The transition of Howl’s Moving Castle from novel to film is interesting. The lot of the differences come from two sources: the adaptation process itself and the director who helmed the production, Hayao Miyazaki, who put his thumbprint on the flick.
Each medium has its share of characters unique to that form, so when I drop the “in the movie/book” phrase and just have a specific character name, understand that I’m referring to their respective medium. For example, if Bob is exclusive to the book and Alice is exclusive to the movie and I state, “Alice likes oranges, and Bob likes apples,” the first clause refers to the movie and the second to the book. The same rule applies to one character whose name was curiously changed in the film adaptation.
The last note is that the climaxes between the two have next to no similarities, so those segments will be sectioned off and marked from the remainder of the list.
· Sophie has a sister in both the movie and the book, Lettie, but in the book, she also has a half-sister, Martha.
-> A reference to Martha is made in the film when gossiping shop assistants mention a rumor about a girl named Martha having her heart eaten by Howl.
· It’s mentioned in the book that Sophie’s mother died when she was two and Lettie was one, and their father remarried to the hat shop’s youngest assistant, Fanny, and she gave birth to Martha not long after. Their father dies before the start of the book.
-> Sophie’s mother’s name in the movie is Honey, and it’s never stated if she’s her biological or step-mother.
· It can be presumed that the girls called to follow Honey out the shop at the beginning of the film are assistants, but their exact identities are never revealed. One assistant in the book is named, Bessie, but she marries and leaves the shop before the end of the first act.
· There’s a superstition in the book where the eldest child will find failure if they chase their fortune, but Sophie’s primary concern in the movie is that she isn’t beautiful like other girls, her sister included.
· Sophie has the habit of talking to inanimate objects in the book, including the hats she makes.
· Her hair is brown in the movie but ginger in the book, or “straw gold,” as she puts it.
· The movie’s setting of Ingary is steampunk, with trains, aircraft, and battleships, but Ingary in the book is purely fantasy.
· The celebration at the start of the story differs between the mediums. In the book, it’s a holiday known as May Day, while in the film, it’s a military parade.
· Howl’s castle sits on the hillside above Sophie’s hometown, Market Chipping, during Mayday and blows blue fire out its turrets. It keeps away from the military parade.
· In the movie, some men reading the newspaper mention how Prince Justin has gone missing.
-> He’s missing in both mediums.
· Sophie encounters Howl en route to the bakery her younger sister works at in both mediums, but he flies her there only in the movie. In the book, his accosting frightens her, and she runs away after he offers to walk her there.
· Lettie works at the bakery in the movie, but the situation is more complicated in the book. Fanny could no longer afford to send all her daughters to school after their father died, so she sent Lettie to work at a bakery and Martha to become a witch’s apprentice, while Sophie was to inherit the shop. However, neither Lettie nor Martha were happy with their assigned apprenticeships, so, using an appearance-swapping spell, they traded places. It’s Lettie who’s tutoring under the witch Mrs. Fairfax, while Martha works at the bakery Cesari’s in hopes that she’ll find a husband and have ten children.
· During their conversation, Martha warns Sophie that their mother is taking advantage of her, whose hats have made the shop “a mint.”
· The time of day for Sophie’s encounter with the Witch of the Waste differs. In the film, it happens at night, after she pays a visit to Lettie at the bakery, but in the book, it’s the fourth morning after her meeting with Martha that the Witch shows up, and right after Sophie chases a customer out after basically calling her ugly.
· The book describes the Witch’s face as “carefully beautiful” and adds that her chestnut-brown hair makes her seem young. Contrast this with her rendition in the adaptation, where she’s a tall, obese woman with pink hair. Her dark purple outfit is a simplified version of her book attire, which features diamonds on her sable wrap and ostrich plume dyed to reflect the pinks, greens, and blues of the diamonds yet still appear black, same as her dress.
-> She isn’t alone in the book. Following her in is a red-haired, “slightly formless-faced” man who stares at Sophie in horror the entire time.
· Her motives for coming to the shop differ as well. In the film, it’s to track down Howl, but in the book, it seems to be twofold. She suggests that she’s trying to put the shop out of business because she doesn’t care for Sophie’s competition, but she reveals in a later scene that she was seeking information.
