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Wizard Howl

Howl Jenkins Pendragon, also known as Howell Jenkins, Wizard Howl, Wizard Pendragon, Sorcerer Jenkin or simply , is a fictional character in the novels Howl's Moving Castle, Castle in the Air, and House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones. He was portrayed in 2004 in an animated film adaptation of Howl's Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. He was voiced by Christian Bale in the English version of the film adaption and by Takuya Kimura in the Japanese version.

Biographical summary

Prior story

Howl was born in Wales in our world. His real name is Howell Jenkins. He had remarkable magical abilities that led him to write a doctoral thesis on charms and spells. He then went to Ingary, a country in an alternate world where magic is common place, and becomes Mrs. Penstemmon's last pupil. He caught a falling star (i.e. a fire demon) and gave it his heart to keep it alive. In exchange, the fire demon runs Howl's castle. As a result, Howl lacks a heart, both literally and figuratively. This gets him into trouble with the Witch of the Waste. He also seeks to develop a reputation as a wicked wizard.

:Howl's Moving Castle

Howl is a wizard in the land of Ingary and he has several aliases in Ingary: he is known as Wizard Howl in Market Chipping, Wizard Pendragon in the capital Kingsbury, and Jenkin the Sorcerer in lower-class Porthaven. Howl's original name is the similarly pronounced Howell (Hywel). He lives in a moving castle, powered by a fire demon named Calcifer. He has an apprentice named Michael Fisher and was apprenticed to Mrs. Pentstemmon.

Howl first meets Sophie on May Day before the Witch of the Waste casts an aging spell on her. A week later, as he gets back to the Castle, he is surprised to find an old lady cooking on Calcifer but does not kick her out. Despite Michael and Calcifer's complaints, he lets Sophie clean the castle with the exception of his bedroom and the yard.

Although he has been gathering clues about Suliman's disappearance, Howl is concerned the King wants him to find Prince Justin. He gets Sophie to pretend to be his mother but the king is more impressed than put off and hires him as the Royal Wizard. He carries on going to Wales, officially to court his nephew's English teacher, although he actually goes to keep watch on her, to play rugby, and to make Sophie jealous.

Howl battles with the Witch of the Waste after Mrs Penstemmon's funeral. Now that the Witch knows he lives in Porthaven, he decides to move the castle to escape. Taking Michael and Sophie's wishes into consideration, he takes the hat shop in Market Chipping so Michael stays close to Martha (Sophie's other sister), and orders Calcifer to find a nice house with lots of flowers for Sophie, with whom he is falling in love.

Howl helps in the shop and discovers the dog is a bespelled human. He restores him to his human form and suspects he is made of Wizard Suliman and Prince Justin's body parts. He uses Sophie to get information out of him. As the curse is about to be fulfilled, Howl gets drunk, but he also arranges for Sophie's family to visit. When Sophie falls in the Witch's trap, he raises a wind to bring her back and explains his motives. His honesty seals his fate and the Witch's fire demon, in the shape of Howl's nephew's English teacher, gets hold of Calcifer and squeezes the heart Howl had given Calcifer to keep him alive. Howl collapses but Sophie saves him by giving him his heart back. By breaking Howl's and Calcifer's contract, Sophie returns to her true age. Howl gets rid of the fire demon, restores Suliman and Prince Justin to their true forms and asks Sophie to marry him.

Castle in the Air

Howl has married Sophie and she is pregnant with their first child, Morgan. While Howl is casting a locator spell he discovers that a djinn intends to steal the castle from them. He sent Michael and his new apprentice away. He attempts to send Sophie to Wales to stay with his sister Meghan but Sophie refuses to leave him, asking him to turn her into something so the djinns just won't notice her. When the djinns appear, Howl turns her into a cat in the hope the djinns will think she's just a house cat and leave her be. However, the djinns notice Sophie and toss her out of the castle. Unable to help her, Howl is turned into a Genie and Calcifer into a magic carpet. Howl is cursed so that if he encounters Sophie she will not know it is him and he won't be able to tell her.

Both Howl and Calcifer find themselves in the hands of Abdullah, a carpet merchant, who has also lost his true love to the djinns. Howl promises to grant a wish each day to Abdullah, although Howl uses his powers to cause as much trouble for Abdullah as possible. He later encounters the cat Sophie, who is named Midnight by Abdullah's companion soldier, and she has given birth to Morgan who is a kitten. Although Midnight is unaware of the Genie, he notices her and occasionally suggests he knows Sophie and Morgan. When Morgan is turned back into a baby, the Genie takes him to the moving castle so he can keep an eye on him. Once the djinns are defeated, the Genie is turned back into Howl and he is reunited with Sophie, Morgan and Calcifer.


Howl is vain about his appearance, forever wearing gaudy clothes and spending hours in the bathroom. He dyes his hair different colors, as well—its natural hue is a kind of mud-brown or black. For much of Howl's Moving Castle he wears a grey and scarlet suit, which Sophie accidentally charmed. He is described as "a slitherer outer" by Sophie, and also an "unprincipled, slippery rogue with a glib tongue and a clever mind" by the king, both of which are very true. He can be brave only when pretending he is a coward. He constantly falls in love with young women, but only until they fall in love with him, and then has nothing to do with them, and leaves Michael, and Calcifer to deal with the backlash he creates ("You won't believe the amount of trouble we get because Howl keeps falling in love," Michael said, "We've had law suits, suitors with challenges, fathers with cudgels, mothers with rolling pins. And aunts. Aunts are terrible, they go for you with hat pins.")

