Howl's Moving Castle // Chapters 1-5 Discussion

As a way to work on my goal to finish series this year, I'll be posting chapters of book series I'm working on every Saturday. My first series is Howl's Moving Castle! I love the movie. I read the book years ago but I don't remember it as much as the movie. I've had it's sequel, Castle in the Air, for the longest time so it's time to read this series already. On this post I'll be discussing my thoughts on Chapters 1 - 5 of Howl's Moving Castle. This is of course, not spoiler free. If you want to join along I'd love to have you.

Chapter 1: In Which Sophie Talks to Hats

"Sophie was the most studious. She read a great deal, and very soon realized how little chance she had of an interesting future."

I found it interesting that Sophie was a reader. I didn't think she was. It's interesting that she thinks that she had little chance of an interesting future. I'm curious why. Did she think this because she read so much fantasy books and knew that she wasn't the typical heroine? She's a girl living in a fantasy world where magic is real yet she still felt like she wouldn't have an interesting life. I wonder if this is Diana Wynne Jones' idea of putting a person who's very much ordinary, thinking that she was uninterested, and then turning her life upside down. Wouldn't all us ordinary girls want that? Sophie also mentioned that her feelings of being scared (when she attempts to leave the house to go visit her sister Lettie in the bakeshop) has to do with being the eldest. I found that so fascinating because it felt like the direct opposite of my sibling dynamic. The eldest is a lot more worldly and travels a bunch in my family while I am very much like Sophie. I don't expect going on an adventure anytime soon.

"Sophie felt as if the past months of sitting and sewing had turned her into an old woman or semi-invalid."

I loved that Sophie sewed and sewed so well. She would "charm the hats" by telling them how great they looked and who would wear them. That's what made Sophie so charming instantly. Although she puts her self down, it's not like she doesn't have her own unique personality. She's more interesting than she thinks. She needs to just get out more. 

Side note: I didn't know Sophie's hair was a reddish straw color! I can only imagine it brown from the movie. I'm assuming it was changed to brown because it's not as noticeable than her natural hair color. Also, girls wit brown hair in books seem to be described as mousy.

"He was an utterly cold-blooded and heartless wizard and no young girl was safe from him if he caught her on her own."

Howl being described as evil is a bit of a shock. I always forget he is feared. I would imagine he would be if there was any actual evidence! There were no girls that have gone missing so gossip in this story is like any town gossip.

On to Sophie's sisters and that ending of the first chapter. 

Lettie is sent to the bakeshop and Martha to a witch to learn how to be part of society. Then we learn that's not the case. Honestly, what a perfect ending to the first chapter of a book. It gives a sense that something is changing with the story. Sophie is very timid and mopey. Then there is this sudden change in the air. What could that mean for the rest of the story?

Chapter 2: In Which Sophie is Compelled to Seek Her Fortune

The chapter in which we learn that Sophie's stepmother is an evil stepmother.

I honestly thought that Sophie's stepmother wasn't so bad. Then she is revealed to be a deceiver. Martha and Lettie trade places. Martha reveals she wants to get married and have ten kids. I couldn't figure out for the life of me how old Martha is but she seems to be rather young. After Martha explained everything, them switching places made sense. Martha wanted the attention of boys she she can get married and have kids. Lettie was the studious one so it made sense for her to want to work under the witch.

"You're far to clever and nice to be stuck in that shop for the rest of your life."

I loved how Martha spoke so highly of her sister. Sophie was much more than she gave her credit for. Then to find out she wasn't being paid for apprenticeship made me so angry for Sophie. She's clearly making the shop money but the evil stepmother is greedy.

"Lettie kept saying she didn't know what would happen to you when we weren't around to give you some self-respect."

This was an interesting remark because it brought back what Sophie thought of herself from someone she cared about. I'm not sure if Sophie took it to heart but I hope she did because I would hope it would give her some motivation to stand up for herself. Later she asked the evil stepmother, Fanny, for a wage but she acted like she forgot about it. I've met people like that who take advantage because someone isn't as extroverted or commanding as others. It really struck a nerve that I'm very much like Sophie. Where's my adventure?

The Wicked Witch of the Waste changes everything.

The Wicked Witch of the Waste transforms Sophie into an old woman. I wondered why she caught her interest. When Sophie spoke with the customer before her, the one she was rude to. It made it seem like interesting things happened to those who wore her hats. I wonder, does Sophie have some magic inside her waiting to get out?