· How the Witch curses Sophie to appear as a ninety-year-old woman differs. In the book, she flings her hand at Sophie, but in the film, she flies through her.
· The movie Witch has amorphous henchmen who serve her and act as her eyes.
· Sophie waits until the following morning to leave her hometown to find a way to break her curse in the movie, but in the book, she leaves almost immediately.
· While leaving town, Sophie has multiple encounters in the book, only the first of which, the scarecrow, makes it into the movie. The second is with a dog trapped in a hedge because of a stick, which she then uses to assist her walking, twisted into a rope around its neck. The third is a brief greeting with a shepherd who mistakes her for a witch.
· Sophie mentions in the movie that she hates turnips and in the book is afraid of dogs.
· Her relationship with the scarecrow varies greatly between the movie and the book. In the former, she develops a friendship with it, dubbing it Turnip Head, after it supplies her a cane and leads Howl’s castle her way. In the latter—in which it’s never given a moniker—Sophie is distrustful of the scarecrow and chases it away at numerous instances as it tries to get into Howl’s castle. The turnip that makes up its head rots by the book’s end.
· In the film, the Waste is the rocky terrain outside of Sophie’s hometown, but it’s a vast desert with mist steaming up on the horizon and nothing in it but rocks and gray bushes in the book. It’s where the Witch founded her fortress, which from a distance resembles ant nests but is constructed entirely of and with chimney pots. The Wastes are not seen until the book’s climax.
-> The region the castle wanders in the book is known as Folding Valley.
· The castle’s appearance differs vastly between the two mediums. The book’s description notes four turrets which billow smoke, three doors blocked by barriers, and black battlements but generally words it as “tall and thin and heavy and ugly and very sinister.” And despite the cover art of the first Eos edition, the author mentions in an interview that the castle is a hovercraft which floats three or so centimeters above the ground.
The movie’s depiction diverges from the typical castle aesthetic, the edifice being an amalgamation of pipes, cottages, gears, and rotundas, and takes on the likeness of some ambiguous amphibian. It only has one door.
· The first resident of the castle Sophie meets varies between the two mediums. In the movie, it’s Calcifer, and in the book, it’s Howl’s apprentice.
· The name and age of his apprentice depends on the medium. In the movie, he’s ten and named Markl, and in the book, he’s fifteen, named Michael Fisher, and is possibly black, being described upon his debut as “dark.”
· The disguise Markl uses throughout the movie is used only once by Michael, after the Witch tracks down Howl’s location. Michael’s disguise has a red beard rather than a gray one.
· Markl remarks, “Standby,” whenever he answers the castle door, but Michael says no such thing.
-> Michael doesn’t disguise himself when he answers the door.
· Just like the castle, Calcifer’s appearance varies greatly depending on which medium you’re taking in. In the movie, he mostly resembles an ordinary fire, save for his large white eyes and mouth.
Calcifer in the book, true to being a fire demon, takes on a demonic visage. His face is composed of blue flames, he has green flames which constitute his hair and eyebrows, and purple flames make up pointed teeth. The only part of him the color of a natural fire are his eyes, save for his pupils, which are also purple.
Movie Calcifer also has two arms which he uses to drag logs onto himself, and he’s shown to have feet, when Sophie’s cleaning the ashes out of his hearth. Book Calcifer has no such appendages, though he does thrash about two tendrils of flames commented as being arm-like at one point when he’s removed from his hearth.
-> The movie does seem to vaguely reference the coloration of book Calcifer in the scene when they relocate their homestead.
· The book details four black doors on the bottom floor of the castle. One leads to the bathroom, the second to a loft, the third to a backyard with assorted piles of various materials, and the fourth to a broom cupboard. The most curious feature of the backyard is how it’s surrounded by high brick walls, but the castle isn’t visible above its lawn.
-> Michael reveals that the inside of the castle is just Howl’s old house in Porthaven.
· In the castle’s bathroom in the book are jars, packets, and tubes labeled DRYING POWER, EYES, SKIN, HAIR, and FOR DECAY.
· Michael keeps a store of money because Howl will otherwise spend it all.
· Howl lets spiders set up webs in the castle’s rafters and warns Sophie not to kill any when she posts herself as his new cleaning lady.
· Sophie spends several days cleaning the castle in its entirety in the book, focusing on one room each day.
