Bed-time musings on character in DWJ (Howl)

Philip.Belben at Philip.Belben at
Wed Nov 15 13:15:27 EST 2000

Hallie, quoting me:

>>I think it could fit into the timescale in the book with the whole of
>>Howl's affaire, the Witch's capture of Ben - and then when Justin went to
>>look for Ben, and after several dud finding spells, Justin - between
>>Sophie's remark and Sophie meeting Howl, but it would be very tight!
>>Besides, while her talent was strong, I don't think it was well developed
>>at that stage.  She talked life into hats, and later into her walking
>>stick and the Witch's old-age spell, by prolonged muttering at them.  At
>>that stage, I doubt a single chance remark would have been very powerful
>>against Howl or the Witch!
> I agree about the tightness of the timing, and agree about the
> prolonged muttering - I suppose otherwise there would have been an
> extremely dangerous, Simon-Says-Spell-like situation!  But I'm not so

I hadn't seen it that way, but you are quite right!

> sure about her talent being undeveloped at that stage.  Do you
> actually think Sophie's talent develops, or is it rather that she's
> brought (kicking and screaming) to recognize it?  The hats must have
> taken pretty effective magic, given the description of their wearers.

Well, I think as Sophie learns to recognise her talent, she becomes better able
to direct it - Like Cat, who had broken a lot of Julia's spells on Janet without
knowing what he was doing, but when he recognised his talent, became able to do
a lot more.

Anyway, early on, Sophie's talent is already strong - it's just that it doesn't
manifest as frequently or strongly as it does when she knows what she's doing.

Another point that I hadn't spotted last time: Sophie's talent is not very
strong against the witch - and talking life into things is not the same as being
able to do any magic by saying it, either.  Even when she knows a bit about it,
she can't take the dog spell of Gaston-Percival.   Howl and Calcifer got the dog
spell of Percival without much difficulty, but only Sophie could give Calcifer
his additional lifespan without the contract...

> And then Sally added:
>>Maybe Sophie's talent was retrospective?

I don't like that.  I agree about the complications that can arise with time
travel - I may not have written it, but I've read plenty!

As far as people's changed lives are concerned (which Sally also mentioned, but
I can't be bothered to find the message and quote it), my view of time travel is
that you don't change lives like that.  History has to be a single consistent
whole, incorporating past consequences of future events.  (But you can have
causality loops, where an event causes itself.)  On the other hand, I much
enjoyed reading Larry Niven's "Rainbow Mars" the other day.  It's a sequel to
"Flight of the Horse", and both are based on the idea that if you time-travel
back to a period when time-travel was unknown, you don't get to the real world
but to a fantasy world...



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