The Wicked Witch of the Waste's formless henchmen named Gaston was warning her! What was that about and why do I really want to know his story now?

"Don't worry, old thing," Sophie said to the face. "You look quite healthy. Besides, this is much more like you really are."

Sophie really doesn't think much of her self if her first response was this is much more like you really are. After that she decides to leave right away. Her adventure has begun!

On the road she meets a scarecrow (I think it was Turnip Head), an abused dog (who helped her find a walking stick in a roundabout way), and a shepherd who thought she was a witch. It felt kind of like other fantasy stories with journey's in which you meet wise people or evil people along the way. And then her journey landed her in Howl's Moving Castle.

The castle stopped for her so it made me think again that she must have magic in her.

Chapter 3: In Which Sophie Enters Into a Castle and a Bargain

She meets Michael and does the old person thing where they pretend they can't hear you and falls asleep. Michael being described as only a little older than Martha made me think first how old can Martha really be? and two I can't see Michael in my mind's eye. I see him as a little kid so it's difficult to change that in my mind. I might need to find a fanfic picture of him online somewhere.

Calcifer is introduced! I love the introduction of Calcifer, the fire demon. I only can imagine him as the movie version. Him and Sophie form a bargain. Sophie doesn't really trust him. They both can't even tell the other what the contract/spell they are in to others so it'll be difficult. I'm so looking forward to Sophie meeting Howl!
"Howl's quite heartless, you know."
Chapter 4: In Which Sophie Discovers Several Strange Things

 Finally Sophie gets angry about her situation. She's complacent no longer. She's ready to do something about the situation she's in. I really admire her fire. I wish I could have that all the time.

I love how Calcifer is like you can't make me with the scene of her trying to make breakfast on him. He's being wicked. He's just as selfish as Howl. Honestly, the best scene so far. I absolutely loved it and want to frame those pages on a wall somewhere.

Howl meets Sophie but not for the first time.

Howl is the one who called her a mouse! He remembered her too but couldn't quite place her. I remember him thinking she was cute too and that does my heart in. Love, love, love this small interaction.
"Why I came, young man?" she said. It was obvious after what she had seen of the castle. "I came here because I'm your new cooking lady, of course."
"Are you indeed?" Howl said, cracking the eggs one-handed and tossing the shells among the logs, where Calcifer seemed to be eating them with a lot of snarling and gobbling.
Again. Another fantastic scene with Calcifer being cute snarling and gobbling egg shells. Sophie taking change too.

Chapter 5: Which is Far Too Full of Washing

We learn that Howl doesn't like answering questions, hates being pinned down, and apparently is bad with money. Sophie on the other hand is coming out of her shell. With her old age, she doesn't care what people think. She was even being funny after a little girl asks her if she is a witch. She's cleaning like mad and again she is me. I've gone crazy cleaning at my job because nothing is clean! Well, now it is.

"As a girl, Sophie would have shriveled with embarrassment at the way she was behaving. As an old woman, she did not mind what she did or said. She found that a great relief." 

Good for her for not caring what people think.

The scene with the spiders was wonderful. More and more Howl and Sophie are interacting and it's simply perfect. I had a thought just now that like with Martha slowly having the glamour removed to look like herself, Sophie's spell will have the same effect. Martha will see who really cares for her for who she is just like Sophie!

Then Michael received a letter with a spun sugar rose and I thought, "What if Martha is the one he likes!?" I would so love that.

"Yes, you are nosy," said Howl. "You're a dreadfully nosy, horribly bossy, appallingly clean old woman. Control yourself. You're victimizing us all."

Sophie called Howl out in a big way after he spoke to her like this. I love the scene above because it's just so funny. She's also becoming memorable to him when Howl is a bit flighty with everyone else. Sophie giving as much as she got from Howl shows me the true Sophie. I wish I knew her while Lettie and Martha were around. I want to gauge if this is a new part of her personality showing or if this is because of the spell transforming her into someone who speaks her mind.

In the end, I'm loving this first quarter of Howl's Moving Castle. Sophie still thinks Howl is evil even when he didn't want her to kill any of the spiders and of course he's helping others with spells (at least Michael is). I get it though, he is quite selfish. I'm hoping to see a transformation in Howl as well as the story progresses. I'm so happy that I picked this series. I know I'm not analyzing the book. I'm just discussing the chapters but I hope you had fun. Let me know what you thought in the comments below!


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