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Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle is a young adult fantasy novel by British author Diana Wynne Jones, first published in 1986. It won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and was named an ALA Notable book for both children and young adults. In 2004 it was adapted as an Academy Award-nominated animated film by Hayao Miyazaki. A sequel, Castle in the Air, was published in 1990. A second sequel, House of Many Ways was released in June 2008.

Plot summary

The novel is about a young woman named Sophie Hatter, who is the eldest of three daughters living in the town of Market Chipping in the magical kingdom of Ingary, where many fairy-tale tropes are accepted ways of life. As the eldest she is resigned to the "fact" that she will have no chance of finding her fortune, accepting that she will have a dull life running the family hat shop—until she is turned into an old crone by the Witch of the Waste, a powerful witch whom she inadvertently offends by unknowingly working magic on hats. Sophie leaves the shop and finds work as a cleaning lady for the notorious Wizard Howl, famed in her town for eating the hearts of beautiful young women.

Sophie soon learns that Howl, a cavalier but ultimately good-natured person, spreads these malicious rumours about himself to ensure his privacy. The door to his castle is actually a portal that opens onto four different places: the moving castle Sophie first encounters in the hills above Market Chipping, the seaside city of Porthaven, the royal capital of Kingsbury, and Howl's boyhood home in Wales, where he was named Howell Jenkins.

Sophie strikes a bargain with Howl's resident fire demon, Calcifer: if Sophie can break the contract Howl and Calcifer have signed, then Calcifer will return Sophie to her original form. Part of the contract, however, stipulates that neither Howl nor Calcifer can disclose the terms of the contract to any third party. Sophie tries to guess the specifics of the contract, while Calcifer supplies frequent hints.

Howl's apprentice Michael Fisher runs most of the day-to-day affairs of Howl's business, while Howl chases his ever-changing paramours. Howl and Michael are courting Sophie's two younger sisters Lettie and Martha, respectively. (Martha, the youngest, was sent to study magic, while the middle sister, Lettie, was apprenticed at a local bakery. Disguising herself as Lettie, Martha arranged for the two of them to switch places, as Martha's mother (Sophie and Lettie's stepmother) did not take their wishes into account when arranging their apprenticeships.)

When Prince Justin goes missing while searching for Wizard Suliman (Benjamin Sullivan, also from Wales), the King orders Howl to find Suliman and Justin and kill the Witch of the Waste. Howl attempts to weasel out of it by having Sophie, who pretends to be his mother, petition against the appointment—but to no avail. Howl, however, has his own reasons to avoid seeking a confrontation with the Witch of the Waste; the Witch, a jaded former lover, has laid a curse on him.

Howl fights the Witch of the Waste, feigning reluctance to do so, and wins to find that he has been courting the Witch's fire demon, who has been disguised as Howl's nephew's English teacher. The Witch's fire demon had, over the years, taken control of the Witch and, once the Witch was defeated, tried to take Howl's heart instead. Howl is able to stop the demon, and Sophie (who turns out to be a witch who can talk things to life) uses her talent to break the contract between Howl and Calcifer without killing either of them. Once Calcifer is freed, he fulfills his promise and lifts Sophie's spell and Sophie returns to her proper age. She and Howl admit they love each other, Howl having known she was under a spell for quite a while, and suggest they live happily ever after. With the witch's heart destroyed along with her fire demon the curse breaks on Wizard Suliman and Prince Justin, whom the Witch had fused together in an effort to create a 'perfect human' (Howl's head was meant to complete the being) to use as a puppet to rule Ingary.

Calcifer's hints

Calcifer makes various hints to Sophie about how to break the contract between Howl and himself. They are repeated here:

  • (Howl is reputed to eat the heart of pretty girls. Calcifer to Sophie:) "Don't you want your heart eaten?"
  • (Calcifer uses this line a number of times:) "Howl is pretty heartless, you know."
  • (Sophie has a pain in her heart, and says to Calcifer that he won't understand because he hasn't got one. He replies:) "Yes I do!"
  • (Calcifer speaking to Howl when Michael says that he tried to catch a star:) "You caught one yourself, didn’t you?"
  • (After Howl says the witch has caught up with him:) "I felt it take."
  • (To Sophie while they’re talking:) "I’m scared too, I will suffer, if Howl does."
  • (After Sophie asks Calcifer if he was a fallen star:) "When Howl offered to keep me alive the way humans stay alive, I suggested a contract on the spot."

