On rereading HMC
pandinac at tartarus.uwa.edu.au
Thu Dec 2 01:57:15 EST 1999
On Fri, 26 Nov 1999, Paul Andinach wrote:
> That's the obvious alternative, yes. The thing is, I don't remember
> Sophie ever saying to Calcifer anything like "You're really a nice
> person underneath".
In which Paul reports what he noticed on re-reading _Howl's Moving
Castle_, and gives hefty spoilers.
Calcifer first starts doing things for Sophie on her first morning,
before she's even met Howl (unless you count May Day). A moment of
silence, please, for a beautiful theory shot down in flames.
Sophie's hold over Calcifer is good old bribery and threats, with a
touch of magic ("You can't make me!" "Oh, yes I can!" and so she
On page 6, Sophie remarks that Howl and the Witch of the Waste seem to
be made for one another, and that "someone ought to arrange a match".
Later, we discover that it's about this time that Howl and the Witch
met, and Howl got on the Witch's bad side.
Take that with all the hat stuff, and could it be that the whole thing
is, inadvertently, Sophie's fault?
Something that I wonder about, in connection with the above, is just
how much power Sophie has. There are moments when I seriously wondered
whether Sophie was just making a statement of fact ("You really are a
slither-outer!") or somehow causing something to have always been
On page 8, Sophie tells herself that she looks like an old maid. And
on page 18, after being turned into an old woman, she tells herself
that "this is much more like you really are". This accounts for
Calcifer's later comment that the old-woman spell seems to have two
layers to it.
Howl says of the spell that "I had several goes at taking it off you
when you weren't looking. But nothing seems to work... I came to the
conclusion that you liked being in disguise... It must be, since
you're doing it yourself." See above. However. Calcifer is able to
break the spell the moment Sophie ends his contract with Howl, leading
to one of two possible conclusions:
1) Sophie has, by this point, decided she really is better off as her
2) Calcifer was capable of breaking the spell all along, but was
quietly preventing Howl from doing so in order to keep his bargain
On page 9, Sophie says to herself. "What made me think I wanted life
to be interesting? I'd be far too scared." She then spends the rest of
the day frightened out of her wits, a point which is commented on by
everyone she meets.
And on page 48, Sophie says "I can't help what I am!".
One of the interesting things about Sophie's gift, and a very DWJ
aspect of it, is the way she keeps magnifying her own problems like
(That's all the important stuff. I will now descend into trivia.)
Also on page 18, Sophie tells herself comfortingly that she looks
quite healthy despite her age. And so she is.
On page 21, after meeting the scarecrow and the dog, both of which
reappear later in the plot, Sophie has a meeting with a farmer that's
totally insignificant save for the fact that she meets him after
saying "I'm surely due to have a third encounter, magical or not. In
fact, I insist on one."
Sophie is able to get the castle to stop just by ordering it to stop.
Would it stop for just anyone?
In the middle of her cleaning, Sophie tells Michael that he'll be much
happier when the castle's all nice and clean. Coincidence?
Anybody not know what cayenne is yet?
My feelings about the curse, although mainly positive, are mixed. On
the plus side, HMC was my introduction to Donne, who is now one of my
favourite poets. On the downside, I'm now sure that one of the words
in the poem has been mispronounced to fit the needs of the plot.
Sophie, trying to take the dog spell off "Percival", tells him to
"Turn back into the man you should be", which doesn't work - because
there isn't one man he should be, and because all the bits of both men
he should be aren't there.
When confronted with the theory that "Song" goes
"And finned / What wind" and is about submarines, Sophie and Michael
immediately go "Why didn't we think of that?".
Not, let it be noted, "What's a submarine?".
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