time where their plots undoubtedly diverged and couldn’t be equated to each other. In the same way Sophie had considerably more depth and Howl was an even bigger man-child 🙊, the book had numerous more over-the-top and whimsical plot lines that weren’t explored in the movie—and I think that’s fine.
Part of the appeal of Studio Ghibli films to me is how they convey an unbidden feeling of magic and thoughtfulness through such simple storylines, so there was need for their Howl’s Moving Castle adaptation to mimic the dramatic source material. Seriously,
the ending of the book was a clusterf*ck, but I say that as tenderly possible.
If you’re a fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle, and you want more—more characters, more story, more magic, more comedy—then you need to read the book. Even if you aren’t, Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle was a homey and delightful tale that I’m sure can charm anyone or at least make you smile a bit.