Howl also unintentionally drops various hints:

  • (Howl, lying to Miss Angorian:) "With my hand on my heart..."
  • (After Sophie asks Howl why he keeps dropping ladies as soon as he's made them love him) "I brought it upon myself by making a bargain some years ago, and I know I shall never be able to love anyone properly now."
  • (After Sophie and Michael tell Howl how it was sad the way the star died) "It'd have been more than sad if he caught the darn thing!"
  • (After Calcifer accuses Howl of not warning him:) "I did, you old fraud!" Howl said wearily. "You know everything I know."
  • (Howl to Michael, about the Witch of the Waste taking Percival's head off:) "I could take any piece of you I wanted and leave the rest of you alive."



Most of the novel is set in the fictional kingdom of Ingary. It is a prosperous monarchy. Its capital is Kingsbury. A large portion of South-Western Ingary is harsh wilderness collectively referred to as "The Waste". Ingary is bordered by Strangia to the east and the Sultanates of Rashpuht to the south.

Before the move, the castle hovers over the hills between Market Chipping and Upper Folding which are situated north; Howl's house is in fact based in a seaside town named Porthaven; Howl also occupies a disguised stable in Kingsbury. Chapter Eleven takes place in Wales. After the move, the castle sits at the edge of the Waste and Howl's house is moved to Sophie's childhood home in Market Chipping; they also occupy a grand but derelict mansion in Vale End (which is in the same valley as Market Chipping).

Howl's moving castle

Howl's castle is a tall, black building with four thin turrets. It seems to be made of blocks of coal (a suitable habitat for a fire demon) and is "bespelled to hold together". It has four doors on the outside, although three are made inaccessible by an invisible wall.

The inside of the castle is made of the house where Calcifer is based, which is Howl's house in Porthaven at first, then the house by the hat shop in Market Chipping after the move in Chapter Seventeen. A "square wooden knob above the door, set into the lintel, with a dab of paint on each of its four sides" allows one to open the door into four different locations. Initially these locations are: in the hills above Market Chipping (green) aka. the door to the moving castle, in Porthaven (blue), in Kingsbury (red), and in Wales (black). However, after Howl is forced into hiding he changes the door's destinations to: in Market Chipping (yellow), in Vale End (orange), a garden in the waste (purple), and in Wales (black).

Before the move, the window over the workbench and the one in Michael's front room overlook Porthaven. The one in Howl's bedroom overlooks his sister's garden in Wales.


The following is a listing of the more significant characters of the novel.

Wizard Howl

Wizard Howl is a mysterious, reclusive wizard. He is twenty-seven years old (this can be worked out when he states that he will soon be 10,000 days old, divide 10,000 by 365 and you get 27.39 (2dp)) and known for being very flamboyant and wicked. His notorious moving castle has recently been spotted near Market Chipping and rumours have begun to spread that he is searching for beautiful young women whose hearts he may steal. He comes from Wales, a country unknown to most in the book, where his family still remain unaware of his activities in Sophie's world or of its existence.

Despite his reputation, Howl is in reality an endearing, charming man who is intelligent and considerate, if somewhat self-appreciative and stubborn at times. He enjoys "slithering out" of uncomfortable situations, often in comical ways.

Howl is described as being tall and suave, fond of dyeing his hair and wearing impressive suits. However, he is described by Calcifer as "very vain for a plain man with mud-coloured hair" - Howl is not naturally handsome, but he has "charm", both literally and figuratively.

Sophie Hatter

Sophie Hatter, the eldest of the Hatter sisters (18), she has Red Gold hair in which she states "Unlike some peoples, it's natural". While her siblings' lives become increasingly dramatic, she finds herself resigned to run her father's old hat shop. When the Witch of the Waste visits her shop she is turned into an old crone and eventually becomes a cleaning lady in Howl's castle. She enters into a bargain with Calcifer, Howl's fire demon who runs the magic behind the castle, who promises to break the spell on her if she breaks the contract between him and Howl.