-> When she goes to clean Howl’s room, he refuses her entry, noting that he wants his room dirty.
-> Sophie nearly killing Calcifer during her cleaning is unique to the movie.
· An object frequently referenced throughout the book within the castle is a human skull, which has the habit of chattering its teeth from time to time.
· Much of the book takes place over a number of months as the characters go about their daily business of selling magic and working toward personal goals.
· While Howl in the movie can be described as a gentleman, in the book, he’s a total playboy. He takes a romantic interest in girls who show no interest in him, but the second they fall for him, he loses interest in them.
-> He woos girls with a guitar and spends hours in the bathroom grooming himself before going to meet with them.
· The rumors that Howl steals young girls and eats their hearts were deliberately made up by Michael in the book.
· Howl frequently leaves the castle in the movie to fight in the ongoing war. His bird transformation is unique to the adaptation.
· War is mentioned as a possibility in the book, but it’s only an active event in the movie.
· There’s a scene in the movie where a heavily damaged battleship sails into the Porthaven harbor and its crew jumps overboard. Enemy bombers then drop ordnance on the water and rain leaflets on the townsfolk.
· Howl’s conscripted to fight in the war due to his being a wizard in the movie, but aside from commissioning him for bulk orders of magical trinkets, the King in the book only wants Howl’s help in finding his brother, Prince Justin, who disappeared after going to look for Wizard Suliman, one of the kingdom’s Royal Wizards, who disappeared after going to kill the Witch after she threatened Princess Valeria.
-> Valeria is the king’s toddler daughter.
· Howl and Sophie’s personalities are subdued in the movie. While Sophie retains some of her bite after the Witch curses her, she has more bite in the book, and her interactions with Howl are rarely more than back-and-forth bickering and bantering. Movie Howl’s sweet and gentle, though has a sadism for soldiers and machinery for war, whereas his source material counterpart is snarky and can’t resist making a snide but carefree comment whenever Sophie involves herself in his affairs.
· Movie Calcifer is a goofier rendition of his novel interpretation.
· Sophie, Markl, and the scarecrow have a scene where they have lunch by a lake and hang up laundry to dry.
· When Sophie’s cleaning accidentally mixes up Howl’s shampoos, the color he dyes his hair depends on the medium. In the movie, it’s a light pink which fades to black as he summons the spirits of the dead, but in the book, only the roots of his black hair are dyed a “slight, very slight, trace of red.”
-> Sophie storms out of the castle into the rain in anguish after movie Howl bemoans that life’s not worth living if you’re not beautiful, but she and Michael simply walk along the quayside of Port Haven for a few minutes before returning to the castle.
· After being awed at the castle’s movements, movie Sophie exclaims to Calcifer that she likes his spark, which thrills him to no end.
· The main object of Howl’s affection for the first half of the book is Sophie’s younger sister, Lettie, who frustrates him by constantly shunning his advances.
· Concerned for Lettie, Sophie and Michael each strap on a seven-league boot—a pair of which allows a person to travel seven leagues per two steps, or ten and a half miles (16.89 km) per step—and head for Upper Folder, where Lettie’s studying under Mrs. Fairfax’s tutelage. But they wind up zipping all over the countryside when Sophie loses her balance in the boot, until she’s finally able to stop when the boot lands in a cowpat. When Sophie finally has the chance to check on her sister, she finds that she’s ostensibly fallen for Howl.
· Michael has a romantic relationship with Sophie’s half-sister, Martha, whom he refers to as Lettie because of the swap spell.
· Markl’s backstory isn’t revealed in the movie, but Michael’s mother died from an unspecified cause and his father from drowning. Back when Howl was an upstart wizard in Porthaven, there were rumors that he had devils living in his house, so Michael slept on its step, since he kept getting shooed off other doorsteps, and when Howl went out to buy bread one day, he told Michael he could wait inside and never bothered telling him to leave.
· Michael practices magic in his spare time, often by mixing ingredients, and one such spell which Howl leaves him gives him a world of trouble:
“Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the Devil’s foot,
Teach me to hear the mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
Serves to advance an honest mind.
Decide what this is about.
Write a second verse yourself.”
