Howl's Moving Castle

1986 edition
It's Diana Wynne Jones Day!  Kristen at We Be Reading, our host, decreed that today we would discuss Howl's Moving Castle.  And she has a great think-out on the different kinds of magic found in the story.  Throwing several different kinds of magic into a world or a story seems to have been a bit of a DWJ trademark.

I can remember quite well where Howl's Moving Castle lived on the shelf in the library where I grew up.  It was not the first DWJ book I read (that was Witch's Business) but it was one of the early ones.  I must have found it right after it was published in 1986.  As a result, I practically have it memorized -- I could not tell you how many times I've read it.   Even so, I enjoy it anew every time, and I still have new realizations about what's going on.  (Though possibly I have the same ones over and over, and just forget!  My kids tell me so sometimes.)

When I first met my husband, he had kind of forgotten reading for fun, as a lot of people do in college, and I gave him Howl's Moving Castle to read -- the same copy that is sitting here now, which is a UK edition from Mammoth that my mom got for me on a trip.  After we got married, husband and I also took a trip and bought a bunch of DWJ titles at Blackwell's.

 This story may not be quite as complex as Hexwood is, but it could still use a diagram, especially of which one was what one and what one was who.  Nearly everyone has at least two identities (again) and then there are the bits of people too.   I mean, I think the skull was Ben Suliman's, and Prince Justin's head was in the dog spell with Ben's body....but then there's the scarecrow too.  Aargh.  That guy who draws xkcd has done some quite fancy diagrams of LOTR and other things -- do you suppose he's ever read DWJ?

It seems to me that Howl's Moving Castle plays with some of the same themes as Pride and Prejudice does.  Sophie assumes that she knows all about Howl's character, and she doesn't.  She takes Martha's prejudiced view of her stepmother Fanny and only at the end does she realize how much she has misjudged not only Fanny, but her two sisters as well.  Of course, assuming that we know someone and finding out otherwise is a constant; we all do it all the time.  At least, the first part; the latter is probably somewhat rarer and is a salutary lesson in humility!

Diana Wynne Jones passed away eight years ago today, in 2011.  She is greatly missed, and it's so nice to be able to have this anniversary every year and talk together about her creations.  Thanks, everybody!


  1. Yes, xkcd should totally do a diagram of Howl's Moving Castle! I don't know how many times I've read it, and I still can never quite figure out how Suliman and Justin fit together, or quite how the witch's curse on Howl works. Which makes it infinitely re-readable!

  2. I agree with Kim about somebody doing a flowchart about the various character strands in HMC. Heck, if nobody else does I shall consider it, after yet another reread!

    Could point about the Austen parallels, Jean, I may have to include that in the chart too...

    On a different tack, I've yet to see a bit of cover art that fitted my vision of the book. (No, I'm not going to attempt one, though I'm sorely tempted!)

  3. Nope, I've never seen any decent cover art either. The one I showed is the one I remember, but Howl looks awful. And I've always imagined Calcifer as less obvious, though this one does at least get the colors as described.

  4. I read this a few years ago and really enjoyed it! Great review!

  5. This was my first DWJ and I didn't read it until I was an adult. I had never even heard of her before I saw the Miyazaki movie and noticed the "based on a story by" tag. I couldn't be happier that I found her though. Each book is a treasure in its own way. This one, the sheer fun and non-stop mayhem is unbeatable. And yes, I am also always a bit confused as to which parts belonged to Justin and Suliman.
    Thank you again for joining in this year! <3

  6. Thank YOU so much, Kristen, for keeping the DWJ love going! I'm so glad you followed that clue and found her amazing books.

  7. Apt comparison to Pride and Prejudice. Howl and Sophie falling in love through bickering also reminds me of Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing.


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