As Far as her character goes she is certainly a strong-minded individual and yet quite dutiful, kind, and considerate. When she does something wrong she feels guilty about it afterwards and tries to make up for it.


Calcifer is Howl's resident fire demon. As the result of a mysterious bargain with Howl some years ago he agrees to heat and power the castle. Although he is bound to the hearth he has a great amount of magic. He promises to use his magic to break the curse on Sophie, providing she breaks the contract between him and Howl. Howl describes Calcifer as "his weakest point" because he wouldn't give away another demon if it entered the castle, even under hostile intentions, although his statement is true in more ways than one.

The Witch of the Waste

The Witch of the Waste is one of the most powerful magicians in all Ingary. She was banished by the late King to The Waste fifty years before the story starts for causing havoc in the country. She and Howl had a brief relationship which led to him dumping her hurriedly. Angered by this, the Witch curses Howl, so that upon falling in love he will have to return to the Witch. She also curses Sophie by turning her into an old woman.

Other characters

  • Michael Fisher is Howl's 15 year old apprentice. He originally lived in Porthaven until both of his parents died, leaving him an orphan. He often goes to Cesari's and buys pies and other baked goods. He met Martha there and fell in love with her.
  • Lettie Hatter is Sophie's seventeen-year-old sister. She is considered the most beautiful of the three Hatter sisters, and has dark hair. Initially, she is an apprentice at Cesari's, a pastry shop in Market Chipping, but because she wishes to learn magic, she and Martha switch places using a temporary appearance altering spell. A strong minded young woman, Lettie becomes fond of a stray dog which is in fact a bespelled human. When she finds out Sophie has been bespelled and lives in Howl's castle, she sends the dog to protect Sophie from Howl's charm.
  • Martha Hatter is Sophie's youngest sister. She is slender and fair with big grey eyes, but known to be the smartest of the three Hatter sisters. As such, Fanny arranges her to become Mrs Fairfax's apprentice, though Martha and Lettie switch appearances temporarily in order to switch places. Martha happily works as an apprentice Cesari's, a renowned pastry shop, and her ambition is to get married and have ten children. She loves Michael Fisher.
  • Fanny Hatter is Mr Hatter's second wife. She used to be the youngest shop assistant in the hat shop. She is Martha's mother and is kind to all three girls. When she is widowed, she takes charge of the hat shop and places Lettie and Martha in promising apprenticeships, whilst keeping Sophie to trim hats. Shortly after Sophie disappears, she marries a wealthy man, Mr Sacheverell Smith (possibly thanks to a hat Sophie talked to life), moves to a grand mansion in Vale End and sells the hat shop to Howl.
  • The King of Ingary employs Howl to produce transport spells. When the Witch of the Waste threatens his baby daughter Valeria, he sends Suliman the Royal Wizard to the Waste to deal with the Witch. When the King's brother disappears whilst looking for Wizard Suliman, he asks the Count of Catterack to look for him. He insists that Howl look for him and get rid of the Witch of the Waste.
  • Prince Justin is the younger brother of the King of Ingary. Unsettled by Suliman's disappearance, he sets off to find him only to go missing himself.
  • Mrs Penstemmon is a grand, talented old witch. She taught Mrs Fairfax, Suliman, and finally Howl. She is proud of Howl's talent and wants him to be a good person but she is concerned he is heading the same way as the Witch of the Waste. When Sophie visits her pretending to be Howl's mother, Mrs Pentstemmon encourages Sophie to break the contract between Howl and Calcifer. She detects Sophie's magical gift but cannot lift the Witch's spell. She is killed by the Witch of the Waste when she refuses to tell the Witch where Howl is.
  • Wizard Suliman is the Royal Wizard and personal advisor to the King of Ingary. He comes from Wales, where he was known as Benjamin Sullivan. He was Mrs Penstemmon's second-to-last pupil. When the Witch of the Waste threatens the King of Ingary's young daughter, he is dispatched to the Waste by the King. There he starts growing bushes and flowers, but the Witch catches him. He projects most of his magic onto a scarecrow, which Sophie will talk life into. The Witch puts him to pieces and sells off his skull and guitar. She reassembles his body with parts of Prince Justin's (the head in particular) and calls him Gaston. She uses him to find out about Wales in order to get to Howl, then casts a spell on him that turns him into a dog. Calcifer guesses that one of his aliases is Percival.
  • Mrs Fairfax is a witch, a former pupil of Mrs Pentstemmon's. A widow, she lives in Upper Folding. She is "a plump, comfortable lady, with swathes of butter-coloured hair". She is chatty and uses home-made honey in her spells. She discovers quickly that Martha and Lettie have switched places, but accepts Lettie as her apprentice anyway and encourages her to fall for Howl and become his pupil. She is unable to lift the dog-man's spell.
  • Lily Angorian is an attractive schoolteacher in Wales who claims to be Benjamin Sullivan's fiancée. As such, she refuses to allow Howl to court her, though Sophie comes to believe that Howl is infatuated with her. She is later revealed to be the Witch of Waste's Fire Demon.