After wracking their brains over it, Sophie and Michael decide to try and catch an actual falling star and so equip the seven-league boots and head to a marsh, where there’s a meteor shower occurring. They manage to get near one shortly after it lands, but when Michael attempts to grab it, the shooting star, which can speak, expresses an overwhelming desire to die and commits suicide by hurling itself into a pool.
-> The spell was not intended for Michael at all and had flown into the castle when Sophie opened the door black-down to see what was on the other side.
· The movie doesn’t reveal until its third act that the black-down door leads to Howl’s childhood memories, but the book halfway through reveals that it leads to a 1980s Wales, which is where Howl originally hails from, and that the nothingness beyond the threshold is a film only about three centimeters thick.
· Howl’s relatives in the book are his sister, Megan Parry, and his niece and nephew Mari and Neil.
-> Howl has no known relatives in the movie.
· Howl’s full name in the book is Howell Jenkins.
· The reason Howl kept Sophie from cleaning his room was because his bedroom window looked out on his family’s backyard in Wales.
· Calcifer sings early in the book a song which sounds to Sophie to be in another language, that language being Welsh. He and other characters occasionally sing it throughout the book.
· Wizard Suliman is also from Wales.
· The spell Michael struggled with was the homework of Neil, so Howl goes to his teacher, Miss Angorian, to return the homework and retrieve Michael’s spell.
-> Howl falls for Miss Angorian during their first meeting, forgetting about Lettie.
· Miss Angorian shows Howl the second verse of the poem, which spooks him, because it’s a curse against him:
“If thou best born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights
Till age snow white hairs on thee.
Thou, when thou returnest, wilt tell me
All strange wonders that befell thee,
Lives a woman true, and fair.
-> In the movie, while having their first breakfast together, Howl grabs a red fold of paper, unknowingly put in Sophie’s pocket by the Witch, which is how he’s cursed in the movie.
· Before meeting with the King of Ingary, Howl has Sophie visit his mentor, Mrs. Pentstemmon, who, in her conversation with Sophie, reveals that she’s able to cast magical effects into objects and other living beings simply by talking to them.
-> Mrs. Pentstemmon also mentored Wizard Suliman, who was originally known as Benjamin Sullivan.
· The monarch Sophie visits in the book is the King, for the purpose of blackening his name to dissuade him from recruiting Howl to search for Prince Justin, though her attempt to do so backfires, and he’s only the more convinced in recruiting Howl afterward. In the movie, it’s Madam Suliman, so that he can dodge the draft, and she announces that Sophie’s in love with Howl and hints at his contract with Calcifer and how he’s slowly transforming into a birdlike beast.
-> Madam Suliman is something of a fusion between two characters from the book: Mrs. Pentstemmon and Wizard Suliman, whose name she takes.
-> The king in the movie only makes a brief appearance during the meeting with Madam Suliman, when he comments on Howl’s disguise as him, believing it to be a double made by Madam Suliman.
-> Sophie had to reveal to Mrs. Pentstemmon that Howl had made a contract with a fire demon, whereas Madam Suliman already knew of his deal with Calcifer.
· Before letting Sophie leave to visit with Madam Suliman, Howl gives her a ring which points her in Calcifer’s direction.
· Madam Suliman has a pet dog, Heen, who acts the part of an escort for and later a spy on Sophie.
-> Her pet dog is a loose adaptation of the dog Sophie rescued from the hedges after her cursing. The dog, it turns out, is the frightened-looking man who tagged along with the Witch when she visited Sophie’s hat shop, whom she cursed into a dog before abandoning him.
· After her meeting with the King, Sophie is left to exit the palace on her own and winds up lost in town, which leads to an encounter with the Witch of the Waste. But when the meeting with Madam Suliman goes awry, Howl escapes with Sophie and the Witch, with Heen hopping aboard their flying vessel at the last minute. A chase scene ensues, where Howl creates an illusion duplicate of the vessel and turns Sophie and the others invisible to give them the chance to make it back to the castle.
· The Witch kills Mrs. Pentstemmon shortly after Sophie leaves her residence.
· The stairs-climbing scene from the movie only sort of happens in the book. While the film has it as something of a competition between her and the Witch, who’s extremely physically unfit and is robbed of her magic by Suliman shortly thereafter, the book Witch guides her to the Palace after Sophie lies about going to visit the King, despite having already visited him, to keep her off Howl’s trail. The Witch doesn’t ascend the steps with her.
