Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones was one of the books I had to read for a Children’s Literature subject I did at university. It’s a strange, complicated, and interesting tale, and is classified as a young adult fantasy novel. I would allow my 8 and 9 year-old boys to read it.
The story plucks a plain, hardworking girl, Sophie, from mediocrity and places her into a magical world where she has to keep reading the situation and looking into the hearts and motivations of others to decide what to do next. She has been changed into a crone by the Witch of the Waste (get the inference here?) and she wants to find a way to return to her youth. She eventually finds out that it was the idea of the spell rather than the actual spell which locks her into her current form.
Of course, there is a young man – Howl. He too seems unhappy. He is an immensely talented wizard but does not want to follow the path that everyone else has set for him. Sophie and Howl antagonise each other. He pushes her to become more independent. She challenges him to care more. The girls reading this book may fall in love with Howl, the boys reading this book may wish they were Howl.
Howl has a moving castle and tends to pick up stray people and critters as he travels across the countryside. Each of the characters has something they have to learn about themselves. This story has many characters and I got confused at times with all the coming and going. However I did read this book over four years ago. Another reading may help to clarify. Actually, I think it would be more enjoyable second time around.
This book has a lot of intertextual allusions – references to other literature. My lecturer said that he had the opportunity to ask Ms Wynne Jones about the intertextual allusions, and he said she looked at him blankly. Just goes to show that you don’t need to know the technicalities of writing to write a good story.
It was through this book that I discovered the work of Hayao Miyazaki, and what a pleasure that has been. Miyazaki created an anime version of Howl’s Moving Castle. The film is different to the book. That’s OK as the story is big enough for both versions and equally enjoyable in both forms.
Miyazaki’s films are exquisite. Every scene is hand coloured with watercolours.
From Wikipedia: Miyazaki’s films often incorporate recurrent themes like humanity’s relationship to nature and technology, and the difficulty of maintaining a pacifist ethic. Reflecting Miyazaki’s feminism, the protagonists of his films are often strong, independent girls or young women. Miyazaki is a vocal critic of capitalism and globalization.
We quite often have Miyazaki film festivals at home, especially in the summer when laying on the floor in a darkened room is the best escape from the heat.