  • Fifty years before the story starts, the King (predecessor of the King in the book) sends the Witch into exile in the Waste. Thus she gains her name: the Witch of the Waste.
  • Sixteen years before, Sophie and Lettie's mother dies while they are two and one years old, respectively. Their father, Mr Hatter, marries Fanny, who gives birth to Martha.
  • Howl writes a doctoral thesis on charms and spells in Wales; he also plays rugby for his university. Mrs Penstemmon takes him on as her last pupil. Wizard Suliman was her second-to-last pupil.
  • Five years before the main story takes place, Howl catches Calcifer just after he has set up as Wizard Jenkins in Porthaven. He is twenty-two at the time.
  • Three years before the main story takes place, Mrs Penstemmon retires.
  • "The May Day before this story really starts": Sophie makes a rose outfit for Lettie.
  • Following the Witch of the Waste's threats against Princess Valeria, the King sends Wizard Suliman to the Waste. Wizard Suliman starts to make flowers grow on the edge of the Waste. The Witch catches him and he disappears.
  • In winter, Howl buys Wizard Suliman's skull and guitar from the Witch of the Waste.
  • At some point in the year before the story starts, Howl escapes the Witch of the Waste who sends a curse after him.
  • Howl's moving castle appears on the hills near Market Chipping.
  • Mr Hatter dies, leaving debts. After the funeral, the 3 girls leave school and become apprentices: Martha to Mrs Fairfax, a witch living in Upper Folding; Lettie to Cesari's; 2 weeks later they switch. Within a month, gossip reaches the hat shop about Lettie's success at Cesari's. Sophie becomes Fanny's apprentice in the hat shop. Sophie spends a day in the workshed and one day visiting the clothier and silk merchant before being assigned to trimming hats.
  • A couple of months before May Day, Prince Justin, the King's brother, leaves the palace to look for his friend Wizard Suliman. Thanks to finding spells pointing to the scarecrow and the skull, he comes to Market Chipping in disguise, then goes to Upper Folding and to Howl's castle. Then he is captured by the Witch of the Waste (probably as he was checking Wizard Suliman's flowers at the edge of the Waste) and decapitated. The Witch makes up a body out of parts of Suliman and Justin—she just needs Howl's head to make it perfect to rule Ingary with her. She uses the other body parts to make Gaston/Percival.
  • Weeks pass by and spring is coming on. In April, the hat shop becomes so busy that Sophie has to work in the shop during the day and trim hats in the evening.
  • A week before May Day, a customer announces that Jane Farrier has run off with the Count of Catterack who was sent by the King to look for Prince Justin. That night, Sophie tries on the hats.
  • Around this time, Howl also looks for Prince Justin, which is how he gets to meet Lettie in Upper Folding.
  • On May Day (1st of May), Sophie meets a young man (Howl) on Market Square before discovering that Lettie at Cesari's is in fact Martha. The castle shoots fireworks for Michael's 15th birthday.
  • The following week, Sophie has some thinking time as Bessy, the shop assistant, has left to get married.
  • Three days after May Day, Sophie asks Fanny for a wage. But Fanny does not mention a wage again either that evening or at any time later that week.
  • (Approximately May 8th) Alone in the shop, Sophie has an argument with a customer, who happens to be the Witch of the Waste. Then the Witch of the Waste, jealous of Sophie's talent and trying to get information out of Gaston/Percival about Wales, casts a spell on Sophie. Sophie, who now looks like a 90-year-old woman, leaves the hat shop and heads for the hills. She talks life into a scarecrow. She frees a dog from a hedge whilst having lunch. (The dog-man runs off to Upper Folding, following Prince Justin's memory of Lettie.) Sophie walks until the sun is quite low, then sits on a stone, exhausted. The sun goes down and soon the night comes down. Sophie enters Howl's moving castle and meets Michael. She falls asleep. She wakes up in the middle of the night and meets Calcifer. They strike a bargain that should take Sophie about a month to resolve.
  • (9/5) The next day, whilst Sophie is cooking breakfast on Calcifer, Howl comes back and meets Sophie as his new cleaning lady. Sophie starts cleaning the main room of the castle. After spending time in the bathroom, Howl goes out on the hills again (he goes to Upper Folding to court Lettie). He comes back late at night.