· The Witch in the film admits that she doesn’t know how to undo the curse she set on Sophie.
· In the movie, soldiers bust down the doors of Howl’s shops in Port Haven and Kingsbury to capture him but find both residences vacant and in disrepair.
· Soldiers drafted to Madam Suliman’s army are robbed of their humanity and transformed into black, bloated, winged creatures loosely resembling salamanders.
· Periodically throughout the movie, Sophie returns to her actual age, usually in her sleep.
· She has a dream in the movie where she enters Howl’s room, which has transformed into an extensive tunnel, and at the end of a fork finds Howl transformed into a birdlike monstrosity.
· Howl briefly catches a cold in the book. He later attends Mrs. Pentstemmon’s funeral in spite of the Witch being hot on his heels. She tracks him down right after, and a battle between the two ensues in Porthaven. Michael and Sophie watch the magical battle disguised as a horse and a bearded man, respectively. It ends with a fireball bellowing in the marshland outside of town, and Howl sneaks away in the form of a cat.
· Howl moves house in the movie to hide from Madam Suliman, while he moves house in the book immediately after his Porthaven battle against the Witch.
-> Before they move in the book, Howl asks Sophie what their new business will be, and Sophie, thinking of Mrs. Fairfax and her garden, replies flowers. This is only alluded to as a possible venture in the movie by Howl.
· These are the dial changes for the castle door:
-Blue (Porthaven) becomes yellow (Sophie’s hat shop) [book and movie]
-Green (moving castle in Folding Valley) becomes purple (moving castle along flower field at the edge of the Waste) [book]; in the movie, the entrance to the moving castle remains, but the castle itself becomes inactive.
-Red (Kingsbury) becomes orange (rundown mansion) [book]; in the movie, the red color remains but gives on a flower field.
-The black-down blob remains in both the movie and book.
· Calcifer details to Sophie in the book that, as a shooting star, he didn’t want to die, and when Howl caught him in the Porthaven marshes using seven-league boots, he proposed a contract so that he might stay alive, and Howl accepted because he felt bad for the shooting star. Howl was starting out in Porthaven as Wizard Jenkins when he caught Calcifer.
In the movie, a young Howl picks him off the ground during a meteor shower and, after mouthing a few words to him, ingests him, and he exits Howl’s chest, having taken his heart.
–Movie Third Act–
· During a conversation in the field of flowers, Sophie figures out that Howl has no plans to return to the castle after his next excursion to meddle in the war.
He spots an airship carrying a heavy payload of ordnance and manipulates the machinery to temporarily malfunction.
· Sophie’s mother, Honey, visits the shop, telling her how she sold the building after Sophie left and she married a wealthy man, and gifts her a bag filled with various items, including a peeping bug of Madam Suliman, which the Witch feeds to Calcifer, weakening him.
· An air raid begins, and Howl redirects bombs aimed for the shop and fights off Madam Suliman’s henchmen. So that he doesn’t need to protect the shop anymore, Sophie removes Calcifer from the hearth and exits the castle with him from the green-down door, which causes the space to collapse in on itself. This disconnects the castle’s doorway to the shop.
They reenter what’s left of the castle, return him to the hearth, and in order to get to Howl, Sophie feeds him her braided ponytail to give him the strength to move just the core of the castle.
· The Witch, though extremely aged and without her magic, is still after Howl’s heart and steals it from Calcifer. She catches on fire, and Sophie splashes a bucket of water on him, causing the castle core to split in two. Sophie and Heen fall into a ravine, where her ring points her into the black-down door, where she tells a young Howl to find her in the future before his memories kick her back to the present, where Howl, robbed almost entirely of his humanity, awaits her. She kisses him and instructs him to guide her to Calcifer, where she asks the Witch for Howl’s heart back. She reluctantly agrees, seeing how badly she wants it back.
· A small nod is made to book Sophie’s magic power when Calcifer remarks to her that he and Howl will be safe if it’s her who breaks their contract.
· Sophie returns Howl’s heart, which heals him, but with Calcifer gone, the platform—all which remains of the castle after his power fades—slides rapidly down the mountain slope, and the scarecrow brings it to a halt by standing himself in front of the platform. This, however, grinds his pole down. Sophie thanks him for his sacrifice and kisses him, which breaks the spell on him, returning him to his human form as Prince Justin, who was cursed by an unnamed source.