Despite all his faults, Howl is not as bad as he seems. He undercharges customers who have not the means to pay for his spells and he took Michael (known in the anime movie as Markl) in off the street after Michael's parents died. He also mourns the death of his tutor Mrs. Penstemmon. His biggest problem appears to be that he can never love a woman long enough for her to see past his faults to love him for who he is. However, he truly falls in love with Sophie and she with him, despite the fact she knew about his faults beforehand.


The reader is left unsure about Howl's motivations as he is either dishonest or refuses to disclose his motives. There may also be a strong dose of self-denial involved, which may be linked to his actual lack of heart.

Ultimately, it seems that Howl does want to meet a woman he loves, although he knows that his contract with Calcifer will prevent him from giving away his heart. Another of his unavowed goals is to vanquish the Witch of the Waste and find out what happened to Wizard Suliman and Prince Justin.


Howl's main conflict is with the Witch of the Waste and her fire demon. He escaped her once before and she sent a curse after him to bring him back and use his head to complete her puppet human to rule Ingary. The fire demon's goal is to get hold of Howl's heart, at Calcifer's expense. Howl leaves an opening in his defenses in Wales as he knows he will become so angry that he will be able to beat the Witch if she tries anything there. Howl also seems to be in conflict with the King as he professes he does not want to look for Prince Justin and moves the castle in order to escape his duties as newly appointed Royal Wizard.


Toward the end of the novel, Howl realizes he loves Sophie and wants to save her from the Witch's clutches. He had been nice to Sophie since the start, but his feelings had not made him openly courageous and he had not hesitated to use Sophie to blacken his name to the King or get information out of Percival. Now he gambles everything for her and becomes honest. This completes the curse and leads the fire demon to show its true nature. With Sophie's help, Howl gets rid of the fire demon and restores Suliman and Justin to their normal forms. He has become a "force for good", Mrs Penstemmon's wish. However, he still jokes about his hair colour and his greedy motives.

The Witch's Curse

The Witch of the Waste put a curse on Howl after he jilted her (like he always does) in the form of a poem by John Donne, "Song" in this manner:

First Verse

  • Go and catch a falling star - This is fulfilled when Howl catches Calcifer
  • Get with child a mandrake root - Sophie plants a mandrake root leading to it producing a flower (reproducing, thus a child)
  • Tell me where the past years are - Howl knows this as part of his magical training
  • Or who cleft the devil's foot - As above? Calcifer denies this refers to him ("I'm a demon, not a devil!"), although it would make a kind of sense - he balances on Howl's heart, which is magically the conventional heartshape rather than the shape of an actual heart and therefore has a cleft at the front "like two knees". The one who cleft it would be Howl, as it is his heart, or his parents. A point that should be looked at is that he has a similar name scheme as the devil i.e Lucifer. Luce means light. Fer means bearer as Lucifer means Bearer of Light. Similarly Calc must mean fire and with fer, Calcifer must mean bearer of fire. This would make sense as the fact is, he is a fire demon.
  • Teach me to hear the mermaid's singing - During Howl's fight with the Witch of the Waste in Porthaven the mermaids come out of the sea and sing
  • Or to keep off envy's stinging - Something Howl has learnt through bitter experience of dealing with Megan (and no doubt others)
  • And find what wind serves to advance an honest mind - Howl talks honestly to Sophie for nearly the first time while transporting them both by means of a magical wind. This is the last part of the curse to be fulfilled.

Second verse

  • If thou beest born to strange sights, things invisible to see - Howl's natural magical ability allows him to do this (e.g. he can see when something is enchanted)
  • Ride ten thousand days and nights - Fulfilled when Howl is ten thousand days (27 years, 145 days) old on Midsummer's Day
  • Til age snow white hairs on thee - Fulfilled when Howl gets white hairs (under the dye he uses - "but I'm not taking the spell off to check")
  • Thou when thou returnst will tell me all strange wonders that befell thee - This does not happen, it is what the curse is designed to make Howl do: return to the Witch
  • And swear nowhere lives a woman true and fair - Howl cannot find a woman he can really love because he has no heart


After "Howl's Moving Castle", but before "Castle in the Air", Howl and Sophie marry. They have a baby boy named Morgan; one month before birth, Howl changes Sophie into a black cat in order to protect her from the djinn attacking their castle. Howl and Calcifer are captured by the djinn, but Sophie, thought to just be a simple house cat, is thrown from the castle into the alps of Ingary. Sophie gave birth to Morgan while she was still a cat and as a result, Morgan spends the first few months of his infancy as a kitten, nicknamed "Whippersnapper" by the amnesiac Prince Justin, who also nicknames Sophie "Midnight."

  • Calcifer
  • Michael Fisher
  • Mrs Penstemmon
  • The King of Ingary, Prince Justin
  • Wizard Suliman: They are both from Wales and were both taught by Mrs Penstemmon but they don't know each other. In his dog shape, Suliman attempts to bite Howl on Lettie's orders then tries to protect Sophie from Howl's charm.
  • Witch of the Waste

Major themes

In the book, Howl is a complex character and a bit of an anti-hero. One of the themes he represents is how being vain about one's appearance translates in being shallow in love relationships.

Film, TV or theatrical portraits

See the adaptation of "Howl's Moving Castle" by Hayao Miyazaki for Studio Ghibli.

Sources, references, external links, quotations

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