  • (10-13/5 approximately) "In the days that followed, Sophie cleaned her way remorselessly through the castle.(...) Cleaning the bathroom took her days."
  • (14-17/5 approximately) It is raining in Porthaven when Sophie attempts to tidy up the yard for the first time, so she whitewashes the walls and ceilings instead. It rains for 2 more days. Then, as it drizzles, Sophie attempts to clean Howl's bedroom and the yard but he does not let her do either, so she starts mending clothes.
  • (17-19/5 approximately) "Howl did not go out that day, nor for the next few days." (He is ignoring Lettie to see if it will make her keener.) He prepares a transport spell for the King.
  • (20/5) The following morning, Howl spends only an hour in the bathroom. Michael takes the spell to the Palace. Sophie starts mending the grey and scarlet suit. Howl goes for a walk on the hills (he is going to see Lettie and ask her about Sophie). Sophie opens the door black knob down (Michael's practice spell is replaced by Howl's nephew's homework). Michael comes back from his errand and tells Sophie about vociferous aunts. Howl comes back and goes into the bathroom. Sophie cooks lunch. Howl emerges from the bathroom, furious with Sophie because his hair is now pink. He covers himself and the room with green slime. It takes an hour to wash the slime off him and another hour to convince him into dry clothes (the grey and scarlet suit Sophie has darned). Howl confesses he loves Lettie Hatter (he is teasing Sophie). Sophie, who thinks he means Martha, cannot go and warn her sister in the evening because of aches and pains.
  • (21/5) Next morning, Howl goes to the Palace. Michael goes to Cesari's. The scarecrow prevents Sophie from leaving the castle. She asks Calcifer to move the castle faster. Michael comes back for supper, reassured that his Lettie (Martha) loves him. Howl comes back. He talks of moving the castle and asks Sophie to blacken his name to the King.
  • (22/5) Next morning, Calcifer has recovered. Howl chases the scarecrow away. Then he goes to Upper Folding (for the last time) to ask Lettie more questions about Sophie, soon followed by Sophie and Michael in seven-league boots. Lettie looks like herself (Mrs Fairfax is aware of the switch) and is trying to find out how Howl knows Sophie and what has happened to her (Fanny sent her a letter about Sophie's disappearance). Sophie and Michael return to the castle. Michael works on his spell while Sophie mends her stockings and cuts up Howl's blue suit. Sophie helps Michael with his spell for the rest of the day. After supper, they try to catch a shooting star in the Marshes. (We know the action takes place in May as Michael says it is not a good month to catch shooting stars.)
  • Around this time, Michael (thanks to Martha) and even Calcifer tell Howl Sophie is under a spell, confirming Lettie's story.
  • (23/5) The next day, Howl goes to the Palace. Michael goes to Cesari's. Sophie starts mending the blue suit. She sells a cayenne spell to the Count of Catterack. Michael comes back towards the end of the afternoon. Howl comes back with new clothes for Sophie. The King has asked him to look for Prince Justin, so Howl wants Sophie to blacken his name. Michael seeks help about his practice spell. Howl takes Michael and Sophie to his "private bolt hole" (Wales) to look for a book with the whole Song. As his sister Megan has sold Howl's books and Howl's nephew Neil gave the spell to his teacher, Miss Angorian, they go to the teacher's. Howl invites Miss Angorian for supper. As Miss Angorian reads the next verse of the Song, Howl and Calcifer feel the curse of the Witch of the Waste has caught up with them.
  • (24/5) The next day, in the afternoon, Sophie, pretending to be Howl's mother, visits Mrs Penstemmon (86) (Howl wanted Mrs Penstemmon to lift Sophie's spell) and attempts to blacken Howl's name to the King. She meets the Witch of the Waste, who tells her about Wales.
  • (25/5) Next morning, Howl goes to Wales early and comes back with a cold in the middle of the morning. Howl goes to bed, disrupting Michael's study. They have bacon sandwiches for lunch, then Michael goes to Market Chipping. The dog-man arrives: he was sent by Lettie, who has realised Sophie is under a curse and worries about her falling for Howl. Sophie goes to Howl's bedroom and sees Wales through the window. Michael comes back and tells Howl about the hat shop that is up for sale in Market Chipping (Martha told him about it). He takes the dog for a run that night.