Madam Suliman, seeing that Howl’s found love in Sophie and that the prince is alive and well through Heen’s eyes, calls an end to the war.
· It can be assumed, based on her reversion to youth and Madam Suliman’s observation, that Sophie’s love for Howl permanently breaks her curse.
· The castle is rebuilt as a flying machine, with Heen, Markl, and the Witch seen on a terrace. Howl and Sophie share a kiss on the bow.
–Book Third Act–
· Miss Angorian makes her way into the castle for a short visit, claiming to be the fiancé of Wizard Suliman and in search of him and comments on how he had a guitar just like Howl’s.
· The dog Sophie rescued enters the castle and is able to briefly transform into a human and tell Sophie that he knows of Lettie, though isn’t sure how, and that she sent him to keep an eye on her. Howl and Calcifer break the spell the dog-man is under and name him Percival.
· Frustrated with her situation and everybody around her, Sophie accidentally creates weed-killer and takes out her anger on the weeds of the mansion drive. The scarecrow shows up during her venting, and she hides from it and tells it to turn around and go away “twice as fast, three times as fast, ten times as fast,” which makes it appropriately as fast.
· On Midsummer Day, Fanny visits the mansion to greet her new neighbors, having married into wealth because she wore a hat Sophie said would “have to marry money.” Her sisters and Mrs. Fairfax also show up, having been invited by Howl in order to cheer her up, and Lettie tells her that she briefly met Prince Justin, who attempted wooing her. Miss Angorian also turns up for this scene but ends up slinking outside to the flower field and enjoying the blooms.
· The Witch tracks down Howl’s family in Wales and tries taking them hostage, but Howl saves them in time and chases her off.
· The scarecrow comes into the castle and collects the skull into its rotting turnip and thanks Sophie for talking life into it when it was trapped in the hedge. It had been trying to get into the castle the entire time because the skull was Wizard Suliman’s.
->Just before the Royal Wizard fell to the Witch, he cast his remaining magic on his personal scarecrow to come rescue him. However, the Witch had scattered his body parts everywhere, so the scarecrow wasn’t able to fully locate him.
· When the Witch announces that she has captured Miss Angorian and will only release her if Howl comes to her castle alone, Sophie dons the seven-league boots to go save her.
· At the Witch’s castle, she finds a headless body seated on a throne. The body is a fusion of the best parts of Prince Justin and Wizard Suliman, with the spot for the head left to fit Howl’s so that the three-man fusion can rule Ingary as King and the Witch as his Queen.
-> She had sold Wizard Suliman’s skull and guitar, which Howl happened to buy.
-> Percival is also a combination of the leftover parts of the two missing men.
· The scarecrow, using the speed Sophie cast on it, arrives at the Witch’s castle and fights her, with Howl joining in shortly after and killing her.
· Miss Angorian was actually the Witch’s fire demon, and when she got into the castle the first time, she had left her presence in Howl’s guitar when she touched it. She had completely consumed the Witch and had the goal of making a new, better human to control.
· The curse the Witch put on Howl was a measure to lure him to her, and once all its conditions were fulfilled, Miss Angorian would be able to steal Howl’s heart for herself.
· Howl and Sophie race back to the castle by running on the wind in a scene captured somewhat in the beginning of the movie when Howl guides Sophie to Cesari’s by walking on the air.
· When Miss Angorian holds Howl’s heart hostage, Sophie orders her walking stick to attack her, and the stick beats on her until it catches fire.
· Sophie breaks Calcifer and Howl’s contract by commanding him to live another thousand years and nipping him off the black lump that’s Howl’s heart. She then inserts his heart into his chest.
· Prince Justin and Wizard Suliman regain their full bodies, and the former declares that he’ll be returning to his country, while the former recruits Lettie as an apprentice.
· It’s not explicitly stated, but it can be assumed that Calcifer, before leaving out the chimney, kept up his end of their bargain and thanked Sophie for breaking their contract by undoing her curse.
· The final words of both the movie and the book have Calcifer returning after having been sent free. In the book, he says it’s fine so long as he can come and go. In the movie, he admits that he likes being around the others. In both, he uses rain as an excuse.