  • (26/5) The following day, Howl goes to Market Chipping and takes the hat shop. When he comes back to the castle, he goes to bed and disrupts Michael's study again. He gives the grey and scarlet suit to Sophie to clean ready for Mrs Penstemmon's funeral: she hacks it into 7 pieces. Sophie finishes mending the blue suit and Michael enlarges it. Sophie takes the blue suit to Howl's bedroom: the sun is low on Megan's garden.
  • (27/5) Next morning, Michael takes the dog for a run. He and Sophie have breakfast. Howl appears in a gigantic blue suit. He gets the 7 pieces of grey and scarlet suit off Sophie. Then he spends 2 hours in the bathroom and comes out all dressed in black for Mrs Penstemmon's funeral. He will disguise himself as a red setter. Several hours pass. At lunchtime, a magic battle explodes between Howl and the Witch in Porthaven: they hear the mermaids singing (one of 3 things that need to happen for the Witch's curse to be fulfilled). Howl escapes and they all have lunch. As the witch knows about the Porthaven entrance, Howl decides to move Calcifer to the hat shop in Market Chipping. The move is accomplished in the evening. Howl goes to bed.
  • (28/5) The next morning, Howl goes to Wales early. After breakfast, he guides Sophie to the shop and the field of flowers.
  • (29/5) The next day they open the flower shop.
  • They develop a routine: they pick flowers early in the morning (whilst Howl is in Wales courting Miss Angorian before school starts), then open the shop. Sophie starts experimenting. She makes sure to spend at least an hour with Calcifer. Business builds up towards Midsummer Day. Howl still wears black as he mourns Mrs Penstemmon.
  • (19/6) One of the roots (mandrake) Sophie has planted sprouts 2 green leaves.
  • (20/6) The next day, Midsummer Eve, the mandrake root has produced a flower in the shape of a baby (the second of 3 things that need to happen for the Witch's curse to be fulfilled). The scarecrow reappears, in Market Chipping this time. Howl leaves (to Market Chipping, not Wales). Michael goes to Cesari's. The dog turns into a man then changes into a different dog. Miss Angorian enters the castle and touches the guitar. Sophie shouts to her flowers: "Be daffodils in June!" Howl finds her in the shop at the end of the afternoon. He lifts the dog-man's spell. In the evening, he uses Sophie to get information out of Percival (in particular, the fact that Sophie loves Howl) while she vents her frustration with weed-killer. The scarecrow appears again, near the mansion. Howl spends 2 hours in the bathroom, then goes to Wales for a Rugby Club Reunion.
  • Midsummer Day (21st June): Howl is 10,000 days old (139 days after his 27th birthday, which places his birthday on 2nd February) and must go back to the Witch of the Waste once the curse has been fulfilled. He comes back from Wales at dawn, drunk (to forget about his fear of the Witch). Whilst he sleeps it off, Sophie, Michael and Percival pick some flowers and make Midsummer garlands, then open the shop. At midday, as Sophie prepares to leave, Fanny enters the castle and recognises her. Then Michael brings Martha, and Lettie and Mrs Fairfax appear. (Howl has arranged for Sophie's family to visit to keep her out of harm's way.) Miss Angorian enters the castle too but shortly leaves to have a look at the flowers. Howl fights the Witch of the Waste in Wales as everyone observes from his bedroom window. Leaving him to it, Michael suggests visiting the mansion. But the scarecrow enters the castle from the field of flowers. He fuses with the skull (Wizard Suliman's). Sophie goes to the Witch of the Waste's castle in seven-league boots in an attempt to save Miss Angorian (because she thinks Howl loves Miss Angorian). The scarecrow hops to the castle in the Waste too and battles with the Witch. Howl, unshaven, gets rid of the Witch and takes Sophie back to his castle. To do so, he raises a wind and he is honest about his behaviour: this is the third of 3 things that need to happen for the Witch's curse to be fulfilled. Miss Angorian—who is in fact the Witch's fire demon and who has been hiding in the guitar—seizes Howl's heart in an attempt to control him. Sophie fights the fire demon off and frees Calcifer, who lifts her spell. She saves Howl by talking life back into his heart and pushing it back into his chest. Howl gets rid of the fire demon and restores Justin and Suliman to their normal shape. Suliman asks Lettie to become his pupil (if not more). Sophie realises that Howl loves her. They agree to live together. Calcifer comes back, happy to stay as long as he can come and go.

Major themes

Howl's Moving Castle explores several themes common to literature. They include destiny, youth, courage and love. The first two are central to Sophie's progression. Early on, her perceived notion of destiny makes her believe that she is doomed to fail because she is the eldest of three sisters. This is in contrast to Howl, who sees himself as the master of his own fate, unafraid of what society thinks of him or what their conventions demand. Sophie's self-perceived failure is reflected in the Witch of the Waste's spell, which causes her outward appearance to become old and dull.

Allusions/references to other works

The novel makes references to many works of classical literature. John Donne is alluded to twice, first is in Chapter 10 when Howl refers to the first line of John Donne's poem "The Sun Rising", saying "Busy old fool, unruly Sophie." He is referenced again in Chapter 11, when Miss Angorian reads from his poem "Song". The poem also serves as the inspiration for the terms of Howl's curse. In the same chapter there is a sign on Megan's house labeled "Rivendell", which is the name of an Elf city in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Howl refers to Hamlet in Chapter 17 when he quotes "She heard mermaids, so it follows that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. I have an everlasting cold, but luckily I’m terribly dishonest. I cling to that." The names of Suliman's alias Percival, and Howl's brother-in-law Gareth are two of The Knights of the Round Table, while Howl's own alias, Pendragon, is derived from King Arthur's surname. Finally, the Witch of the Waste's name is a possible pun on the Witch of the West from the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its subsequent film.


A sequel, Castle in the Air, was published in 1990, in which Sophie and most of the main cast from the original appear in a limited capacity. The book is not to be confused with Hayao Miyazaki's similarly-named animated film Castle in the Sky, which is an unrelated motion picture. A third book in the series, House of Many Ways was released in 2008.

Film adaptation

In 2004 an animated film was released, directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli. The film broke box office records in Japan, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Awards and nominations

The novel won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in 1987. It was also made an ALA Notable Book for both Children and Young Adults.

Calcifer's Saucepan Song

At the end of chapter three, In which Sophie enters into a Castle and a bargain, Calcifer sings a song to Sophie, lulling her to sleep. Sophie doesn't recognise the language, but believes she hears the word 'Saucepan' several times. This song is actually 'Sosban Fach' ('Little Saucepan'), a famous Welsh song that is often sung at rugby matches. It is known for making little to no sense. The second word of the song's title is pronounced with a V rather than an F, and rhymes with 'Bach'.


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